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Lions leading the race to sign Irish prospect

James Madden has been offered a contract by the Brisbane Lions - AFL,Brisbane Lions
James Madden has been offered a contract by the Brisbane Lions

BRISBANE is leading a busy race to sign coveted Gaelic football prospect James Madden, who represents something of a free hit in the club's rebuilding strategy.

The Lions have already visited Madden and his family in Dublin and put a contract offer in front of him, but are not the only AFL club trying to secure his services.

But AFL.com.au understands Brisbane is in pole position to add the speedster to its list of Irish recruits, headed by past players Pearce Hanley – who has since moved to Gold Coast – and Colm Begley.

Hanley's brother Cian also spent three seasons on the Lions' list before electing in February to return to his home country, almost a year after cancer claimed their sibling Tommy's life.

Madden is in the mould of past and current Irish success stories in the AFL, such as Pearce Hanley, Tadhg Kennelly and Zach Tuohy, who all excelled across half-back.

The 186cm Dublin product made his mark at the European Combine in his home city in December and scored an invite to join the AFL Academy on its annual trip to Florida a month later. 

Fellow Irishmen Mark Keane and Anton Tohill, son of former Melbourne reserves and under-19s footballer Anthony Tohill, joined Madden in Florida.

Madden's 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).

He is from the same Gaelic Athletic Association club, Ballyboden St Enda's, as the late Jim Stynes, who won the 1991 Brownlow Medal and played 264 games for Melbourne.

Madden would join Brisbane, or whichever AFL club he chooses, as a category B rookie.

Begley attended the combine as a talent scout for Geelong, after playing 30 games for the Lions between 2006 and 2009.

Ireland's ex-Collingwood dasher Marty Clarke, AFL Europe's specialist coach, oversaw the combine testing, skill and game sessions with AFL international talent manager Kevin Sheehan.

Brisbane most recently hosted Irishmen and County Donegal teammates Eoghan Bán Gallagher and Jason McGee for a two-week trial in August last year.

Niall McKeever also played 22 matches for the Lions from 2011 to 2013.