The Cats have continually proven to be one of the AFL’s best at signing international players, particularly finding unrivalled success with Irish recruits.  

Mark O’Connor is no exception, joining Geelong in 2016 after being recruited from Country Kerry in Ireland. O’Connor went on to make his debut in 2017 and quickly became an integral part of the Cats back six.

O’Connor enjoyed his most successful year in the blue and white hoops in 2022, playing 22 games throughout the season before featuring in the Grand Final against Sydney and becoming a premiership player.  


Mark has continued to be a staple of the Geelong team in 2023, playing all seven games so far in a mix between midfield and defence.

The versatility of O’Connor was on full display last Sunday in the win over Essendon, spending time in the middle in a tagging role before swinging back to play a more traditional defensive position.

Speaking with SEN, O’Connor said that his role varied slightly throughout the day.

“It was a bit of a mix,” he told SEN.

“I spent a bit of time in the midfield, then most of the game down back. I was going to some of their star players in the midfield at the start, but that changed a bit and I ended up spending more time in defence.”

O’Connor has proven effective in the past playing a tagging role, minding some of the competition’s most damaging midfielders on various occasions.

Last Sunday saw O’Connor spend parts of the game alongside Zach Merrett, a role that he said was planned out before the game.

“Usually, it’s just putting a body on him at stoppages," he said. 

"It wasn’t necessarily a tag or anything, it’s more just providing some physicality and trying to be more physical around stoppages. Then it turned into more of a normal role down back.”

O’Connor was brought over from Ireland in 2016, following an incredible Gaelic football career in his home league. O'Connor joined Geelong on their category B rookie list, before debuting in round eight of the 2017 season.

O’Connor said that switching the round Gaelic ball for an AFL Sherrin was easier than most would think, despite the different shape and style of the Aussie Rules football.

“The fact we’ve come from a sport that involves a lot of kicking helps,' he said.

"We’ve been kicking it all our lives, then as soon as we get over here there is so much emphasis placed on kicking. We end up practicing probably even more than the locals do just to catch up.

"I think the main difference is that you don’t necessarily have to drop the round ball in any particular way, so it’s mainly the ball drop over here that you have to get right.

"I feel like the Irish guys can kind of work their way around a bad ball drop a little bit better, because they’re used to manoeuvring their legs around the round ball a little bit more.”

O’Connor also spoke on another Irish recruit at Geelong, Oisin Mullin who continues to impress in the VFL as he inches his way closer to an AFL debut.  

Mullin joined the Cats in similar to fashion to O’Connor, being recruited from County Mayo in Ireland in 2021 before developing through the VFL. Mullin has been named as an emergency for the Geelong AFL team this week, with a potential AFL debut getting closer.


O’Connor told SEN that Mullin could be another incredible Irish player for Geelong, when he inevitably gets his chance.

“He’s a serious athlete, a very mature and very nice lad," he explained. 

"He was probably the best young footballer in Ireland when we picked him up, and I’m sure it won’t be too long before everyone gets to see him.

"He could debut this year, he’s super explosive and his speed is probably the highlight. That’s very exciting, hopefully he can add the attack into his game and run off half back.”