Homesick Connor McKenna retires from AFL at age of 24

Essendon defender Conor McKenna has announced his AFL retirement at the age of just 24 following the most turbulent year of his short career. McKenna announced his retirement on Tuesday, effective immediately, after 79 games over six years for the Bombers.

The Irishman has struggled with intense homesickness this year, and he also tested positive for Covid-19 in June, which forced the postponement of Essendon’s clash with Melbourne. McKenna said the decision to hang up the boots was incredibly difficult.

“I do really feel the time is now right for me to return home to Ireland,” McKenna said. “I’ve made no secret of the fact that at some point, I’d want to be returning home to my family and I’ve been weighing up the decision recently.

“It’s been a difficult year for everyone, but it’s also been a chance to take stock and weigh up several things in my life, so the time is right. I will always be grateful for Essendon’s support of both myself and my family since I arrived at the club from the other side of the world at the end of 2014.”

Essendon’s general manager of football Dan Richardson knew the retirement call would come at some point.

“In recent years we’ve had very open and honest conversations with Conor, and his desire to return back home to Ireland has been no secret,” Richardson said. “It has been a very trying year for Conor personally, too, but ultimately we accept that the pull to return home was too strong.”

McKenna was recruited by Essendon in late 2014 as a category B rookie from County Tyrone. He went on to make his debut against Richmond in round 22, 2015 at the MCG, slotting a goal with his first kick in the AFL.