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Ray: McKenna will hit the ground running

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Conor McKenna

Conor McKenna

Conor McKenna

Ray Connellan knows first hand just how difficult it is to revert to playing Gaelic football after a stint chasing a career in the AFL - but he has no doubt that his friend Conor McKenna can hit the ground running.

The Tyrone man is set to return to Ireland in the coming days and has been tipped for an immediate recall to the Red Hand squad after an absence of six years, just a few weeks out from their winner-takes-all Ulster Championship clash with Donegal.

Having had a stint in the AFL himself, Westmeath man Connellan (below) knows all about of the difficulties involved in trying to revert to Gaelic football from Aussie Rules.

"For anyone coming back, I suppose you are just trying to get rid of the rustiness that develops," said the Athlone native, who is in Westmeath SFC semi-final action this weekend against Tyrrellspass.

"For me it wasn't too bad, I was there for a short period of time really, but for the likes of Conor who has been over there for six years, he hasn't played a football game bar one or two with the club, but he wouldn't have had a full season in over six years. So there will be rustiness.

"The big thing coming back is that there is a pressure on you to perform and to be elite because people think you are coming back from this professional sport and that he should be at a different level to everyone else.

"And physically and mentally that is the case. But when you go to actually play the game it's so different in many ways, it is quite hard to perform. Because as similar as the games are, they are also very different - it's a completely different ball, the game has different dynamics. So there's the pressure of having to perform at a high level and people expect that to happen straight away, but you're not used to the ball, the flow of the game.

"The AFL has a lot of stop-starts, it's a bigger ground, whereas in Gaelic football the ball is constantly moving.

"So you have to get used to the play and the ball itself, and a lot of lads when they leave they probably would have left when they were at their peak. They were really on form and then on coming back they try and do what they would have done."

Connellan believes that McKenna's talent will allow him to adapt quickly to the inter-county game.

"Conor' won't be worrying about what people think, I imagine it would be a fairly seamless transition because he is so naturally gifted and you can see it in how he played his AFL football, there was so much natural flair and skill.

"It was just his ability, so when he comes back he'll probably just be taking lads on and running at them. Knowing his personality and style of play I can't see it being too much of an issue for him."