Essendon coach John Worsfold says Conor McKenna took a big risk by playing Gaelic football in Ireland.
Bombers defender McKenna played for his local club Eglish in Ireland on Sunday morning (Melbourne time), scoring a second half goal to help Eglish win their relegation playoff game.
McKenna has become an important player for Essendon since making his AFL debut in 2015, finishing fourth in this year's Crichton Medal count.
The Tyrone native enjoyed a strong season in 2019, playing 22 games for the Bombers.
He averaged a career-high 21 disposals and five rebound 50s, as well as having 28 more running bounces than any other player in the competition.
McKenna is not the first Irish player in the AFL to be caught playing an unsanctioned match in his homeland, with Hawthorn's Conor Nash and Geelong's Mark O'Connor both finding themselves in hot water last year after similar incidents.
Worsfold confirmed Essendon were unaware McKenna would be playing in the Gaelic football match, and was disappointed to hear about the incident, saying he would have preferred if McKenna had called to check whether he could play.
"We certainly didn't send him back there to play football," Worsfold told SEN.
"I was really disappointed when I heard that. We know he's passionate about his Gaelic footy. He's an energetic young man, his personality is so up and about.
"It puts them (Irish AFL players who play GAA) at risk of an injury, of doing something that's outside their contract. In effect, it puts them at high risk of costing themselves a contract or a lot of money."
Worsfold says he hasn't spoken to the 23-year-old since the incident.
"I've reflected on it," he continued.
"I won't speak to Conor until he gets back, and I will be disappointed that he played, and at least didn't feel like he could have rung and just checked."
"Out of everything you can do as a footballer in the off-season, going and playing non-contact football would be the best," Worsfold said.
"It's better than going snow skiing or playing basketball or playing rugby, something you don't do day in and day out."
The Bombers have recently signed two other prospects from Ireland, Ross McQuillan and Cian McBride, who have joined the club on two-year rookie contracts.
Australian Associated Press