Zach Tuohy celebrates a Laois County Title win with his Portlaoise teammates in O'Moore Park Portlaoise. Picture Alf Harvey
Portlaoise and Laois GAA are celebrating the historic achievement of 'one of their own' Down Under where a man who wore the jerseys of club and county is preparing for a historic appearance in the blue ribband event of Australia's most popular sport.
After a decade playing Aussie Rules professionally, Zach Tuohy is lining up an appearance in the equivalent of the All-Ireland Final of his first sport Gaelic Football.
Next Saturday, October 24, Zach and his teammates at Geelong will tog out at the Gabba in Brisbane where they will play Richmond in the AFL Grand Final.
Zach, a Portlaoise native reared in Summerhill by Noel and Marie, played a big role for his club when beating the Brisbane Lions 82 to 42 in the semi-final or Preliminary Final. His fourth-quarter goal capped a great performance and sealed the victory. MORE BELOW PICTURE.
The Cats, as his club is known, had come close in recent years to reach the final. Now their victory sets them up with a contest against fellow Melbourne Club, Richmond.
Zach, now aged 30, will be aiming to repeat the feat achieved by Kerryman Tadgh Kennelly who became the first Irishman to win an AFL Premiership medal in 2005 after winning the Grand Final with the Sydney Swans. Another Irish man Jim Stynes, a legend of Aussie Rules, also appeared in a Grand Final.
If the Cats win it could be a double victory for Ireland because among Zach's Geelong teammates is Mark O'Connor from Kerry - another Gaelic Football convert to AFL.
Reaching the finale of Australia's most popular sport marks a massive achievement for the man born in 1989 in Portlaoise hospital. Zach was a talent for Portlaoise and Laois at underage level. Playing football since the age of seven, he holds county medals at all grades.
He won a Leinster Minor Football Championship with Laois in 2007. The same year he burst onto the national stage after scoring a spectacular goal for Laois in Croke Park in the All-Ireland Minor Semi-final. MORE BELOW PICTURE.
His second of two goals was a cracker which brought Croker to its feet. The Laois team that took the field that day against Derry included current Laois stars Donie Kingston and John O'Loughlin.
Unfortunately for Laois and Portlaoise, his performance attracted attention from Australia's elite professional AFL teams.
After a trial in 2009, he signed a contract with Carlton in 2010. Tuohy became the fourth Irish player to spend time on the Carlton list and he would be only the second to play a senior game with the club. He made his AFL debut in 20011. He played every match for Carlton in 2013.
His career took a turn in 2016 when he was traded to Geelong. Tuohy played his 200th game against Richmond, the team he will face again in the Grand Final, in September. In doing so he became just the second Irish AFL player to reach this milestone after Jim Stynes.
While he has spent most of his sporting career in Laois, Zach never forgot his roots in The Town. He has returned home to take the field for his beloved club in the Laois County Championship. He played a key role for Portlaoise's record nine county championships in a row.
A standout performance was in the contests with Emo in 2015 where the Laois man played a key role in earning a draw for The Town. Zach starred in the replay which Portlaoise won and saw him hitting the net for his club.
He almost gave up on his professional career down under after his home town club won the Leinster Club Championship in 2009. In an interview in early 2020, he described as 'sickening' how he felt in Australia when he could not be at home for the win in Tullamore.
Nevertheless, he never let his home town down. He holds nine Laois senior football medals, five won before he was 22.
While he hasn't donned the blue and white of Laois in more than a decade, it was an ambition during his time in Australia to come home like Tadgh Kenneally did for Kerry.
"I'd certainly love to go back and play for my county," he said in an interview in 2018.
MORE BELOW PICTURE OF ZACH AFTER SCORING IN THE 2015 LAOIS COUNTY FINAL.
At a reception in 2016 the then Chairman of Portlaoise GAA club John Hanniffy praised Zach calling him an "ambassador for Portlaoise".
In response, Zack paid tribute to all in the GAA club which he called 'family' for the huge role they played in his success on the playing fields Down Under. WATCH HERE
Apart from returning to wear the green and white of Laois Zach has wore the same colours for Ireland in the compromise rules series games in Ireland and Australia.
Zach with the Tuohy clan after he was honoured in Portlaoise in 2016 by Laois County Council. Picture: Michael Scully