Bríd Stack and Erika O'Shea led the way but more Cork footballers in the sights of Aussie Rules clubs

AFLW is growing every season which will inevitably mean more Rebels moving the move Down Under
Bríd Stack and Erika O'Shea led the way but more Cork footballers in the sights of Aussie Rules clubs

Bríd Stack of the Giants tackles Madisen Maguire of Geelong in an AFLW match last season. Picture: Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos/via Getty Images

BRÍD Stack and now Erika O’Shea are leading the way for Corkonians in the AFLW.

Stack played for the past two seasons in Australia, while O’Shea recently signed for North Melbourne, along with Meath star Vikki Wall.

As the AFLW heads towards professionalism, more Leesiders will follow.

Given the impact the Irish players have had in Australia, it is a surprise that more Cork ladies’ footballers have not made the switch, though the AFLW is in its infancy.

If the opening had been there 10 years ago, a host of Eamonn Ryan’s all-conquering outfit could have excelled in Australia: Valerie Mulcahy, Rena Buckley, Briege Corkery, and Orla Finn would have been well able to mix it with the best there.

Although for a number of years ladies’ footballers were able to juggle playing for their county and Aussie Rules, now they will have to make a choice, as the calendar has shifted and the professional season expanded. Even though inter-county managers will be disappointed to see some of their players depart, it’s a reflection of the high level of the All-Ireland championship that Irish players are coveted.


AFLW recruits will have their pay increased by 94% for the upcoming campaign, which is set to commence in August, an important step toward the ambition of full-time professionalism by 2026.

The AFL Players’ Association chief executive, Paul Marsh, has said that the agreement was a major step forward for the players.

“Today is a significant and exciting day for AFLW players and for those who are aspiring to be future AFLW players,” Marsh said.

“This agreement is the first step toward our vision of AFLW players being full-time footballers by 2026. Our players love the game and are driven to succeed. This CBA acknowledges the important role the AFLW players have and instills great confidence in the future direction of the competition.

“Congratulations to the AFL for showing their belief in this competition and its players. This agreement makes a huge statement as to the AFL’s intent to make AFLW the sport of choice for female athletes.”

What this means and what impact it will have on Ireland will be fascinating to see over the next few years.

“It’s hard to know, because the way the AFL season is changing, it’s longer than it was,” said Cork captain Maire O’Callaghan at the launch of SuperValu’s #CommunityIncludesEveryone campaign, when asked if more players could leave the Cork panel.

“I actually think it might deter players from our camp from going, but I’m not sure how that would present itself in other teams, really. I think, when you’re competing well for the All-Ireland championship, whoever wants to be around will still be around.

That choice has been taken away from them, kind of, playing AFL and playing inter-county, with it being a longer season for the AFL.”

When she was asked about the temptation of moving, former Clare footballer Ailish Considine said that the AFLW offers Irish women the kind of opportunities that just aren’t available here.

Considine, who was part of the Adelaide Crows side that was victorious in the AFLW grand final, outlined on the RTÉ GAA Podcast: “My personal opinion on managers getting frustrated and that is, it’s a bit unfair, but I understand where they’re coming from.

“It’s not a hobby, whereas, at the end of the day, Gaelic football is amateur and it is a hobby. We don’t get paid for it, it costs us money, and especially, as female athletes, it costs us money to play Gaelic football for your county at the highest level.

“For a female sport, it’s a bit unjust to be aggravated at players for going over to take up a professional sport,” Considine said.

“That opportunity for women, it’s few and far between in Ireland. Unless you play soccer, you don’t really have much of an opportunity to go professional as a woman.

“With a game that’s so similar to the game we grew up with in terms of skillset, of course Irish girls should grab the opportunity to play a new sport, to play professional, and to travel the world.”

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