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ClubSpotting with AFL star Conor Nash

A natural born athlete, it appears Conor Nash could have been successful at any sport he togged out for. A potential international rugby career looked possible and a certain Meath career awaited if he had chosen the GAA. However, it was to Hawthorn FC he would travel to pursue a career in the AFL. Colm O’Rourke spoke of the great tragedy it was for Meath to lose such a talent. This lament came just minutes after Conor had orchestrated Simonstown Gaels to their first Senior Championship triumph in the clubs history. O’Rourke may get his wish in the future to see him line out for the Royals, but for now his focus is firmly on the task at hand ‘Down Under’. This week we went ClubSpotting with Conor Nash.

1. What are your first memories of your hometown club Simonstown Gaels?

Firstly, I was quite lucky to choose Simonstown as I could equally have started with Navan O’Mahonys. Being in the parish of Navan you could choose between either club but Simonstown was on the far end of town from my house. If it weren’t for a good friend of mine, John Smith, who lived across the road I probably would have ended up playing for the hoops of Navan O’Mahonys. Thankfully I made it to the the Northside Blues and have enjoyed every minute.

My first memories would be of the ‘mini leagues’ when I was four or five years old. The club run a mini league competition one night a week for 6 weeks around Sept/Oct. Kids from as young as 3 up to 12 are divided among teams according to their age group. You could be playing for any county in the country and would be given the appropriate colours to match. I think I was on the Cork team the first year I played and distinctly remember a very large, long sleeved jersey draped over me. The mini leagues were great fun and there was a big finals night at the end, with a Meath county player presenting medals.

2. Who were your sporting idols growing up?

Growing up I had a few sporting idols. With rugby, it was pretending to slot conversions like Ronan O’Gara or lay a big tackle like Brian O’Driscoll. Dad is a Limerick man so we were drafted into supporting Munster but we quickly realised that Leinster were a better team. With Football, it was Joe Sheridan, Seamus Kenny or Graham Geraghty. ‘Sham’ Kenny was very prevalent around the club so he was a big influence. Certainly as I got older himself and Colm O’Rourke were big helps and winning the clubs two Keegan cups with them was very special.

3. Moving to Hawthorn at a young age was obviously a massive decision but you seem to be loving life 'down under', what were the biggest challenges you faced when you first moved there and what do you miss most about home?

I was fairly lucky that I had Conor Glass (Derry) to make the move down under with. We lived with a lovely host family who looked after us so well and made things feel quite ‘homely’. Having said that, there were certainly some big challenges, such as dealing with being away from family and friends. I am the eldest of three children with a younger brother and sister who I’m very close with. There were/are times when I miss home but I just try to keep myself busy and up to date with all that’s happening at home. I FaceTime home every few days and we just discuss the simple things going on in our lives, it keeps you connected in my opinion. My parents have been so supportive since the start and certainly would not still be here if it weren’t for them.

Football wise, my athletic attributes are my main strength so dealing with training loads was all fine. It’s the constant learning and pursuit to improve that comes with being a professional player that has and continues to be a challenge.

4. Toughest opponent you have faced?

Toughest opponent I’ve faced in the AFL would have been Alex Rance who played with Richmond. He’s constantly engaging you off the ball and moving you to vulnerable spots in marking contests. With GAA, I would have many battles with current Meath midfielder Ronan Jones throughout our underage years. He was a formidable opponent who is fiercely competitive.

5. Best player you have played with?

Best GAA player I have played with would be Shane O’Rourke for sure. Playing midfield with him the last couple years before I left for Oz were special. He was at the latter end of his career and probably not as mobile as he once was but football wise he was so gifted. He is the most natural footballer I’ve seen. His football IQ is outrageous and strikes the ball so well off either peg.

6. Any pre-game rituals or superstitions?

Not a huge amount really, I try not to have my pre-game routine flexible so I don’t get rattled if things don’t go to plan. Although I always have Spaghetti Bolognese the night before and a walk with some tunes the morning of a game.

7. What are your hopes and ambitions for 2021?

Halfway through the AFL season now and I hasn’t gone my way in terms of playing first team football but personally I’m happy with how I’ve been performing. The body has been good off the back of a shoulder reconstruction last year so that’s always half the battle. I'll refresh now over the bye week by getting out on the golf course a lot and be ready to attack the back half of the year.

I’d hope to get home at some stage in October and maybe play some round ball if the opportunity arose.

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