Young Irishman Barry O’Connor is relishing the chance to train with the Sydney Swans as he sets his sights on the “dream scenario” of becoming an AFL footballer.
The prodigious Gaelic football talent arrived in Australia on Tuesday for a two-week stint, and on Thursday he stepped onto the hallowed turf of the SCG as the experiment got underway.
Sydney list manager Kinnear Beatson spotted O’Connor at an AFL Combine in Dublin last November, before inviting the exciting prospect to get a taste of life as a Swan.
O’Connor, who hails from county Wexford in Ireland’s south-east, says he’s wanting to give the opportunity his best shot.
“I just want to learn as much as I can about the game, try to improve and try to make an impression so the Swans want to pick me up,” O’Connor told SwansTV.
“That’d be the dream scenario but I also just want to enjoy the experience, take in as much as possible and learn.”
O’Connor believes there are a number of key Gaelic football skills that could prove handy in his mission to crack the AFL.
“It’s quite similar in a lot of ways. There’s catching and kicking. It’s a different-shaped ball but I played a lot of Gaelic football at home,” O’Connor said.
“I think I should be able to pick up on the catching and marking. I played rugby when I was younger so the oval ball isn’t too unfamiliar. I guess calling for a ball, making a run – hopefully I’ll be able to pick up on those things quick enough.
“Then there’s the kicking and handballing which might be a bit more difficult because it’s a different style of kicking altogether, so that’s a brand-new skill to learn.”
The Swans have a storied history with the Irish, with incumbent defence coach Tadhg Kennelly playing 197 games in red and white in a career spanning 1999-2008 and 2010-2011.
The county Kerry native was also a member of Sydney’s 2005 premiership team and was inducted into the Swans Hall of Fame in 2015.
Colin O’Riordan, who calls county Tipperary home, began an overseas journey of his own when the Swans snapped him up at the 2015 AFL Draft Combine in Melbourne.
The 23-year-old made his long-awaited AFL debut in Round 17, 2018 and has since gone on to play four senior games, while he’s earned two NEAFL Team of the Year selections.
O’Connor said Kennelly and O’Riordan had been quick to make him feel welcome.
“Colin was able to talk me through the process of how he got over to Australia and how he started a career here. It was nice to speak to someone who came from a similar place,” O’Connor said.
“And I just met Tadhg today so hopefully I’ll be able to learn more about the game from him.”