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Cian Hanley keen to kick on in Oz

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DIFFERENT BALL GAME Cian Hanley poses in the Brisbane Lions colours with an Australian Rules football.

Former Mayo minor captain Cian Hanley reflects on an emotional year in Australia

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Ger Flanagan

ALMOST eight months have passed since Cian Hanley was finally set to make his first Australian Rules appearance in a Brisbane Lions jersey after two long years battling knee and groin injuries.
The former Mayo minor football captain had been named to play against the Gold Coast Suns in the NEAFL curtain-raiser last March.
Ironically, his older brother, Pearce, was also set to make his much-anticipated full debut after his move from the Lions to the Coast in the previous AFL draft.
However, what should have been a hugely memorable night for the Hanley brothers from Ballaghaderreen was completely overshadowed by the heartbreaking news from home that their younger brother Tommy, who was battling stage 4 cancer, was gravely ill.
The message to Cian and Pearce was to come home.
Although Pearce was made aware of the news a few days earlier, Cian wasn’t told until after his game because as it turned out, their 16-year-old brother had them to play their matches in Australia.
“Pearce was told on Thursday that we needed to go home straight away, and that weekend was my first proper game against the Suns, and Pearce’s Round 1 game against the [Brisbane] Lions,” Cian recalled recently to The Mayo News.
“Pearce told me to stay down after the game, so I knew there was something up but I wasn’t sure. So I played three-quarters of the game, and afterwards I was pulled aside into a room and told we had to go home straight away.
“Mum was saying that Tommy wanted me to play my first game before I came home.
“Mum was telling him, ‘we are going to get everyone to come home to see you’, and he was like: ‘I want the two boys to come over after their games first’ which was incredible.”
Both Hanleys were given compassionate leave by their respective clubs to travel back to Ireland to spend some time with Tommy, who sadly passed away a few days later after a brave battle.
But Tommy’s memory lives on, and when Cian played his part in the Brisbane Lions’ NEAFL Grand Final victory over Sydney Swans less than six months later, he felt mixed emotions.
“When we won the Grand Final, everyone was up celebrating and I just started ballin’ [crying], couldn’t control my emotions,” he explains. “Coming back after it all was really tough… but it was just unbelievable, I couldn’t put it into words.”
On the field, it’s been a huge season for the 21 year-old in terms of overcoming adversity and showing glimpses of his undoubted potential.
He admitted that the overriding emotion is ‘relief’ now that he is injury-free and starting to ‘pay back’ the faith that Brisbane have shown in him.
With pre-season just beginning, he plans on making a much bigger impact in 2018.
“I messaged one of the coaches today and I was like, ‘Are you ready to get my kicking up to scratch?’ because I feel when I get my skills a bit better, it will really take my game on,” he explained.
“So I am just thinking now, over the pre-season, that it gives me a really good chance to work on my skills so that I will be comfortable taking kicks and hand-balls.
“At the minute I’m okay, but not at the level I want to be at. So that’s the plan.”

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