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Aileen Gilroy ready for Aussie adventure


EXCITING TIMES Mayo ladies footballers Aileen Gilroy (centre) and Niamh Kelly (right) will both be playing in the Women’s Australian Football League in the coming months. Pic: Sportsfile

Ger Flanagan

IT was last May when a message from the recruiting manager of Women’s AFL outfit, the North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos, popped up on Aileen Gilroy’s Facebook page.
He was mooting the idea of the Killala native signing for the Aussie Rules’ club, while was still in rehab after undergoing surgery on a ruptured ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).
So Gilroy politely declined the invitation, knowing she wouldn’t be prepared.
However, North Melbourne weren’t prepared to give up on the Mayo senior star and reassured her that she had plenty of time to regain full fitness before pre-season began in October.
“I was kind of shocked when they came back with that response because I didn’t think I would be fit for it this year and said, ‘thanks for asking me,” the 27 year-old told The Mayo News. “A lot of girls who have gone to the WAFL would have gone through the CrossCoder trials but the fact they came to me made the decision a little bit easier.
“There were messages, e-mails and calls going back and forth to see how I was getting on with my check-ups in Santry, and they were keen to keep pushing the idea. So I said, ‘if they’re happy then so am I’, and I ended up signing last Monday.”
Of course, it wasn’t all that simple.
Gilroy, who once represented the Republic of Ireland soccer team in the European Under-17  championship finals, completed her comeback to competitive sport last month after almost a year out when she started for Mayo in their All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Galway.
During her time on the sidelines she had moved to Wexford with her boyfriend, where she works as a personal trainer, so signing up for Australia wasn’t a straightforward decision.
However, all the important people in her life were giving her ‘the green light’ for the move and, once that happened, she knew it was an opportunity she couldn’t turn down.
Coincidentally, Aileen’s sister has also moved Down Under to Melbourne recently, so settling in won’t be as big a problem as it might have been.
“It’s an opportunity that everyone would love to get but not many people do, to experience the professionalism of Aussie Rules,” the former All Star ladies Gaelic footballer admitted. “Going into that professional environment really attracted me to it, where all your needs are looked after.
“Playing football in Mayo they will do absolutely everything for you too, but you always have to get up and go to work on Monday. So to be able to play sport and get paid for it, doing something you love, like training all the time, it really attracted me to it.
“I’ve always loved a challenge and if I wait any longer I will be a year older, so I felt it was the right time.
“When I talked to my boyfriend, he was telling me to definitely go for it and once he was happy, I was happy to go.”
Gilroy will depart for Australia next month, on October 21, with pre-season training beginning a week later. She will be the fifth Mayo player to try her hand in the WAFL, following in the footsteps of Cora Staunton, Sarah Rowe and the Kelly sisters, Niamh and Grace, who will also make their debuts this coming season.
“When I asked Sarah about it, she told me that it’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” she said. “I think, overall, I’m the 17th Irish player to be moving out there.
“Mairead Seoighe from Galway is coming out to my club and Ashling McCarthy from Tipperary, so that will make it easier, knowing that there’s another ‘Paddy’ there who will understand the craic, even if the Aussies don’t!” she laughed.
“The plan is for us all to be living together so it will be like a home away from home. Once you have Irish around you, you feel like you’re at home.”
Should Aileen Gilroy and the Tazmanian Kangaroos be successful, their season will run into the latter stages of March next year. After that, she plans on jumping straight back into the Mayo jersey again for next summer’s championship campaign.
After her time on the sidelines, she intends to make up for lost time.

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