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AFL 2017 Round 10 - Richmond v Essendon

Essendon has locked away Irish speedster Conor McKenna

ESSENDON dasher Conor McKenna has rebuffed rival clubs' interest to sign a new four-year deal with the club that gave him his AFL shot. reported in August the Irishman, once one of Gaelic football's top prospects, was considering his options after Essendon recruited him as an international rookie from County Tyrone in 2014. 

McKenna, 21, has become a genuine weapon in the Bombers' arsenal with his slingshot, devil-may-care style. His 19 games this season swelled his career tally to 33. 

The defender averaged career-best numbers almost across the board, with 16.9 disposals at 76 per cent efficiency, 4.1 intercept possessions, 3.9 score involvements, 2.9 rebound 50s and 334.1 metres gained.

"Essendon has made my transition into football an easy and enjoyable one," McKenna said. 

"We have a great group of players, and the strong bonds I've made with my teammates have helped me develop my game and drive me to want to achieve success.

"I've enjoyed every moment with the club and am happy I will continue to represent the club for another four years. I believe in our vision, we have an exciting future and over the next four years I hope we can achieve the success we are working towards."

McKenna is one of 12 Irishmen on AFL lists, with many of them already established senior footballers. 

Colin O'Riordan (Sydney), Mark O'Connor and Zach Tuohy (Geelong), Ray Connellan and Darragh Joyce (St Kilda), Conor Glass and Conor Nash (Hawthorn), Ciaran Byrne and Ciaran Sheehan (Carlton), Pearce Hanley (Gold Coast) and Cian Hanley (Brisbane Lions) are the others. 

West Coast's Paddy Brophy quit the sport in April to return to Ireland.

The Bombers' list and recruiting manager, Adrian Dodoro, said McKenna was proof of the worth in investing in international talent.

"It is very pleasing to see such a talented athlete come out of our international markets," Dodoro said.

"His ability to develop his game at a swift pace makes his future on the football field very exciting. He's a great young man, with his best football still ahead of him."