Essendon’s Conor McKenna has unexpectedly returned to Ireland just a few weeks prior to the 2020 AFL season.
McKenna starred on the Tyrone minor team that won an All-Ireland title in 2012 before impressing several AFL clubs at a talent combine in December 2013. By the end of 2014, the Eglish club man had signed a two-year rookie contract with Essendon before making his debut in 2015 and scoring a goal with his first kick.
The 23-year-old signed a four-year deal with the club in 2017, however, McKenna has battled homesickness on numerous occasions while living in Australia.
In an interview with AFL.com.au in August of last year, McKenna said: “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.”
Essendon released a statement confirming that McKenna has returned home, however, they did not confirm if he would be returning to the Melbourne-based club.
“Essendon defender Conor McKenna has returned to his homeland of Ireland due to homesickness and family-related reasons.
“General manager of football Dan Richardson said the 23-year-old had the club’s full support to return to his native country.
‘“We have been in lengthy discussions with Conor over recent weeks and we are completely supportive of him returning home to be with his family at this time,” Richardson said.
‘“We remain in constant communication with both Conor and his family and we will continue to provide our support during this period.”’
According to AFL.com.au, club officials are hopeful that McKenna will return to the club before the season begins on February, 27. However, Tom Morris of Fox Sports, reports that the Tyrone man has returned to Ireland indefinitely.
If reports are true that McKenna is returning home for good it will come as a huge blow to Essendon as he has become an integral part of the side, featuring in all but one senior game in 2019. However, news of his return will come as a timely boost for Tyrone GAA, especially off the back of Cathal McShane’s dramatic AFL u-turn last week.