GAA Football

Glass hoping he still has time to affect his career's canvas

AT the start of the week, Conor Glass went out and bought a few blank canvases. There’s a box of shading pencils that sit in the Richmond home he shares with team-mates Conor Nash and Ned Reeves, son of Hawthorn CEO, Justin.

The framed picture you see in his hands, of the hurl and sliotar, he drew himself. The two hanging in the background, of Free Derry corner and a football and hurl, were drawn by his mother, Claire.

“Mum’s an artist, I took it off her. I’d draw random things. Mostly pencil drawing. I don’t like to paint too much, that takes too much time. I’d rather pencil drawings and shading, mess around with that.

“There’s not much to do at the minute.”

Home is never far from his mind, and after the AFL season was postponed on Sunday afternoon, the majority of the Irish contingent were straight on to book flights.

Many flew home on Monday night, by which stage Glass was only finalising his flight. Hawthorn’s game with Brisbane was the last game of the first round, which was played behind closed doors.

By half-time, Australian government direction to start shutting down the borders and stopping non-essential domestic travel meant that the decision to make this the last game for a while was inevitable.

The message was relayed to the players at the final hooter. Glass, having spent last month recovering from injury, didn’t manage to make the match-day squad but was still there in the midst of a surreal day.

“The players didn’t know it had been suspended, but everyone watching on TV did.”

By the time he booked a flight on Monday, some airlines were charging $10,000 for a one-way flight. He booked a $3,000 flight for Saturday, but by the time he woke up on Tuesday morning, it had been cancelled.

And so now, rather than coming home like most of the others, he will have to stay put.

Richmond is the suburb jammed between Hawthorn and Melbourne itself, but the metropolis is as isolated as Maghera itself amid a crisis that has touched every crevice of the globe.

At the time, Glass feared the pay cut could be as high as 80 per cent. In the end, the AFL agreed with clubs that players would lose half their wages until the end of the break, something he described as the “best case scenario”.

“The big thing is that 80 per cent of jobs at the AFL have been cut.

“The CEO of the AFL, Gillon McLachlan, has been flat out. You can just tell he’s had countless nights without sleep, trying to sort deals with the government.

“He’s talked about being agile but a couple of clubs could fold because of it. They might not be able to stay afloat.”

He’s in the final year of his own contract, which expires in October, although there’s expected to be flexibility in that if the season restarts and runs on through.

The Irish gang in Melbourne expanded when Armagh’s Ross McQuillan and Meath’s Cian McBride joined Essendon, where they became team-mates with Tyrone native Conor McKenna.

He took an extended break at home at the beginning of the year after suffering from homesickness and while Glass says that he has coping mechanisms in place to deal with his own pangs, the episode shook them back into life as a group.

“It comes into my head a fair bit, but I’ve made this decision to come out here and you don’t want to keep second-guessing it. I want to make the most of it.

“Football isn’t going to be forever. I get homesickness a bit obviously, but I’ve things set in stone to help me get over it when it comes.

“We kinda slowed down a bit the last year but once McKenna had his homesickness and went home, it made us pull our heads in a bit and catch up a lot more often.

“We’ve caught up pretty much every week since he’s come back out, whether it’s playing golf or messing around.

“There’s Darragh Joyce at St Kilda, the two Essendon boys, Ross McQuillan and Cian McBride, and then Anton Tohill and Mark Keane (both Collingwood) along with myself and Conor [Nash[.

“We play golf or go to each other’s houses for dinner and a cup of tea and biscuits. It’s Barry’s Tea and Digestives or Hobnobs. We go for dinner and out to an Irish pub for a few pints when we can.

“We’re able to chat about it and help each other out. That’s the main thing, getting out and chatting about it.”

This is Conor Glass’ fourth season with Hawthorn, having been the star of successful Derry minor and St Patrick’s Maghera teams, where his technical and physical abilities caught the eye of scouts.

Last season, he played seven games. That was more than in any of the previous two years, but still not as many as he’d hoped.

“I’ve always had high expectations of myself, always wanted to be the best. When it doesn’t go your way, it’s hard to stay focussed and motivated. You have your ups and downs.

“The mindset is the hardest part. You have so many thoughts going through your head – you don’t want to let yourself down, your friends down, your family down. Then you see all this social media shit.

“You have the coaches telling you what you did well, what you did badly, and it’s hard to forget about the negatives and focus on the positives. That comes with experience, really. I’ve got better at it the last year or two.

“I thought I could have had a better year, but then that’s the most games I’ve played in a season so that puts it in perspective too, and you have to take the positives out of it as well.

“But once I’m in the team, it’s been a couple of brain fades. That’s what might wreck me after the games. It’s so stupid, you know you should do better. And it’s a business at the end of the day – if you’re not performing, you’ll be out.

“I probably lost my confidence a bit the last five or six months, so it’s trying to build it up a bit and play with a bit of freedom, to not think too much about what other people think of me and focus on myself.”

At times, he’d find himself poring over comments on social media, honing in and getting dragged down by the negatives. The Facebook comments on the club’s match reports could be stinging. Instagram too. He’s learning to stay away, and has had to ask those around him to do the same.

“It’s the randoms, people with cars as their profile pictures. The trolls. They’ve nothing else to be at.”

Like us all right now, neither does Conor Glass. He will have to stay in Australia, presumably for the duration of the crisis.

That will allow him to assess how he wants the canvas of his career to look in six months’ time.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

GAA Football