Michael Currane provides vital link between Irish wannabes and AFLW

Fourteen Irish players are competing this year in the Australian women’s game

 

It’s been around 20 years since Michael Currane got involved in Australian Rules here in Ireland. From playing to coaching to managing, he has been the integral link between wannabe AFLW stars here and the AFLW.

So naturally, he can be forgiven for being excited about the sixth season of the AFLW, which kicked off on Friday with a thumping win by the expansion team Richmond over fellow newcomers St Kilda.

Currane had extra reason to be a bit uptight watching last weekend’s games, as he was involved in training Bríd Stack and Áine Tighe, who both suffered serious injuries before their campaigns began.

“With Áine Tighe, you know, I was working with her two and a half years ago in 2019, in July, August, September, October doing sessions in Cork, Limerick Dublin, working with Fremantle Dockers and it’s taken from then until now for her to make her debut. You know, the adversity she’s faced with two serious knee injuries, two seasons in a row, just at the pre-season stage in a practice match, so it was unbelievable to see Áine when she worked so hard.

I’m just always up cheering for the Irish girls, any game that the Irish players are involved in, I’m trying to get up and watch them

“She’s so positive about the whole experience. She got huge support from Fremantle, which is invaluable. We’re delighted to see her make her debut and to play really well at the weekend, which was absolutely phenomenal”.

What can be said about Bríd Stack that hasn’t been said before? Brid first contacted Mike in August 2020 looking to buy a couple of sherrins (Australian Rules footballs). You don’t win All Irelands by resting on your laurels or just passing by in training and games. In her first pre-season game with GWS Giants, Stack suffered a near career-ending injury to her neck while getting tackled.

“Between last year and this year, we’ve probably done 60 hours of sessions around Cork, you know, with the first year she prepared so hard, she dedicated herself. She’s got a brilliant mindset, you know, totally dedicated. And to have that heartbreak of the injury last season to rule her out, again, at the practice match stage after going through all she did to relocate.

“You know, it’s slightly different for Bríd, she had her family, she had to bring over Carthach and Ogie to relocate, she had to leave her business for a while, you know, huge commitments. Then for that to happen, but again, you know, the resilience and the resolve, Bríd is probably one of the bravest players I have ever met.”

Currane’s obsession with AFL can be traced back to the Jim Stynes era, watching highlight packages on TG4 and heading into college looking to assemble teams. Now, he is a significant part of the growth of AFLW here in Ireland.

“We’re inundated with messages asking how they can watch the games live? You know, even though there are two full games every weekend on TG4 and a highlights show on Monday night, people still want to get up at 6am or 7am and watch the games. So there’s a huge interest which is great to see. I think people have now learned a lot more of what the game is from seeing it on TV.

“They understand it a bit more, whereas a couple of seasons ago, people would have been aware of the Irish girls going over and doing really well. But they might have only seen little clips, but now that they’ve got the footage, the game is being shown on TV to go with it. And it’s just swelled the level of interest and support across the country”.

Skills sessions

As of now, there are 14 players from Ireland competing to be crowned AFLW champions. Over its six years, 22 players have been in and out of the AFLW for a variety of reasons, and Currane has been there and seen it all.

“This season, pre-season started in November for a variety of reasons. It was due to kick off in December, but Covid pushed that back to January. So in terms of the Irish players here at home, most of them will generally be playing right up until a few weeks or even a few days before they fly out. It depends on how their team is progressing in the All Ireland championship or, in some cases, in the club championships back at home.

“So we do AFLW Pro skills sessions with the Irish players when they’re home. And that’s pretty hectic for a few months. Generally, we’d do three sessions a week, and they could be in Cork and Limerick and Dublin, and we are working with a range of the girls – Orla O’Dwyer, Aisling McCarthy, Ailish Considine, Bríd Stack, Lauren McGee, Sinead Goldrick, Niamh and Grace Kelly, pretty much we get around to all the girls for several sessions. And that’s just focusing on keeping their skills sharp and focusing on some work that the clubs want us to do with players.”

For now, Currane wants everyone to know about AFLW and have a new community to share the journey with. As well as having his elite squad of girls, he knows the best way to get girls involved in sport is through fun, kicking around and encouraging participation when girls are looking for sports to try for the New Year. To get your mind prepared for what’s to come, watch full games on TG4, followed by highlights on both Virgin Media and TG4.

“I’m just always up cheering for the Irish girls, any game that the Irish players are involved in, I’m trying to get up and watch them. But I’d recommend watching as many games as you can; obviously, there’s the different coverage of the games on TG4 on Saturday and Sunday. And the highlight shows on Monday night, so you get the best parts of all the games. But watch as much as you can and support the Irish girls. They’re amazing”.

For more information on how to get involved, watch games and keep up to date follow AFLW Ireland across social media

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