Zach Tuohy salutes the Geelong fans after defeating Sydney in the 2022 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

PLENTY of images will stand the test of time from Saturday's Grand Final, but only one will live forever in a small town of less than 2,000 people in the South Midlands of Ireland. 

That image is Geelong veteran Zach Tuohy being carried off the MCG with the Portlaoise flag draped around his shoulders, the cup in one hand and the Irish flag in the other, after winning a premiership in his 250th game. 

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Only one Irishman – Tadhg Kennelly with Sydney in 2005 – had won the ultimate prize before the first bounce. Now three men from the Emerald Isle have premierships on their CVs, with Mark O’Connor also featuring in the Cats' 81-point win over Sydney. 

Mark O’Connor and Zach Tuohy celebrate after Geelong won the 2022 Grand Final against Sydney at the MCG on September 24, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"The milestone kind of pales in comparison. But I think after the fact, it's nice to look back on. I know it (premiership) means a lot to my family especially, even more than me,” Tuohy told in the rooms after the win. 

"It feels a bit like it's full circle. I've got a Portlaoise flag, which is where I started. It hasn't sunk in. It is strange it fell on this day, but in a way, I was kind of disappointed it fell on this day because it could really mar a good occasion if we lost. But it's special."

Geelong's Zach Tuohy in action against Sydney in the 2022 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

Tuohy underwent a four-week trial with Carlton in 2009 and joined the Blues later that year via pick No.73 in the Rookie Draft – Dustin Martin is the only player from that draft class to have played more games – where he played 120 times across seven seasons at Princes Park. 

But while many of his compatriots have tried and failed, or returned home for one reason or another, Tuohy has endured the challenges of homesickness and stayed the course to establish himself as one of the best Irish imports to play AFL. 

"Every player has tough times, but I think the homesickness is a unique experience for the Irish guys. Although players shift states, you can't even pick up the phone at all times to call your family because it's the middle of the night – even that alone I think people probably don't appreciate how hard that can be," Tuohy said.

"I'm lucky to be in the environment I'm in, but there were a lot of bad days early. We're in a privileged position, I don't want anybody's sympathy, but it is hard, especially when you're 18 and I'd never left Ireland by myself, much less come to Australia. A lot of good people helped me get to where I am."

Geelong's Zach Tuohy is chaired off the MCG after defeating Sydney in his 250th game, the 2022 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

With the clock ticking on his time in Australia, Tuohy moved to Geelong at the end of 2016 in search of team success. The Cats came close in 2020 and fell short in three preliminary finals before going all the way on Saturday. 

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"It's a big part of why I came here. Geelong's reputation is a club that constantly competes at the pointy end," he said.

"It doesn't guarantee anything, but to finally have one, talking to 'Jez' (Jeremy Cameron) just then and he made a very good point, no matter what happens this can't be taken from us: we're premiership players, it's nice."


After collecting 21 disposals, seven rebound 50s and six marks against the Swans, Tuohy Facetimed his parents on the ground before heading into the rooms. He couldn't hear a thing, but could see the emotion in their faces as they watched on in the early hours of the morning from more than 17,000 km away. 

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Tuohy is yet to finalise a new deal for next year and is about to head home for his wedding, but revealed a contract for 2023 is as good as done, putting him on track to eclipse the longstanding games record of the late, great Jim Stynes, who finished his decorated career with 264 games. 

"It's very close to being done. I'm playing on next year," he said. 

Zach Tuohy with his family after Geelong defeated Sydney in the 2022 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

With Max Holmes the heartbreak story of this year's Grand Final after the wingman was a late out due to a hamstring injury, O'Connor carved his name into AFL history after being included in the 22.

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The 25-year-old from County Kerry collected 13 disposals and six marks playing on a wing, sharing an unforgettable day with Tuohy on the biggest stage of all. 

"It’s pretty special in his 250th game. I'm very proud of what he’s done. He is just an excellent role model for me. It's been pretty special, but it's been twice as special sharing it with him," O’Connor told

Zach Tuohy and Mark O'Connor of Geelong embrace after defeating Sydney in the 2022 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

O'Connor trialled with five different AFL clubs before Geelong landed him as a category B rookie in October 2016. Since then, the consummate professional has played 87 games in the famous hoops, although 2022 hasn't been without its challenges. 

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First O'Connor had to overcome an injury-interrupted end to the pre-season, then he had to fight to hold onto his spot in the closing stages of the year, after being the medi-sub in three of the final five games. 

"I had my struggles at the start of the year and I found it really challenging to get on top of those. But it wasn't until later in the year when I was able to get my head around where I was at and then I turned it around from there. I left it pretty late in the season to feel pretty good about what I was doing. To get here now is pretty special," he said.

Saturday was a special day for the Geelong Football Club, but it was also a special day for Ireland.