Aishling Moloney marks the ball during the round one AFLW match between Geelong and Western Bulldogs at GMHBA Stadium on September 2, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

AISHLING Moloney arrived in the country on July 28, five weeks before making her AFLW debut with Geelong.

That's not a rare story for Irish players – Gold Coast's Niamh McLaughlin only had four weeks to get up to speed – but it's not often we see a Gaelic footballer of Moloney's height make the switch to Australian rules.

The key forward, 183cm, had to quickly get up to speed with what's required in the integral linking role at centre-half forward, working with Jackie Parry and Chloe Scheer as the deepest targets.

Fremantle forward Aine Tighe, and key defenders Aine McDonagh (Hawthorn) and Clara Fitzpatrick (Gold Coast) are the only ones to match her for height, with the vast majority of Irish recruits being small and quick, playing off the flanks.


Geelong men's player Gary Rohan – who plays a similar connecting role in his own team – has also come on board as a development coach this season.

"Coming from Ireland five or six weeks ago now, I didn't anticipate that I would debut this early … it was unbelievable in itself, and something I didn't expect to happen so soon," Moloney said.

"Being a forward, we're there for a reason, to try and score, and to get a goal on my debut was definitely something really special. Having played Adelaide in the practice match last week, I would have missed two or three, so it's definitely been something I've been working on.

"Over the last few weeks, the guys have been saying they kind of want me to play a similar role that I play at home. I've found that hard to believe, but as the games go along and the more training we do, I have began to see my role is very similar here to what it is at home.

"I'm continuously learning and working with the coaching team, a few things I might not be aware of, but you're never going to know everything about this sport, so you just have to continue to learn."

Aishling Moloney warms up ahead of round one, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

The 25-year-old from County Tipperary was in hot demand for a number of years, with Brisbane particularly keen on landing the agile forward, but it was the Cats who eventually won the coveted signature.

"I've been following the season since I first got approached, I think the competition was two years old at the time, so I have been cluing into what's going on over here. The strides [the AFLW has] made as an organisation has been absolutely outstanding," Moloney said.

"Meg (McDonald, captain) and Dan (Lowther, coach) came over during January or Christmas time and the minute I first met them – and you hear what the Irish guys have to say about the club – and since I've been here, it really says what it is on the tin.

"Mum and Dad were involved in that decision process as well, they met Dan and Meg and it was just a no-brainer, really, when they came over and sold it to us. I'm delighted with my decision in the end."

Geelong players celebrate a win during round one, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

The Cats already have a healthy Irish contingent on both men's and women's lists, including Zach Tuohy, Oisin Mullin, Mark O'Connor and Rachel Kearns, with Anna Rose Kennedy (also from Tipperary) signing on over the off-season.

"It's been a whirlwind. I think the first two weeks I nearly slept at the club and did a few overnighters here trying to learn the rules and get the basics. Me and Anna Rose … we had a hard conversation coming over on the plane that we are going to be completely out of our comfort zone and we're entering into a sport and team we don't know, and to accept and appreciate it," Moloney said.

"Anna Rose, I've known her for a good few years now, and she's a very mature person with a very mature head on her shoulders. It's important with us both coming from the other side of the world that we can have open and honest conversations with each other.

"Not only with Anna Rose, Rachel Kearns has been so good to us. I've known Rachel (from county Mayo) for a good few years, and I suppose even things outside of the club that Rachel can assist us with things that we don't know about, or even extra skills."