Australian Rule: Irish players given the green light to return to AFL


MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Irish players in the Australian Football League have been given the green light to return to Australia for the resumption of the season after having headed home due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Collingwood Magpies pair Mark Keane and Anton Tohill, Essendon Bombers duo Cian McBride and Ross McQuillan, Brisbane's James Madden and Greater Western Sydney's Callum Brown will land in Australia on Saturday ahead of the season's June 11 restart.

The AFL, the top-flight of Australian Rules football, was suspended after one round in March when travel curbs and social distancing restrictions made the competition untenable.

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Australia's borders remain open only to citizens, residents and immediate family members but the Irish contingent were granted visas to allow them to return, the AFL said.

The players will need to spend a mandatory 14 days quarantined at designated hotels before returning to their clubs.

Collingwood football manager Geoff Walsh told the AFL's website the club was excited to get Keane and Tohill back.

"We've been working together with a few of those clubs who have the Irish boys over there," Walsh said.

"Our boys will be back on that flight and then they'll go into quarantine for two weeks obviously, but the good news is that they'll be here on the weekend."

Irish players, many with a background in Gaelic football, have become a celebrated part of the AFL landscape since the first athletes arrived Down Under in the 1980s.

The Melbourne Demons ruckman Jim Stynes became the first Irish-born winner of the Brownlow Medal when he claimed the AFL's highest individual honour in 1991.

County Kerry man and Sydney Swans defender Tadgh Kennelly became the first Irishman to win an AFL title in 2005 and is the only player to also claim the All-Ireland Championship, the highest achievement in Gaelic football.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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