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Three clubs circling Irish prospect Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor was impressive during the combine - AFL,Draft Combine,Mark O'Connor
Mark O'Connor was impressive during the combine
I do want to pursue an AFL career. It's definitely something I want to do. It's hard work but it's just so rewarding
Mark O'Connor

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THREE clubs are in the race to sign Irish prospect Mark O'Connor, who finished his stint in Australia with an excellent run at the NAB AFL Draft Combine.

Geelong, North Melbourne and Melbourne are understood to be keen to sign the 19-year-old, who travelled to Melbourne from Ireland for last weekend's combine at Etihad Stadium.

O'Connor trialed at five clubs (the three chasing his signature plus Essendon and Carlton) during his two-week stay, but has headed back to Ireland to make a decision on where he wants to start his AFL career. He can be signed as a category B rookie.

The 189cm youngster from County Kerry, who is considered one of the brightest prospects in Gaelic football, came fourth overall in the 3km time trial on Sunday with a time of 9:56 to close out his time at the combine before flying back to Ireland.

"I do want to pursue an AFL career. It's definitely something I want to do. It's hard work but it's just so rewarding," he told AFL.com.au.

"At home it's all amateur sport and there's no professionals in the game at all. To be able to spend all of my time trying to improve my game is something that I'd like.


"I'll go back home and talk to my parents and talk things through and see what's on the table."

O'Connor said he was taken aback by his time at AFL clubs and the size of the facilities, and he also attended the Western Bulldogs' Grand Final win over the Sydney Swans earlier this month. 



An AFL career was not on his radar until he was asked to test at the International Combine in Ireland earlier this year.

"What I've learned over the past few weeks is everything happens quickly in the AFL. Only a couple of months ago Tadhg Kennelly invited me to the combine held in Ireland and I had played a lot of Gaelic football growing up," O'Connor said.

"There's a few Irish guys out here now and they've opened the door for me to come through the system. I went to the combine in Ireland and Tadhg was interested in bringing me out to see how I'd go against these guys."

O'Connor trained alongside the country's most talented draft hopefuls ahead of the NAB All Stars game on Grand Final eve and impressed recruiters with his clean overhead marking and tidy kicking.

He said he had been "messing about" with the ball in his hands while back at home but had not practiced kicking before landing in Melbourne.

"I looked at all the videos on YouTube about how to kick a footy and that's great, but you need someone next to you and I had absolutely no experience with the ball," O'Connor said.

"I also didn't want to get into any bad habits with my kicking so I waited until I got to Australia before I started to kick the ball, and Tadhg took me for a couple of sessions. I felt more comfortable then under his watchful eye."

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