Niamh Kelly chases Orla O'Dwyer during Adelaide's qualifying final against Brisbane on November 11, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

MORE than 17,000km from Melbourne, one University championship game in Ireland will go down in AFLW history. 

The O'Connor Cup Final, played between Dublin City University and the University of Limerick in Abbotstown, Dublin proved a breeding ground for the Irish experiment in the AFLW. 

Taking place in March of 2018, timing was everything.  

Amid Cora Staunton's impressive first season with Greater Western Sydney, showcasing the possibilities of Gaelic talent in our game, some of the most promising players in Ireland clashed in that final. 

It featured now-important AFLW names like Sarah Rowe, Orla O'Dwyer, Niamh Kelly, and Aishling Moloney. 

2018 O'Connor Cup players who reached the AFLW 


O'Connor Cup team 

AFLW club(s) 

Muireann Atkinson 

Dublin City University 


Ailish Considine 

University of Limerick 

Adelaide, North Melbourne 

Joanne Cregg 

University of Limerick 


Grace Kelly 

University of Limerick 

West Coast, St Kilda 

Niamh Kelly 

Dublin City University 

West Coast, Adelaide 

Lauren Magee 

Dublin City University 


Aisling McCarthy 

University of Limerick 

Western Bulldogs, West Coast, Fremantle 

Aishling Moloney 

Dublin City University 


Orla O'Dwyer 

University of Limerick 


Sarah Rowe 

Dublin City University 


Aishling Sheridan 

Dublin City University 


Vikki Wall 

Dublin City University 

North Melbourne 

Aishling Sheridan, sisters Grace and Niamh Kelly, Moloney, and Rowe scored on the day. Captaining Dublin City University, Moloney posted a dramatic late score to ensure her side's victory. 

Meanwhile, University of Limerick's Joanne Cregg was brought on for a substituted Aisling McCarthy, and now the pair is set to reunite this year at Fremantle. 

Three players – Ailish Considine, Rowe, and McCarthy – made the move to Australia the very next season, debuting in 2019, while a further four made their mark in 2020. 

Sarah Rowe in action during Collingwood's clash against Geelong in round eight, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

The most recent signing, Muireann Atkinson, was added to Collingwood's list late last year, taking the number of players from that O'Connor Cup final to join an AFLW list to 12, six years on.

"There was a good little crew of them playing in that game," Collingwood head of women's football Jess Burger said. 

"I know when Muireann (Atkinson) was thinking about which club to go to, the shared success she had with 'Rowey' and Aishling (Sheridan) was a factor." 

These 12 account for more than a quarter of the Irish players to have been signed to AFLW lists since the competition began. 

Between those dozen players, they have amassed 346 AFLW games, kicked 111 goals, won four premierships, and earned two All-Australian guernseys.  

The talent that game bore, albeit for a code on the other side of the world, is unquestioned.  

And there is little doubt that this year's O'Connor Cup finals, set to take place over the second weekend of March, will have AFLW recruiters' eyes.