Colm Cooper: I'm not sure what the GAA can do to protect clubs from AFL sides

The Dr Crokes forward says that the lure of a professional contract in Australia can sometimes be too hard to resist

BY Cian Roche 07:35 Tuesday 22 November 2016, 7:35 22 Nov 2016

Image: ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan 

Conor Nash last month became the latest promising GAA star to be snapped up by an AFL side, with the 18-year-old signing a rookie contract with Hawthorn.

The Simonstown Gaels clubman will attempt to forge a professional career down under, with a strong background in GAA and rugby making him one of the country's finest up and coming athletes.

"He's a multi-talented fella, a nice fella who I had at school for the past five years," his manager Colm O'Rourke told Newstalk Sport's Oisin Langan last week. "He is a brilliant young fella and will be a massive loss to our club... We're losing one of the strongest athletes who have ever come up through the ranks in Meath."

This has become a regular trend over the last number of years and the AFL have even recruited Tadhg Kennelly to identify talent in Ireland.

Speaking ahead of the Munster Club championship final, Colm Cooper lamented the fact that there isn't an awful lot the GAA can do about it.

"Yeah, but look it is something we have got used to," he said, "Obviously, we would love the likes of Mark O'Connor to be still be at home and other lads who have been up at trials in recent weeks but if you are talking to 17 and 18-year-olds and the lure of going to Australia and signing a rookie contract and live as a professional, it is hard to compete.

"I would love to see the GAA maybe try to safeguard our players and try to keep them at home and keep them playing with their clubs and their counties, but I am not sure what they can do on that one because the clubs that are coming over are fairly aggressive. They are holding clinics and sure, we have our own man, Tadhg Kennelly, stuck in the middle of it. They are looking for the best players that they can and if you look at the Irish players that have gone to Australia in recent years, they have been making an impact. So they want the creme-de-la-creme from Ireland and that opportunity for young guys going over, it is something they are finding hard to say no to."


Conor Nash (right) is the latest AFL recruit. Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie 

The trend looks set to continue and many may get to see the best the AFL has to offer when the International Rules Series returns next November. Top stars from the AFL will even finish these shores in 2019 after an agreement in principle was reached with the GAA over another two-test series.

Cooper says he could see a lot more heading abroad in the hope of securing professional contracts.

"Five or six is a lot, can they go from any other counties, can they give us a chance! (laughs). I think there will be more players going, for sure, not just from Kerry of course.

"There are plenty of other good minor players that are being spotted and I just don't think there is any way of stopping it, to be honest. I don't know what the GAA can do about it, think the lure is too much for young guys."


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