Conor McKenna will return to Ireland for a short time. Picture: AFL Photos

STAR Bomber Conor McKenna has flown home to Ireland for the third time in recent months for family reasons. understands Essendon players were informed of McKenna's situation on Tuesday afternoon as he continues to battle with homesickness.

Club officials are supportive of the 23-year-old's situation, and they expect him to return in time to play in the Bombers' opening Marsh Community Series match against West Coast on February 27.

McKenna, who finished fourth in the best and fairest last year as a defender, is set to be used as a forward in a pre-season experiment that may spill into the premiership season.

It's believed there's been dialogue between McKenna and Essendon officials for several weeks.

McKenna has been open about his yearning for home and missed the Bombers' win over Gold Coast mid-last year to attend his brother Emmet's wedding in Ireland.

IRISH HEARTBEAT Peroxide hair, solo candy, battling a wee bit of homesickness

He later told "I still struggle a wee bit with homesickness and stuff like that, so to get home for a week and spend time there was very beneficial for me and my season."


McKenna was reprimanded after sneaking in a game of Gaelic football – and scoring a goal – for his original club Eglish in November without the Bombers' knowledge.

Hawk Conor Nash and Cat Mark O'Connor are among the other Irish AFL footballers to have secretly played Gaelic football in the AFL off-season.

FULL FIXTURE Every round, every game

However, Brisbane's James Madden sought and received permission to play for his Gaelic side in early January.

McKenna again spent time in Ireland during his Christmas break, with Essendon understanding of the challenges Irish players face.

The Bombers are committed to the Irish 'experiment', signing promising prospects Ross McQuillan and Cian McBride for this season.