Cora Staunton ready to take on ‘huge challenge’ in Australia

Her total scoring is 59-483 in her 67 championship games since her debut in 1996

Cora Staunton will be playing for the GWS Giants’ AFLW team in Australia next season.

She has been drafted with pick 46 and will became the second Irish player involved in the Australian Rules women’s league. The other is Cavan native Laura Corrigan who plays for Melbourne (although unlike Staunton she joined her franchise as a “free pick” rather than through the official draft, after living in Australia for nine years).

The likes of Kerry's Tadhg Kennelly, the late Jim Stynes or more recently Martin Clarke or Zach Tuohy have enjoyed extremely successful transitions from the men's game, and Staunton will hope that her skillset and physical strength will allow for another smooth crossover.

“It will be a huge challenge but us Irish love a challenge,” Staunton told the Herald Sun in Australia.

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“I’ve never played AFL before and had my first practice at it with Alan and Nick this morning.

“Getting used to the ball will be the biggest thing, along with the rules of the game.”

GWS Giants' men's assistant coach is former Cavan footballer Nicholas Walsh, and she initially discussed changing codes with him at the 2016 FEXCO Asian Gaelic Games in Shanghai.

The 35 year-old Mayo fullforward flew out to Australia 48 hours ago to audition in front of Walsh and head coach Alan McConnell.

“Cora Staunton is probably the surprise package of the selections in the draft,” McConnell told the club’s website.

“Cora comes from an elite background in football in Ireland. She recently played in the All Ireland final at Croke Park in front of 46,000 people on the back end of that competition, unfortunately losing. She’s a goalkicking forward so we’re looking for her to bring some goalkicking power to our team as a deep forward.”

Mayo lost this year’s All-Ireland final to Dublin, their first appearance in the decider since 2007, coming 14 years after Staunton won the competition in 2003.

The 10 time All Star scored 0-7 in that final, two points under her scoring average for the season, and bringing her total scoring to 59-483 in her 67 championship games since her debut in 1996.

Staunton also has experience winning an FAI Women’s Cup winner’s medal with the Mayo Ladies League representative soccer team, and has played club rugby union in the Connacht Women’s League.

She flies home again on Saturday to play club championship with her club Carnacon. On Friday last they beat Roscommon champions Kilbride to reach the Connacht club final.

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue is a sports journalist with The Irish Times