Contributed by: Wesley Hull
Ryan Davidson from the www.afl.com.au website has reported on the eye-catching performances of a couple of potential Irish recruits after they impressed at last week’s NAB AFL Draft Combine. Held at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne (formerly Etihad Stadium), the Irish lads held their own and more up against the best of the prospective AFL draft prospects for 2018.
IRISH prospects Anton Tohill and Mark Keane believe they've shown enough to deserve a spot on an AFL list, and several clubs are interested in signing the promising duo.
After impressing at the Dublin Combine last December and at the AFL Academy's camp in Florida in January, the youngsters earned an invitation to this week's NAB AFL Draft Combine, and they didn't disappoint.
AFL.com.au understands the duo's exciting testing results have Collingwood and St Kilda as two of several clubs considering signing them as a Category B rookie.
Arriving in Melbourne last week, the 18-year-olds, along with countrymen Jordan Morrisey and Pierce Laverty, have had meetings and training sessions with the Magpies and Saints, as well as Geelong, Hawthorn and Essendon.
Keane and Morrisey finished in the top 10 in the goalkicking assessment, while Tohill came in 12th in the Nathan Buckley kicking test.
Standing at 198cm, Derryman Tohill looms at key forward option who can play at both ends, while the 194cm Keane, from County Cork, appears suited to a third tall role at AFL level.
Fiercely determined to become professional footballers, they are confident of receiving contract offers in the near future.
"Footy is for me, I want to give it a good crack," Tohill told AFL.com.au.
"I want to do the best I can and do whatever I can to play professional footy.
"We've set up training sessions in Ireland with Marty Clarke and Colm Begley, so we're getting great exposure with the ball.
"I also met up with St Kilda's Darragh Joyce for a chat in Dublin recently and we had a great chat about the lifestyle of an AFL footballer, playing footy professionally and what it's like living in Melbourne.
"We're both well suited to the game with our height and athleticism."
Tohill, the son of Gaelic Football great Anthony Tohill, is familiar with Australia's indigenous game due to his supportive father's time playing reserves with Melbourne during the 1990s.
But Keane has had a whirlwind introduction to the sport since being identified as prospect who is a strong mark and reads the ball well in the air.
"My parents hadn't heard much about the AFL when I was first approached, so they were a bit shocked (when the AFL approached me), but they want what's best for me and this is what I want to do," Keane said.
"I took a few marks at the Dublin Combine, the US camp and trials with clubs this week, so it helps I was a midfielder back home who would catch the ball when the goalkeeper kicked it out.
"I used to play rugby, so that helps (me with the oval ball).
"We've only been playing the game a few months and we've both come a long way since then, so give us a year or two of training and we'll show what we can do."
With Carlton's Ciaran Byrne the latest Irishman to battle homesickness, Tohill and Keane are taking a pragmatic approach to their adventure Down Under.
The now great friends have developed a healthy rivalry, but both will have the support of family living in Australia and can expect to be embraced by the other 11 Irishman plying their trade in the AFL.
"It's just like playing Aussie Rules, you have to deal with the shape of the ball and change in position, so you just have to deal being away from home," Tohill said.
Keane said technology will help them keep track of what they're missing back in the Emerald Isle.
"Homesickness is just another test you have to get past, but Facetime and Skype make it easy to talk to family whenever," Keane said.
Dubliner James Madden was the latest Irishman to make the switch to the AFL after the midfield prospect signed with Brisbane in August.
Ryan’s original story can be viewed at: http://www.afl.com.au/news/2018-10-06/several-clubs-circling-irish-draft-prospects
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