Athlone senior footballer, Ray Connellan, has returned from his second professional playing term in Australia, having departed AFL club, Essendon.
The Coosan native was offered a second opportunity to fulfil his professional career in Australian rules football when he officially joined VFL Bombers, an affiliate team of Essendon in February, following his surprise release from St. Kilda upon the conclusion of his original two year contract.
Connellan confirmed his departure from Aistralia via his Twitter account last week, when tweeting, “one of the nicest environments I’ve ever played football in! Thank you everyone at @essendonvfl. Not an easy decision for me to make but I felt it was the right time. My Aussie Rules yourney is over but I’ve loved every minute! What a game.”
Prior to his departure from the Antipodean sporting scene, Connellan had suffered an injury setback which ruled him out of game contention for a period of five weeks, but his club contribution was duly noted by Essendon coach, Dan Jordan.
“In the short time Ray was part of our programme he was a great guy and fun to be around, but also set some really good standards with his hard work on the track. He’s a lightning-quick, really exciting player and hadn’t played a lot of back or wing in the last couple of years at St. Kilda so we wanted to give him that opportunity and watch him grow.
“He was getting to a nice level and then had his hamstring (injury ) which forced him out for four or five weeks. He came back for the last couple of games and was just starting to find his feet again but clearly mentally his heart was somewhere else,” Jordan remarked.
Connellan sojourned temporarily in his native town prior to his departure for Boston on Monday morning last where he is expected to contribute to the gaelic football scene in the US in the forthcoming coming weeks.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser this week, former Westmeath footballer, John Connellan (brother of Ray ), noted that Ray had journeyed to Boston following three intense years plying his trade in Australia, availing of the opportunity to travel, visit some friends and play gaelic football Stateside.
His departure will be seen as a blow for his club Athlone as they strive for a positive Westmeath senior football championship campaign following a Division One league series which resulted in the county’s most successful club being relegated.
However, should Athlone advance to the latter stages of the Championship, the addition of a fit and talented Connellan would be a major boost to an aspiring squad.