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Irish AFL talents depart the game

  • Wednesday, September 23 2020 @ 10:29 am ACST
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Hawthorn defender Conor Glass has made the decision to return home to Ireland, calling time on his AFL career.

Glass will return to his hometown, Maghera, where he will continue his university studies and recommence his Gaelic football career playing for County Derry.

He joins long time cross-coder in Pearce Hanley and medium termer Conor McKenna who have previously announced their retirement.  The global Covid-19 has no doubt played some part in all these departures with the separation from family and friends from home who previously could visit and break up the homesickness but also with the Irish communities within their adopted homes.


Chief of Football Graham Wright thanked Glass for his dedication and service to the club.  “Conor has spent four and a half years at Hawthorn and has been totally committed to his AFL career the whole way through,” said Wright.

“While he will be missed around the club, the pull home has always been there for Conor and we fully support his decision.  We thank both Conor and his family for his service to our club, the will always be a part of the Hawthorn family.  We wish Conor all the best in his future endeavours.”

Glass joined the Hawks at the end of the 2015 season as an International Category B rookie. He went on to become the first Irishman to represent Hawthorn when he made his debut in 2017 and has played 21 AFL games throughout his career.

Conor McKenna announced his retirement prior to Essendon's round 18 match after it appeared he would not return for the 2020 season, and when he did he tested positive to Covid-19 prior to the season's resumption following the suspesion after round 1.

“I do really feel the time is now right for me to return home to Ireland,” McKenna said.  “I’ve made no secret of the fact that at some point, I’d want to be returning home to my family and I’ve been weighing up the decision recently. It’s been a difficult year for everyone, but it’s also been a chance to take stock and weigh up several things in my life, so the time is right.

“I will always be grateful for Essendon’s support of both myself and my family since I arrived at the club from the other side of the world at the end of 2014. “I will miss my teammates and coaches and I want to thank the Bomber fans for their support across the journey too. I will always wish the boys well and hope they see success in the not too distant future.”

General manager of football Dan Richardson thanked McKenna for his services to the club over the past six seasons.  “We understand Conor’s decision to return home to be with his family and while we are disappointed to lose a player of his calibre from our list, he departs the club with our support to return to his homeland,” Richardson said.

“In recent years, we’ve had very open and honest conversations with Conor, and his desire to return back home to Ireland has been no secret.

“It has been a very trying year for Conor personally, too, but ultimately we accept that the pull to return home was too strong. We will continue to provide our full support to Conor as he embarks on the next phase of his life.  We thank Conor for his contribution to the club and wish both he and his family all the very best for their future endeavours.”

McKenna was recruited by Essendon in late 2014 as a category B rookie from County Tyrone, Ireland. He went on to make his debut against Richmond in round 22, 2015 at the MCG, kicking a goal with his first kick in the AFL.

He was named in the AFLPA’s 22Under22 side in 2018 and placed fourth overall in the club’s Crichton Medal in 2019, behind Zach Merrett, Dylan Shiel and Adam Saad.

Gold Coast SUN and former Vice-Captain Pearce Hanley called time on his AFL career earlier in the month. Hanley, 31, played 169 games throughout his career after making his debut as a 19-year-old in 2008 with the Brisbane Lions.

The Irishman was originally recruited by the Brisbane Lions from County Mayo in 2007, playing 129 games with the club before joining the Gold Coast SUNS during the 2016 NAB AFL Trade Period, going on to play 40 games in his four seasons on the Coast.

Reflecting on his AFL career, Hanley said he hadn’t taken the decision lightly but was looking forward to what the next chapter had in store.

 “I feel good, it’s obviously been on my mind for a while and I made the decision a few days ago and haven’t had any regrets since, it’s obviously a big decision but I’m ready for it,” Hanley said.  “I think great clubs are built off great people and the SUNS have that, I’ll continue to be on this journey with them, but I’ll be watching on from the stands. I’m excited for the next phase in my life and looking forward to sinking my teeth into that.”

General Manager – Football Operations Jon Haines, thanked Hanley for the significant contribution he had made to the Gold Coast SUNS.

“On behalf of the club, we would like to take this opportunity to thank Pearce for the impact he has made at the Gold Coast SUNS. With an emerging group, the need to have experienced players who can help drive and lead our playing group has been critical to the club’s development. Pearce will always be an important part of the SUNS family and we wish him all the best for his future endeavours,” Haines said.

Hanley will retired immediately and said he is looking forward to taking a closer interest in his business ventures.