THE ROAD from Raheenagh to the Melbourne Cricket Ground isn’t exactly weather-worn, but that hasn’t held back the son of a pair of local ex-pats who will be playing Australian Rules football at the highest level next season.
James Magner, 24, has been drafted to play professionally in the AFL for the Melbourne Demons next year. His father, John, is a native of Killeedy and a former Limerick minor hurler, while his mother, Breda, is a Carrigkerry woman who emigrated to Australia with her husband in 1986.
James was born in Australia but played under-12 football and hurling for Killeedy GAA club when his family moved home briefly in the 1990s.
He comes from an extended family with strong sporting roots in Killeedy parish. James’ uncle Gerard won a national hurling league medal in 1985, while his father represented the county minors in 1978.
James’ grandparents, James and Carmel Magner, his uncles, aunt and extended family have been celebrating since he was selected, after many years of hard work and patience, in the 2012 AFL draft on November 24.
Tom Magner, James’ uncle and director of Plassey Foods, said that the entire family are thrilled with his success.
“We’re very happy to see him doing well. I was in Australia from 1997 to 1999, and I would have seen what he was doing at a young age.
“All he ever wanted to do was play AFL, and now he’s got that opportunity. Hopefully he’ll be able to grasp it and kick on.”
James has three sisters, Regina, Nora and Miriam, who all live in Australia. He began playing Aussie rules football at the age of seven, and competed at schools level with Haileybury College.
He took part in the final of the TAC Cup, a minor competition, at the MCG on Grand Final day in 2005 at the age of 17, and has spent the past number of years playing in the second-tier Victoria Football League (VFL).
Despite missing out in a number of recent drafts, James’ father John told the Limerick Leader that his son’s commitment never faltered.
“It’s been a dream of his since he was a kid. It’s his whole life. He lives and breathes it”.
James has also played Gaelic football for the Garryowen club in Melbourne, which has strong Limerick connections, and also represented Victoria in Gaelic football at state level.
He took part in his first training session with his new club last Wednesday, under the watchful eye of club president and Dublin native, Jim Stynes.
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