Former Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley has cautioned potential suitors for ex-Bomber Conor McKenna as the Irishman reportedly seeks a return to the AFL.
Reports in Ireland have stated that McKenna told his current Gaelic club Tyrone of his plans to quit the team after two years back in his home county to return to Australia.
The 26-year departed Essendon at the end of 2020 after 79 games across six seasons with a year to run on his contract to due to homesickness to return to Ireland.
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AFL Media reports Geelong, Brisbane and Port Adelaide are circling the speedster. McKenna has a link to Cats assistant James Kelly from their time at the Bombers and the move would potentially see him join fellow Irishmen Zach Tuohy and Mark O’Connor.
However speaking on SEN radio, Buckley questioned how committed McKenna would be in his second AFL stint and urged clubs to do their research on him.
“What I need to say about the Irish boys – and it’s not all of them and this is tarring them with the brush a little bit – but it’s a little bit like the international BBL guys, how long are you going to be here?” Buckley told SEN Breakfast.
“Because they decide that they’re going to come over for a couple of years and they do get homesick and then they want to get home because they can play a professional sport over there.
“There is a little bit of picking and choosing that happens – it would be buyer beware for me.
“If Conor McKenna has been here and then gone home and then wants to come back out again, there’s a little bit of in and out that happens with the Irish boys.”
Buckley highlighted examples at Collingwood when international players departed due to homesickness, but acknowledged that every situation is different and how others have had great success.
“Mark Keane … Marty Clarke went back but he was actually going through health issues at the time that he needed to get home for, so there are mitigating circumstances in all of these, so I’m not putting a broad brush across,” he said.
“But obviously Jimmy Stynes, Sean Wight … this was a new life that they were coming out for, and they made their life in Australia.
“I still think the world’s a bit smaller and there is a little bit of over and back and I’d want to ask those questions of anyone you were going to recruit from Ireland going forward.”
McKenna teased an AFL return last September, asking on Twitter if any clubs need a half back.
Channel 7’s Tom Browne also reported that several clubs were interested in McKenna and that he had up until November to make a decision.