Images via Getty, Geelong Cats Twitter

Geelong's Mark O'Connor made his return to his hometown Gaelic club in Dingle and won the Kerry County Championship over the weekend as part of his off-season recovery.

The Cats defender was solid again in 2023, backing up a fantastic 2022 campaign that saw him win his first premiership with the Kardinia Park club. 

The 26-year-old is no stranger to the Gaelic competition. After winning the flag in 2022, O'Connor returned home and aided his side, Dingle, to a 10-point win over Dr. Crokes in a quarter-final. He did this only 14 days after winning the flag with Geelong.  

O'Connor played for Dingle in the 2023 final against Kenmare, winning 1-9 to 0-11. It was Dingle's first title since 2015 and the second in their history. O'Connor played primarily as a defender on Kenmare's Sean O'Shea. The Cat's defender also managed to play in the midfield during injury time to secure his team's title.

The Irish defender has played 109 games for Geelong since making his debut in 2017. A crucial part of coach Chris Scott's backline, O'Connor has made a name for himself as one of the best Irish prospects to make the jump to AFL

Geelong are no stranger to Irish recruitment either, the most notable being fellow defender Zach Tuohy. The 33-year-old made his debut at 21 for Carlton in 2011. After playing at Carlton for six seasons, Tuohy ended up at Geelong where he has remained since 2017 and gone on to break the all-time record games played by an Irishman. Tuohy wore number 42 at the Blues which ironically ended up being O'Connor's number at the Cattery. 

Images via Getty, Geelong Cats Twitter

The Cats also had a debutant in 2023 with Oisin Mullin. The 23-year-old defender managed six games in his first season. 

As of 2023, there are a number of notable Irishmen currently on an AFL list. Conor Nash has impressed for Hawthorn and is proving to be a pivotal part of the Hawks' future. Giant Callum Brown put in solid shifts for the GWS forward line whilst Brisbane teammates Conor McKenna and James Madden are also around. McKenna is no stranger to the AFL, having played at Essendon before a brief hiatus at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.