IRISH defenders Sinead Goldrick and Erika O'Shea will cross paths in Sunday's qualifying final, 17,000km around the other side of the world from their previous finals meeting.

The pair – who now play for Melbourne and North Melbourne respectively – lined up for Dublin and Cork in the 2020 All-Ireland Gaelic football final at Croke Park, with Goldrick's Dublin triumphing by five points.

Alongside Goldrick that day was current Brisbane defender Jennifer Dunne and former Demons Niamh McEvoy and Lauren Magee.

O'Shea was just 18, playing for Cork in her first Grand Final, while this Sunday will be her first AFLW finals series, having missed last season's play-offs with an eye injury.

"I grew up watching Sinead with Dublin and was in awe of her, she was amazing with them in the last couple of years," O'Shea said.

"I played my first All-Ireland final against Sinead, she got player of the match that time, she played really well. So it's exciting playing a final against her over here now.

"It's a dream come true to be honest with you, to play finals this year. It's something everything wants to do, and I can't wait."


The 2023 AFLW season marks the highest ever tally of Irish players in the competition, with roughly six per cent of the cohort having made the move across the world.

"I think there's 31 Irish players who have come across, with Erika – we've had similar paths, being half-backs and seeing what she can do on the field, she's got a huge career ahead of her. She's an exceptional player and what she's doing for North is something we'll (Demons) be looking at too," Goldrick said.

"I think a lot of people (in Ireland) are tuning in to watch AFLW. As we know, the game is getting better and more exciting in terms of the skill level and marking, the tactics that are being involved.

"It's going from strength to strength, and they're definitely keeping an eye on it at home."

Melbourne is coming off a fairly comprehensive 25-point loss to Brisbane, but has won its past six matches against North Melbourne.

"Brisbane are a top-four side, and when you're coming up against top-four sides, you have to bring your best. Brisbane fully deserved the win," Goldrick said.

"We've rounded off our 1-10 season (home-and-away), we came second and we'll take a lot of positives from it. There are obviously areas we need to work on, but that's over and done with, and it's finals now.

"There are a few injuries, Rhi (Watt) with that concussion, Casey (Sherriff) unfortunately hurt her arm, but I think everyone else is okay. We're down two soldiers, but they're super positive, getting around everyone at training."

The Roos are still searching for that elusive breakthrough win over one of the "big three" of Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane, having last recorded victory against one of the trio in 2020.

"With 'Crock' (coach Darren Crocker) we've always focused on the present, so we reviewed the game over the past couple of weeks," O'Shea said.

"We always know it's going to be a dog fight against Melbourne, but we're excited. If we play our game, hopefully it'll go to our side. We'll have to wait and see."