Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

AFL scouts eye GAA young guns

Concern has been expressed by leading GAA officials in Ulster over the number of young players who have become targets for Australian Rules football scouts in recent weeks.

It is understood that approaches have been made to a number of players and there are now real fears that what up until now has been a trickle to ‘Down Under’ from the province could become more of a flow.

Latest young gun to be offered a preliminary sample of Australian Rules training is hugely talented Derry minor ace Christopher McKaigue.

He is a prime target for Sydney Swans, it would seem, and he has gone there to take part in an initial training stint.

McKaigue’s arrival comes just a short time after Tyrone minor star Kyle Coney completed his trial with the club.

McKaigue recently received his A-Levels with impresses grades which may even persuade the ambitious Swans outfit to draft him into a Sydney University if he fits the bill in the trials in the coming days.

Coney, meanwhile, has been superb in the Tyrone side that has won the Ulster Minor football Championship and is in line for a place in the forthcoming All Ireland semi-final. Manager Raymond Munroe is certainly keen to keep him in the fold.

Indeed, it would appear that the more progress certain teams make, the more fiocus is placed on the performance of their more talented individual players by AFL scouts.

Other Oak Leaf youngsters such as James Kielt and Neil Forrester have been invited to attend the proposed AFL recruitment camps which is being hosted in Mayo next week.

It is understood that a number of high-profile GAA personalties will be involved in helping out at the camp.

GAA President Nickey Brennan has gone on record on several occasions to warn young players not to be seduced by AFL offers.

“It is up to players themselves and their families and clubs to make decisions concerning their futures but we would have concerns that they are being poached prematurely.

“We believe that a lot of clubs put great emphasis on coaching and drilling players and it seems unfair that clubs in another code should benefit from all this endeavour and commitment,” says Brennan.

Martin Clarke (Down) and Kevin Dyas (Armagh) are two players who have made a big impact in Australian Rules but several other potential players have either failed to make the grade or have returned homesick.

However, this does not appear to have served to dampen the enthusiasm of many other aspiring starlets who have bnecome targets for what is perceived to be a sophisticated scouting net.

Next weekend’s camp in Mayo will certainly create considerable public interest - and perhaps put a new slant on the Rules code.

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