AFTER rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in 2011, Kyle Devine’s dreams of playing elite level sport must have seemed like an unlikely prospect.
However, eight years, a couple of meniscus tears and three knee operations later and the Victoria Bridge man has received his first international call ahead of Australian Rules Football’s Euro Cup, which takes place in Sweden at the end of this month.
Having come through the Strabane Sigersons GAA Club ranks as a youngster – he is still a member of the senior men’s panel – the 31-year-old wasn’t even aware that the sport of Aussie Rules had made it to these shores.
But in 2011, after recovering from his knee injury and having moved to Australia, the Tyrone man decided to give his new country’s national sport a go.
He joined Northern Territory side, Palmerston Magpies and he proved an easy convert to the oval ball game, scooping the club’s defender of the year award in his first season, followed by the most improved award the following term and finished his career with the club in 2014 by being named VIP and having his jersey retired – it now hangs, signed and framed, at home.
After coming back to Ireland following around three years ‘Down Under’, Kyle was delighted to discover there was a growing Aussie Rules scene here and he was convinced to join the Belfast Redbacks.
He is a team-mate of Newtownstewart duo, Kevin McSorley and Benny McDevitt, both former Ireland Warriors, and he is delighted to have been given the chance to emulate his club colleagues at international level.
Ahead of his trip to Scandanavia, Kyle believes the Warriors have a good chance of success and while he admits it will be a trip into the unknown to an extent, playing the game at a high level is not.
His Belfast Redbacks side are currently unbeaten domestically for a season and a half and reached last season’s Champions League final, only to lose by eight points to reigning champions, Amsterdam. To highlight just how good the Redbacks are at present, their most recent game was against the Galway Magpies, who they beat in last season’s Irish Grand Final. On this occasion, in Mallusk, Kyle scored five goals during a whopping 17.16 (118 points) to 1.5 (11) victory for the home side!
“This is my first time being called up by Ireland, so it will be an experience, but I’d like to think we’ll put up a good fight and give it a go!,” beamed the full-forward, who is second top scorer in the Irish league this season.
Next year, the Ireland Warriors will compete in the World Cup, the winner of which gets to play at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) ahead of the AFL’s Grand Final, and Kyle would like to ‘top off’ his career in such salubrious surroundings as ‘the tank’s going, but the legs are saying that’s enough!’.
Anyone interested in getting involved in the sport more locally, should visit Mid Ulster Sports Arena, Cookstown, on Saturday, June 22, when the newly formed Mid Ulster Suns will be hosting another open day.