Westmeath football has received a boost with the news that Ray Connellan is returning from Aussie Rules.
The Athlone man confirmed on Twitter that he is leaving Essendon's Victoria Football League (VFL) side who he joined after being released by St Kilda last year, and that his career Down Under is now over.
Connellan joined St Kilda along with former Kilkenny All-Ireland minor hurling captain Darragh Joyce in 2016 but, despite showing good form for their VFL team, he failed to make an AFL appearance and was delisted last year. However, shortly after returning home to play for Athlone in last year's Westmeath SFC, he was offered the chance to revive his Aussie Rules career with Essendon in the VFL.
But that hasn't turned out how he hoped either and it remains to be seen if he will come back into the Westmeath reckoning should they overcome Limerick in Round 2 of the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers on Saturday.
"In the short time Ray was part of our program he was a great guy and fun to be around, but also set some really good standards with his hard work on the track," Essendon coach Dan Jordan said.
"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.
"Having said that, we all saw a glimpse of what he can bring and the attributes that he has. He's a phenomenal athlete and we wish him all the best."
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 Journey is over but I’ve loved every minute! What a game! https://t.co/877g3Mb1u1— Ray Connellan (@ConnellanRay) June 17, 2019