Contributed by: Brett Northey
Ireland's O'hAilpin brothers have continued their rocky rise to AFL ranks in 2007, with mixed results for both of them. Setanta has played both fullback and ruck at Carlton with promising signs but hasn't yet managed to hold down either position. He did hit the headlines again with a brief and relatively mild "punch-up" with fellow Blues ruckman Cain Ackland at training last week, though both players and coaching staff laughed it off as one of those things that can happen in competitive workouts. Younger brother Aisake has moved up from the Northern Bullants' reserves to league side and would be hoping to make the Blues' senior squad in 2008. In the following story we have a look at the form of both players, and have a very recent update with talk that Aisake might be moved to Carlton's senior list well ahead of schedule - maybe even this week.
Setanta has been a regular fixture in Carlton's improved team this year, with the former hurling star (of both Irish and Fijian descent) initially locked in at fullback where he took on some of the game's great forwards. At times he seemed lost in the traffic and raised doubts again as to whether he'll ever quite have the natural instincts necessary for footy at the elite level, yet other times he looks the part. Probably most disappointing has been repeated cases of dropping simple handballs or spraying set kicks when he appeared to have mastered those aspects a couple of years ago. His speed over the ground remains impressive for a 199 cm, 96 kg player and Carlton supporters love his enthusiasm. With just 12 AFL games to his name, there is no doubt that "Carlos" has improved over the journey since arriving in 2004, but the Blues are on the rise and as the talent across their list grows there will be less room for "works in progress". His form in the Blues' win against Port Adelaide received mixed reports, with some of the television commentators excited by his mobility and ruck work. To be truthful it appeared Carlton's onballers were having success due to roving the losing tap, but Setanta battled hard and slipped away to kick two goals. It's hard to predict the future for the 24 year old at this stage, but it is important that he shows he belongs at AFL level over the second half of 2007 to ensure the coaching staff see him as a first choice player which should guarantee him a spot for 2008 and beyond.
Younger brother Aisake is often discussed by Carlton fans as a more exciting prospect. The Irish rookie plays with the Northern Bullants as they are Carlton's feeder side in the VFL, where their unselected players drop back to (though there is talk of a Victorian AFL Reserves competition being set up in future, leaving the VFL as a separate league). Coming to footy slightly younger, and following the trail blazed by his brother, the 201 cm player is also being tried in different positions. Aisake has played both forward and back as well as in the ruck. He's also said to be a fiery customer already suspended this season. After a full year in the Northern Bullants' reserves side in 2005 and moving between reserves and seniors in 2006, this year has seen him rise to be a regular in the seniors. He's twice made their best players and kicked 3 goals last week, but like Setanta the question still remains whether he can establish himself at AFL level. Approaching 22 years of age, Aisake probably has another year or so to prove himself, and Carlton will be mindful that tall players often take longer to develop - ruckmen often reach their peak around 25 or 26. So the jury is still out but one wonders whether a day will come when Carlton feel they must choose between their two Irish recruits - that would be a very tough call and hopefully room can be found on the list for both of them. We may not know for sure either way for another one to two years.
Update 11 June 2007: As we reported on the form of the Irish brothers above in one of our regular updates on them through their time in Australia, we were unaware Carlton coach Denis Pagan had spoken positively about Aisake potentially being elevated to the senior list very soon, to help alleviate the Blues' low ruck stocks (thanks to one of our readers for the tip off). Cameron Cloke is out for the season and Dylan McLaren is still out with a knee injury and Pagan admitted the club was considering fast-tracking Aisake despite him not having established himself at senior level with the Bullants. On website FootyHeads Pagan was quoted as saying: "He's probably only played two full games with the Bullants. It's a meteoric rise but we're certainly monitoring his progress very, very closely... we might be forced to play him". So look out for a double dose of O'hAilpin's very soon.
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