Contributed by: Tash Gunawardana
The Western Bulldogs drafted 22-year-old Irish recruit Aisling McCarthy after she impressed at the Cross Coders program.
McCarthy was picked at no.23 in the draft.
“It was the middle of the night at home so I was quite tired but waited up eagerly to see if my name was going to be called out,” McCarthy said.
“I could not believe it when I was announced at pick 23 – it did not feel real until I actually landed in Melbourne a month ago.”
“I am delighted to have been selected by the Bulldogs, they are a great club with a great ethos and culture.”
Image Source: @aish_mac
McCarthy is also an experienced Gaelic footballer.
“Gaelic Football is one of the first sports I turned my hand to when I was younger,” McCarthy said.
“I first started playing when I was around 7 years old and have developed my skills from a very early age with my club Cahir and throughout my career with Tipperary.”
“I made the under 14 Tipperary team when I was 12 years old and I have progressed through the underage ranks,” McCarthy said.
“I finished off my underage career by captaining the under 18 team to All-Ireland success in 2014.”
“In 2013, I was asked to join the Tipperary Senior team at the age of 16.”
“It was a major honour for me to join the panel at such a young age and play alongside some of my childhood heroes,” McCarthy said.
“I have had success in the Tipperary jersey winning the All-Ireland Intermediate title in 2017 and claiming the Division 2 title in 2018.”
“2017 was a memorable year for me personally – I was honoured to receive ‘Player of the Match’ in the All-Ireland final and I finished the year on a high by being awarded the Intermediate Players’ Player of the Year at the TG4 All-Stars,” McCarthy said.
“I have had many more great memories with my University team (UL) winning the O’Connor Cup in 2017.”
“However, I have so much more I would like to achieve in my LGFA career going forward.”
McCarthy’s journey to get onto an AFLW list began via the Cross Coders Program.
“Firstly, I received a message from Lauren Spark about the Cross Coders Program explaining it was a global initiative to give female athletes from other sports an opportunity to be scouted by the AFLW teams,” McCarthy said.
“I began my application which included videos of me playing Gaelic Football for Tipperary, and a Skype call interview.”
Image Source: @LadiesFootball
“It was not long until I received an email which was an invite to the week-long trial camp, giving 18 athletes the opportunity to showcase their talent to the AFLW teams,” McCarthy said.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I could not forgo.”
McCarthy was involved in a training camp for one week with the Cross Coders.
This camp provided her with a first hand experience of the game of AFLW.
The camp included testing conducted at Victoria University, training sessions mainly skills-based and they played a match against a team of VFLW players in Sandringham.
In this match the athletes in the Cross Coders dominated the match from start to finish.
There were scouts present at this Cross Coders program and every AFLW team was provided with vision from the program.
“There was a little bit of interest from various clubs after the trial but it was still unknown whether a club was definitely going to pick me up in the draft,” McCarthy said.
“The Cross Coders camp was run so professionally and I cannot thank them enough for helping me to be able to become an AFLW player.”
“I am working hard now to become the best player I can be and hopefully be in contention to make the match day squad for Round 1.”
For McCarthy learning the rules of AFLW has been the biggest change from Gaelic Football so far.
“The physicality of the game is also different,” McCarthy said.
“I am learning new things every day and asking questions all the time to ensure I am up to speed on everything come Round 1.”
McCarthy’s signing has been significant for women’s footy in Ireland and internationally.
“Cora being signed last year was big news and now that there is five Irish girls playing for AFLW clubs it is very significant for women’s footy in Ireland and abroad,” McCarthy said.
“It shows there are doors being opened for amateur sportswomen to play at a semi-professional level.”
“The media coverage of AFLW will definitely increase at home with more of us involved in the game,” McCarthy said.
“The prospect of playing a sport professionally is what entices me the most – the opportunity to fulfill my potential as an athlete.”
“The professional aspect is something that I think all sportspeople would like to experience.”
McCarthy became interested in the AFL a few years ago when the Sydney Swans recruited fellow Tipperary male footballer Colin O’Riordan.
Only recently her interest in the AFLW peaked when fellow Irishwoman Cora Staunton moved to Australia to play for the GWS Giants in the 2018 AFLW season.
McCarthy will return home to play in the LGFA at the end of the AFLW season for Tipperary.
“I will miss the National League while the AFLW season is being played but will return home in April for the championship.”
“I have stayed in contact with the management and players and will work hard to prove my worth when I return home to my native county in April,” McCarthy said.
“I think the AFLW training and season will benefit me going into the Gaelic season.”
Heading into her first season with the Western Bulldogs, McCarthy is proud and extremely excited to have the opportunity to play women’s football down under.
“The pride about being part of the Western Bulldog’s community is special!,” McCarthy said.
“They are building on the foundation they have laid down in the first two seasons and there is a buzz in the camp looking ahead to season 3.0.”
Image Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO Image Source: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE
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