Alan O’Riordan was clueless as to why his brother Colin was bounding up the ground unopposed with the footy tucked under his right wing at the 12-minute mark of the third term on Friday night.
But when he realised he was readying himself for a set shot and his first goal in the AFL, the result of a 100-metre penalty during the Sydney Swans’ clash with Essendon, he was praying to the footy gods the ball would sail between the big sticks.
And the higher powers were clearly watching over the SCG, willing the Sherrin through as every one of Colin’s 17 teammates on the ground swamped him to the rapturous cheers of the crowd.
Alan, who captured his brother’s kick on his phone from his seat in the MA Noble Stand, said watching the ball drift through to hand the Swans the lead made for a “memorable” moment.
“I was up in the stands with some guys who came to the match with me and we saw him make a good tackle. Then he started running up the pitch and we weren’t really sure what was happening, and then when he was lining up for goal we were all recording it on our phones and we all went crazy when he kicked the goal,” Alan told Swans Media.
“I was pretty nervous because I know his kicking off set shots isn’t always the best, so I was just hopeful more than anything, and then when it went through it was a really proud moment for me. I remember thinking that mum and dad were watching the game from home and how special it must have been for them. It was a really big moment as he had just got back into the senior team and was wanting to stamp his authority, so kicking his first goal was the cherry on top.”
Alan has kept a closer eye than most on his brother’s 15,000-kilometre journey from Ireland to Australia to chase his AFL dream.
Colin arrived in Sydney in November 2015 after signing with the Swans as an international rookie, and Alan has lived with him in Sydney’s east since moving to Australia on a working visa in February 2018.
Although the Swans led by just five points after Colin’s 45-metre drop punt, Alan said he spared a moment in the madness to marvel at his brother’s remarkable story.
“Since I came over here last February I’ve been lucky enough to see his debut game and now his first goal as well,” Alan said.
“I’m so proud he made the move to Australia, and he was so young when he came too. Kicking that goal was such a big moment. He mightn’t look at it quite like that as he always just wants to win, but from a brother’s point of view it was another great moment in his journey.”
Colin is 23 and has four older brothers: Sean, Kevin, Stephen and 25-year-old Alan.
His parents, Michael and Imelda, were at Docklands Stadium for their son’s AFL debut in Sydney’s match with North Melbourne in Round 17 last year, and they raised their beloved boys in the remote county Tipperary village of Killea.
Colin, who was a star Gaelic footballer and hurler in his youth, has played the majority of his footy in the NEAFL in his first four years in red and white.
But on Friday he returned to senior footy off the back of scintillating form in the NEAFL, and Alan says he’s single-minded in his pursuit of a successful AFL career.
“He’s one of the most determined people I know. He has such a great attitude. If he wakes up in the morning and there’s not much going on, say on the weekend if there’s not a match or a training session, he goes into the club just to try to better himself,” Alan said.
“His mindset is completely about becoming a consistent AFL footballer and to be the best he can be. He has the right attitude so it’s just a matter of hoping he keeps getting picked and keeps playing well.”