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Three Irish prospects invited to join Academy trip

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James Madden broke the AFL Combine record in 20m sprint. Picture: Bryan Keane

A LIGHTNING-QUICK prospect from Jimmy Stynes territory is among three potential Irish recruits invited to join the NAB AFL Academy on its annual trip to Florida in January.

James Madden, Mark Keane and Anton Tohill – son of former Demons reserves and under-19s footballer Anthony – impressed at the European Combine in Dublin 10 days ago.

They were the standouts from the 21 Irishmen who attended the Combine under the guidance of former AFL footballers Marty Clarke and Colm Begley.

The AFL's national and international talent manager, Kevin Sheehan, also oversaw the testing and match simulation.

"These were three of the boys who caught the eye and some of the others were at least introduced to the game," Sheehan told AFL.com.au.

"Zach Tuohy was introduced this way, then 12 months later was kicking the oval ball and Carlton were like, 'Gee whiz, how's this kid's improvement?'.

"Their willingness to kick on their own or with a mate at the park (can be the difference) … some take to it like a duck to water and these three get the chance to join the best boys."

Dublin's Madden, who is 186cm and boasts blistering pace, fits the mould of past and current Irish success stories in the AFL, such as Tuohy, Pearce Hanley and Tadhg Kennelly.

His 20m sprint (2.69sec) and agility times (7.76) were faster than the respective AFL Draft Combine records set by Joel Wilkinson (2.75) and Stephen Hill (7.77).

Madden hails from the same Gaelic Athletic Association club, Ballyboden St Enda's, as Irish-born 1991 Brownlow medallist Stynes.

Tohill's father became a Gaelic football champion, tried out for Manchester United at one stage and later terrorised Australia as one of Ireland's stars in the Virgin Australia International Rules Series.

Stynes dubbed Melbourne's decision to cut Tohill in 1991 as "one of the biggest mistakes ever", coming at a time clubs had to reduce their list by 10 with the TAC Cup replacing the under-19s.

"He was 196cm, could run like anything and played that tall-midfielder-like role," Sheehan said of Tohill snr.

"Anton is a chip off the old block. He's 199cm, looks so natural with his ball drop, runs 2.95 for 20m and has a lovely running gait.

"He's probably more a key-position option than a ruckman."

Cork's Keane, a 193cm midfielder, impressed with his "exceptional" marking and kicking, also ran a sub-three-second 20m sprint and thrived in contested situations.

Four Irishmen, including eventual Carlton recruit Cillian McDaid, made the same trip this year and there are 12 on AFL lists for 2018.

The United States camp starts on January 14, with the Irish trio training for six days at the IMG Academy.