GAA Football

Blaithin Mackin helps Melbourne Demons to a famous victory

Blaithin Mackin dons the jersey of her home club Shane O'Neill's of Camlough after the Armagh native helped Melbourne Demons win the AFLW in her first season in Australia with a 19-15 win over Brisbane in Sunday's Grand Final Picture: AFL Women's
Liam Maguire

JUST four months into her Aussie Rules career, Blaithin Mackin kicked the opening goal in the AFLW final yesterday to set Melbourne Demons on the road to victory over Brisbane Lions.

Former ladies’ football star Mackin made the move Down Under to the Demons after Armagh lost to Kerry at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage in the summer, and the Camlough native has enjoyed a dream first season in Melbourne.

Mackin joined Dublin's Sinéad Goldrick on the Demons side yesterday as they achieved history in the Women's Grand Final, upsetting the odds to see off Brisbane on a 2.7 (19) to 2.3 (15) scoreline in front of more than 7,000 spectators at the Brighton Homes Arena.

Brisbane made a bright start, but Melbourne exploded into life in a tense affair when Mackin scored their opening goal in just her 10th match in her first season in the league when the Lions lost possession.

Brisbane led by two points at the interval, but Melbourne built momentum after the restart.

A set-shot from Tayla Harris gave Melbourne a four-point lead, but a dogged Brisbane responded and trailed by just two points heading into the final quarter.

A wily Melbourne team, captained by the experienced Daisy Pearce in what could be her final game, dominated in terms of both territorial advantage and possession as the game drew to a close, snuffing out the threat of a Brisbane outfit featuring Orla O'Dwyer of Tipperary.

Mother Freda, brother Connaire – a regular on Kieran McGeeney’s Orchard side – and sister Aimee – an inter-county star in her own right – travelled to Australia to watch the final and, after the victory, Blaithin was pictured with the AFLW trophy in her Shane O’Neill’s jersey from home.

Earlier last week, Mackin was shortlisted for shortlisted for the AFLW’s Best First-Year Player award alongside Meath native Vikki Wall.

“I'm just so proud of our group. They just played their absolute hearts out ... we found a way just through sheer heart and our spirit,” an emotional Demons captain Pearce said after the game.

“Her [Kate Hore] last quarter and Tyla Hanks as well, the ability to run out that game the way she did, I think she is the most underrated player in the competition, Tyla Hanks.

“We don't care where we play, we are going up there to win it. They invited the wrong team for their house warming,” Pearce said of playing at Brisbane's headquarters, Springfield Stadium; the first time it has hosted a game.

Established in 2017, the AFLW aims to become a full-time professional sport by 2026 and, as it grows toward that goal, the players’ salaries have grown too. While still a fraction of the average salary in the men's game – which is over AUD$370,000 (£210,000) – AFLW salaries almost doubled for the 2022 season.

They range from a minimum wage of $39,184 (£22,235) to over $70,000 (about £40,000) for top-tier players.

Despite her success in Australia, however, Mackin intends to return home to compete for Armagh in 2023.



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