Rise of Conor Glass in world of Aussie Rules comes as 'no surprise' to those who know him best
AS he prepares to make his AFL debut tomorrow, the rise and rise of Conor Glass has come as no surprise to those who charted his Gaelic football career from its earliest days before moving Down Under.
Just over a year after swapping Maghera in rural south Derry for Melbourne-based Aussie Rules outfit Hawthorn, Glass has been upgraded to the club’s senior list and is set to make his debut against Fremantle at Domain Stadium.
Still two months short of his 20th birthday, Glass has clearly made a huge impression since moving to Australia, and will become the first player recruited from Ireland to play for the Hawks.
Fergal McCusker knows the former Derry minor star well, having coached him in the hugely successful underage and minor sides at Watty Graham’s, Glen.
And the 1993 All-Ireland winner insists it is no shock to see Glass climbing the ladder so quickly in the world of Aussie Rules.
“Conor has always been exceptional and has kept ahead of any normal development curve you would see in terms of other players at his age group,” said McCusker.
“He always seems to have been ahead, making teams before he should have. He was a MacRory player in fourth year, and didn’t look out of place either.
“There was talk about our club when he would’ve been nine or 10. He was bigger than anybody else at that stage but he also had the talent and the ginger hair as well, so he was hard to miss.
“But, for me, Conor’s biggest attribute is his humility as a player. A big part of Aussie Rules is your ability to run, your engine, your decision-making – it’s a real team game. And that was always Conor’s forte.
“His preparation and dedication were always there. He wouldn’t have missed training, and he would’ve been a leader of any group he’d been involved in.
“He hasn’t been out there very long so to be making his debut at senior level is fairly exceptional.”
According to the Hawthorn website, Glass is considered “a great mark” and has played across half-back for Box Hill (the club’s reserve team) all season under the watchful of eye of coach Chris Newman.
He had 19 disposals against North Ballarat last Saturday and his parents, who had been due to return home after four weeks Down Under, were advised to consider detouring via western Australia first.
Indeed, McCusker credits Cathal and Claire Glass with providing the “fantastic grounding” their son has used as a springboard to what has been a stellar sporting career so far.
No matter what challenge has been put in front of the teenager, the former St Patrick’s, Maghera ace has always met it head on.
Stepping on to the big stage Down Under, insists McCusker, won’t faze Glass.
“Conor’s feet have always been firmly planted in the ground.
“He’s a tremendous human being first of all, and he’d have been well able to adapt, even though it was a huge culture change for him and he’s so far away from home.
“I would’ve spoken to him when he was home and he just loves the lifestyle and the culture of being a professional sportsperson – it’s a natural fit for him.
“You’ve seen maybe as talented or more talented players, but that’s only 20 per cent of it. Eighty per cent of it is your lifestyle and the sacrifices you make. He had the talent, but there was never any doubt about the other 80 per cent.
“We’re delighted to see him doing so well, but it’s no surprise.”
Glass will become the 21st player recruited from Ireland to play in the AFL.