Tyrone star Sean Cavanagh has turned down a two-year contract offer from AFL club the Brisbane Lions.

The 22-year-old, who is due to fly Down Under this weekend with the Ireland International Rules squad, was targeted as 'an international rookie' by Brisbane, who, under AFL provisions, can sign up to two players per season from a non-AFL background.  

There are also no limits on what international recruits can be paid as their contracts fall outside the salary cap, but Moy clubman Cavanagh has decided to stay and help the Red Hands defend the All-Ireland SFC title in 2006. 

"I have given it a lot of thought but I have decided against it," he said today.

"I love playing Gaelic football. I think it is the best game in the world and I would rather be playing it than Australian football."

Brisbane are currently shedding some senior players, including Premiership stars Beau McDonald,  Robert Copeland and Brad Scott, in a bid to squeeze under next year's salary cap and a player of  Cavanagh's ability and physique was seen an ideal target.  

"It is extremely flattering that somebody from Brisbane would come and pick me out of a small town and give me the chance to try my hand at Australian Rules," added the Dungannon-based accountant.

"People will maybe think I might be stupid to turn down an offer to go over to Brisbane and play football. 

"But the GAA is as good as anyone with the opportunities coming up now for players with things like sponsorships and endorsements. 

"However, the financial part of it, being a professional footballer, did not come into the equation when I was making the decision." 

Down minor captain James Colgan and forward Martin Clarke have also held negotiations with Brisbane, prompting fears that a growing number of young Gaelic stars could be lured Down Under.

But Australian International Rules coach Kevin Sheedy reckons the GAA have nothing to fear. 

"The AFL has never been worried by the prospect of mass Irish defections to Aussie Rules because it will never happen," Sheedy said.

"We have never actively sought to recruit Irish players and if you look back in history very few Irish players have ever wanted to make the switch to Australian Rules.

"Both countries are committed to the future of the International Rules series and while the odd Irish player might make the switch from hurling and Gaelic football to AFL, we don't envisage it happening on an regular basis."

The scouting of Irish players is perhaps inevitable. Former Roscommon footballer Paul Earley, who became Melbourne's first Irish recruit in the 1980s, now operates as a Dublin-based talent scout for Premiership club Collingwood. 

Gerard Sholly, who has also worked on Collingwood's behalf, spent the past week in Ireland scoping out player talent with Brisbane manager Graeme Allan.