Conor McKenna in action against North Melbourne in round six. Picture: AFL Photos

GEELONG assistant coach James Kelly's link to Conor McKenna could be a factor as the former Bomber looks set for a return to the AFL.

Irish media reported on Monday that McKenna had informed his Gaelic county Tyrone that he planned to head back to Australia to pursue an AFL career again for the 2023 season.

The speedy ex-Essendon player quit the AFL in 2020 after battling homesickness throughout his time with the Bombers and returned to the Gaelic competition to lead Tyrone to an All-Ireland final win.

Kelly has a link to McKenna, having been one of his assistant coaches at Essendon for three years before quitting the Bombers and later signing on at the Cats as an assistant.

Brisbane and Port Adelaide have also been linked to McKenna, with the Lions previously trying to lure McKenna north from Essendon on a lucrative four-year deal.

He knocked that back to re-sign at the Bombers, before announcing his retirement in the Queensland hub in September, 2020, with a year to run on his contract after a turbulent season.

The now 26-year-old played 79 games for the Bombers, including being fourth in the club's best and fairest in 2019, and was known for exciting pace and brilliant kicking off both feet. He played in defence and attack and last year tweeted: "Any AFL clubs need a half-back?"

The Cats have Irish pair Zach Tuohy and Mark O'Connor on their list, having also signed young Irish star Oisin Mullin last year. However, the club announced in January that Mullin had decided to remain in Ireland and play in the GAA instead of take up the chance with the Cats.