WESTMEATH FOOTBALLER RAY Connellan has called time on his Aussie Rules career and will return to Ireland this summer after cutting short his time with AFL side Essendon.
The 24-year-old has spent the last three years in Australia, two of those with St Kilda before being released by the club last August. The Athlone man was then given the chance to resurrect his career last December when he was enlisted by Essendon’s VFL coach, Dan Jordan.
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Essendon confirmed the news today in a statement, explaining that Connellan had made himself unavailable for selection and opted to return home to focus on his studies.
“In the short time Ray was part of our program he was a great guy and fun to be around, but also set some really good standards with his hard work on the track,” Jordan said.
He’s a lightning-quick, really exciting player and hadn’t played a lot of back or wing in the last couple of years at St Kilda so we wanted to give him that opportunity and watch him grow.
“He was getting to a nice level and then had his hamstring (injury) which forced him out for four or five weeks. He came back for the last couple of games and was just starting to find his feet again but clearly mentally his heart was somewhere else.
Having said that we all saw a glimpse of what he can bring and the attributes that he has. He’s a phenomenal athlete and we wish him all the best.”
Connellan managed just four matches for the VFL Dons this season, averaging 15.3 disposals and 4.8 marks.
He may also return to Westmeath’s inter-county set-up this summer or after their All-Ireland campaign has come to an end.
The Lake County will take on Limerick in round 2 of the qualifiers this weekend, having been dumped out of the Leinster provincial championship by Laois in May.
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