Big unit Cian McBride had tongues wagging at Essendon with an impressive practice match performance. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images
Big unit Cian McBride had tongues wagging at Essendon with an impressive practice match performance. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

The Irishman turning heads at Tullamarine

Essendon's newest Irish project had to check the rules a couple of times.

Understandably, Cian McBride's head was spinning playing his first competitive game of Australian rules in the Bombers' scratch match win over Melbourne on Friday night.

But for periods, the 197cm bull-at-a-gate defender was one of the Bombers' best players.

 

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Big unit Cian McBride had tongues wagging at Essendon with an impressive practice match performance. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images
Big unit Cian McBride had tongues wagging at Essendon with an impressive practice match performance. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

 

 

And as much as the spotlight has fallen firmly on Conor McKenna, and when or whether he will return from Ireland over the next fortnight, it was his countryman who turned the most heads in last week's practice match.

In particular, the timing of McBride's spoils and aggressive follow-up at ground level exceeded all expectations of a raw 18-year-old tall in his first hitout.

Especially considering there were times when he had to discreetly check with the officials what in fact a couple of the whistles meant, throughout the game.

Considering he barely knew the AFL, it's the steepest of learning curves.

 

 

For that reason, the rugby and Gaelic convert is probably the most unknown quantity at Bomberland, and a ray of sunshine, after a dastardly run of injuries and post-season surgeries.

But the general feeling is that the super-quick big man could be anything. He is untapped.

The club is now set to give McBride an unexpected early crack at it in the club's first Marsh Series Community clash against West Coast tomorrow night in Perth.

 

 

 

The teen signed as a category A rookie in November, in part, as Michael Hartley's replacement after the backman left Essendon for Hawthorn in the exchange period.

And while the Irish swingman is slated to learn his craft and indeed the game in the VFL this year, injuries are certainly testing the club's key position depth.

 

View this post on Instagram

On the rise🏐#clubfooty#pluck

A post shared by Cian Mc Bride (@cianmcbride) on

 

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Michael Hurley (shoulder) and Cale Hooker (hip) have both had interrupted preseasons, while spearhead Joe Daniher (groin) could still be months away, and Mitch Brown left for Melbourne.

Essendon's list chief Adrian Dodoro caught his first glimpse of McBride at the AFL draft Combine last year when the strong-marking big man placed top-five in the standing vertical jump and agility test.

His athleticism is well-known in Gaelic football where he has shown considerable promise as a tall midfielder.

 

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Downings bred, potato fed🥔#mr&mrsboyce

A post shared by Cian Mc Bride (@cianmcbride) on

 

McBride also ran sub-three seconds for the 20m sprint and within one week quickly signed with the Bombers, despite also speaking with Richmond.

From Country Meath, the same club as Hawthorn's Conor Nash, McBride said he had bonded with Essendon's other two Irishmen, McKenna and Ross McQuillan to help curb the threat of homesickness.

But the leap of faith is reaping early rewards towards the end of his first pre-season campaign.

"It's great to have a couple of the Irish at the club so you don't feel too far away from home," McBride said.

"It was always going to be tough moving away from home.

"It was a big decision but it was the right decision in the end."


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