MORE IRISH PLAYERS have earned new Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] contracts as the focus switches to next season.

Mayo and Cavan stars Sarah Rowe and Aishling Sheridan have committed their immediate future to Collingwood, putting pen to paper in recent days.

Yesterday, Rowe was one of six players to have a new deal announced, signing on until 2023. The 25-year-old recently completed her third AFLW campaign, playing seven goals across an injury-hampered season, while kicking one goal.

Having undergone shoulder surgery as the curtain came down on the 2021 season, Rowe stayed on in Australia to rehabilitate, missing the Green and Red’s league campaign. The Kilmoremoy forward returned to home soil in recent days, though, so the race is now on for her championship involvement.

Her immediate focus will be on Gaelic games matters, though her new two-year deal will see her head back Down Under afterwards to continue to “live the best of both worlds,” as she so often says.

Sheridan’s status of being on a two-year deal was also confirmed this morning, as she officially penned a contract extension until 2023.

The Mullahoran ace lit up the AFLW last season, enjoying a stunning individual campaign with goals almost every week as she established herself as one of the Pies’ main forwards in her second year at the club.

24-year-old Sheridan has been back in Ireland for some time now, returning to inter-county duty with Cavan through their Division 2 league campaign, as they now prepare for an Ulster championship meeting with Donegal.

Elsewhere, Rowe’s Mayo countywoman Aileen Gilroy has re-signed for North Melbourne.

Gilroy in action for North Melbourne.

Source: AAP/PA Images

One of 24 players retained from the Kangaroos 30-strong 2021 AFLW list, Gilroy sparkled once again in her second season and has subsequently been rewarded with a longer stay.

The 28-year-old has excelled in Australia of late and has been touted as “one of the most exciting Irish talents” over there, though has opted out of the Mayo ladies football set-up for 2021. 

A former underage soccer international with Ireland, the Killala native missed most of the 2019 ladies football season with a devastating cruciate injury, before announcing her comeback with a stellar debut season Down Under.

She returned to line out in the Green and Red’s midfield last autumn, but has decided against it this time around.

“Aileen’s not one to half-arse anything,” as manager Michael Moyles recently said. “The last year or two, she’s struggled with it so she needs to take a year to get things around her. And that’s fine, no problem.”

  • Tipp’s Premiership champion O’Dwyer among Irish stars returning to AFLW next season 

Tipperary’s Premiership champion Orla O’Dwyer, Melbourne’s Dublin duo Sinéad Goldrick and Lauren Magee, and Adelaide Crows’ Ailish Considine have all had their respective returns for the 2021/22 season confirmed in recent days, with further announcements expected.

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The42 understands that several other Irish players — 14 were involved in the 2021 season — are on two-year contracts, and will return for another campaign. 

The league is set to expand over the coming seasons, with the 2022 edition — season six –  due to begin in December 2021 and the Grand Final to be held in mid-March, before the men’s season begins. The competition will increase from nine rounds to 10, plus three weeks of finals.

Over the past few years, the AFLW campaign opened in late January and ran until mid-April, allowing for the Irish contingent — much of whom play inter-county ladies football — to return to these shores for the tail end of the league and for the entire TG4 All-Ireland championship.

Covid-hit 2020 aside, they normally travelled Down Under in October/November for pre-season, so it’s expected that will be earlier this coming autumn, throwing up the potential of code clashes.

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