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Watch | The Saturday Panel | Making it in the AFL


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Cian Hanley, Ciaran Byrne and Conor Meredith were the special guests for this week's Saturday Panel on Off the Ball.

The trio all left Ireland in an attempt to make it Down Under in the AFL as professional sports stars and joined Nathan to talk about their experiences in Australia.

Irish players have been targeted more regularly by clubs from Australia recently - given their upbringing in Gaelic Football - and are seen as ideal candidates to adapt to the Australian game in a short period of time.

There has been some concern amongst Gaelic Football fans that the floodgates might open as more and more of our developing players could be lured to the professional ranks.

However, Louth's Byrne highlighted why it's easier for players from weaker counties to make the long trip south, telling Nathan: "I think it's a bit different when you're from a bigger county. It's harder for the likes of Ciaran Kilkenny and David Clifford to leave Kerry or to leave Dublin because they're going to be in contention for All-Ireland's every year.

"Whereas I feel it is a bit easier for the people from the likes of Louth, from Laois - we're not going to be competing for these competitions every year so it definitely is easier for us to leave," he added.

Despite the lure of being a paid professional, Conor Meredith was quick to highlight the difficulty in making it to senior level in the AFL: "You've a 46 man squad and you're turning over six or seven players per year between retirements and lads getting de-listed and that's because they've a draft system over there and have to get five/six.

"I don't know what the percentage is of lads who make it to the AFL but in my year there was six of us drafted in between rookies and first team picks and I think maybe four or five went on to play at senior level and probably one or two of the them are still playing at that level but there's a good drop off.

"And, at the end of the day, it's a professional sport, it's a business, it's cut-throat and if like any business - if you're not performing to the ability that people think you can, you're gone and they'll get somebody who can do it," he added.

 

 

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