Sheehan to debut for Carlton in the AFL

The Cork dual player has been selected for his first game with the Australian club

Former Cork footballer Ciaran Sheehan is expected to be named in the Carlton team to play Gold Coast in the Australian Football League (AFL) at Etihad Stadium on Saturday, in what coach Mick Malthouse has called a "fantastic story" of persistence.

Sheehan arrived in Australia in 2009 with fellow Irishman Zach Tuohy and while Tuohy was preferred by the Blues and secured a contract and is now a key cog in defence, Sheehan returned to Ireland, where he resumed playing both football and hurling.

The 23-year-old overcame a knee reconstruction in 2011 to establish himself as a footballing talent and impressive performances for Ireland in last year's international Rules series caught the eye of Carlton's director of coaching Robert Wiley. The Blues selected him in last year's Rookie draft.

Luke Webster, a Blues development coach, said Sheehan had an "exceptional" hunger to remedy his lack of tactical knowledge of the game.

“He was really diligent ... he took time out of his own day to sit down (and watch) a quarter of footy here and a quarter of footy there on his own, and obviously went to watch live games once the footy started,” Webster told Australian newspaper The Age.

Sheehan began his career as a forward but has had the most success as a half-back flanker. Like Tuohy and Pearce Hanley of the Brisbane Lions, his kicking skills are now taking him in the right direction.