Former Tyrone minor Conor McKenna has temporarily returned to Ireland from AFL club Essendon due to homesickness and family reasons.
McKenna has been a key defender for the Bombers since making his AFL debut in 2015, racking up 73 matches for the Melbourne club.
The 23-year-old, who has been open about his homesickness in recent years, has now been given permission to fly home to Ireland after several weeks of discussions.
However, he is expected to return to Essendon for the Bombers’ opening Marsh Community Series match against West Coast on February 27th.
“We have been in lengthy discussions with Conor over recent weeks and we are completely supportive of him returning home to be with his family at this time,” Essendon’s general manager of football Dan Richardson said.
“We remain in constant communication with both Conor and his family and we will continue to provide our support during this period.”
McKenna, who will reportedly move from defence into the forwards in a pre-season experiment for Essendon ahead of the 2020 season, has always been open about his homesickness.
“I still struggle a wee bit with homesickness and stuff like that, so to get home for a week and spend time there was very beneficial for me and my season,” he told AFL.com.au after returning home for his brother Emmet’s wedding last year.
The Irishman also landed himself in hot water last year when he returned to Tyrone to play an unsanctioned football match for native club Eglish.
The Bombers have also signed talented Gaelic footballers Cian McBride and Ross McQuillan for the 2020 season.
The club has released the following statement regarding Conor McKenna.— Essendon FC (@essendonfc) February 11, 2020