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10 U21 footballers who could make their mark in the All-Ireland senior championship

These players caught the eye in the U21 grade. Can they now do it at senior level in the 2017 championship?

THE DUST HAS settled on the EirGrid All-Ireland U21 football championship, with Dublin going down in the history books as the last winners of the competition.

Across the four provinces, a host of young stars caught the eye, marking themselves out as potential senior stars of the future.

Some have already made their senior breakthroughs but all will hope that their best days are yet to come.

Here, we take a closer look at 10 U21 players we could be seeing lot more of in the summer.

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1. Con O’Callaghan (Dublin)

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Black-carded in the EirGrid All-Ireland U21 semi-final victory over Donegal, Con O’Callaghan would have felt he had a point to prove against Galway in last Saturday’s final.

And O’Callaghan, the team’s joint-captain, delivered with a haul of 1-3, including a goal from play.

O’Callaghan’s had a brilliant six weeks, starting off with an AIB All-Ireland senior club hurling final win with Cuala, before homing in fully on U21 football glory.

As well as last Saturday’s final haul, O’Callaghan scored 0-5 against Westmeath, 2-5 in the Longford victory and 0-4 when Dublin beat Offaly to claim the Leinster title.

2. Jason Foley (Kerry)

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The conveyor belt from the three-in-a-row All-Ireland minor wins for Kerry in 2014, 2015 and 2016 looks set to provide the Kingdom with a host of senior stars in the years to come.

One player who’s comfortably stepped up to the U21 grade is Jason Foley, full-back for the 2015 minor team before featuring for the U21s last year and again in 2017.

Foley is a member of Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s senior squad and is a two-time All-Ireland minor medallist, also winning the title in 2014.

Fitzmaurice hasn’t been shy about giving youth its head and we could see Foley featuring in senior colours before the season is out.

3. Michael Daly (Galway)

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Michael Daly is the son of former Galway star and ex-Roscommon senior team manager Val.

The U21 Tribesmen bowed out of the Connacht championship last year and Daly was sent off against Roscommon.

But the Mountbellew/Moylough player, who’s captained his club to minor county glory while also appearing in a senior final, came back a much-improved player this year in the U21 grade.

He was player of the year in Connacht and scored two points in an excellent All-Ireland semi-final display against Kerry.

Daly was well shackled by Dublin’s Eoin Murchan in last Saturday’s final but looks set for a bright future at senior level nonetheless.

4. Colm Basquel (Dublin)

Source: Presseye/Philip Magowan/INPHO

Basquel was another player named in our 6 players to watch list ahead of the EirGrid All-Ireland U21 final.

And he played extremely well against Galway at O’Connor Park in Tullamore, registering two points as the young Sky Blues claimed glory.

Basquel’s U21 campaign was interrupted by injury after he scored two points in the Leinster opener against Westmeath.

He was back to start the All-Ireland semi-final win over Donegal but was held scoreless, before returning to flag-raising form against Galway.

Basquel was a member of the Dublin senior side that won the O’Byrne Cup earlier this year, and he could prove a useful impact sub for Jim Gavin in the summer.

5. Peter Cooke (Galway)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Cooke’s already tasted senior fare with Galway and when they bowed out of the All-Ireland series against Tipp in last year’s quarter-final, he came on as a late sub.

Cooke will be hoping for better future fortunes at senior level and he looks set to be one of players that manager Kevin Walsh will turn to sooner rather than later.

A former minor full-forward, Cooke made the transition to midfield at U21 level, forging an impressive partnership with Cein D’Arcy.

It remains to be seen where the versatile Moycullen player will find a long-term home but he’s a player worth keeping a close eye on.

6. Michael Langan (Donegal)

Source: Presseye/John McVitty/INPHO

Langan was superb for Donegal against Tyrone in the Ulster U21 championship, scoring seven points in a 0-18 to 1-9 win.

In total, Langan contributed 0-19 as Donegal stormed to provincial glory, earning him the EirGrid provincial player of the year award.

The St Michael’s star was influential as Donegal claimed their first Ulster U21 title win since 2010, before adding four points, including two from play, against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final defeat.

Langan played at midfield for the U21s and he plays in the same position for his club, dovetailing effectively with established Donegal senior Martin McElhinney.

7. Cillian McDaid (Galway)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Last Saturday’s EirGrid All-Ireland final defeat against Dublin was a huge disappointment for a highly-rated Galway side.

But one player who stood up to be counted was versatile Cillian McDaid, displaying the energy levels he’s famed for from his wing-back slot.

McDaid scored 1-1 and earlier this year, he marked his first senior start with two goals against Leitrim in the Connacht FBD League.

Former AFL hopeful McDaid also tasted Allianz League fare for the first time this year and he looks almost certain to make his senior championship bow in the summer.

8. Stephen McBrearty (Donegal)

Source: Presseye/Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

McBrearty’s club Kilcar may have lost out to Glenswilly in last year’s Donegal SFC final, but there was some consolation with a League title.

Against Naomh Conaill in the final, Stephen scored two points as his older brother and county senior star Patrick collected seven points.

Former county minor star Stephen was usually picked at corner forward in that grade but operated in more of a roving commission around the middle third.

A hamstring injury suffered at the start of the year hampered his progress somewhat but McBrearty still enjoyed an impressive recent U21 campaign and having made his senior debut last year in the McKenna Cup, a bright future lies in store.

9. Jack Kennedy (Tipperary)

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Tipperary suffered Munster U21 anguish at the hands of Limerick but Jack Kennedy was still one of their best performers, before he was dismissed on a black card.

Kennedy, son of former All-Ireland SHC medallist John, is already a county and Munster senior club medallist with Clonmel Commercials from 2015 and he’s impressed for Tipperary at senior level this year.

Kennedy, who played against Kerry in the 2015 All-Ireland minor final, made his senior debut against Laois in an O’Moore Park victory.

And when Kennedy collected his first senior inter-county medal last month, he scored two points in the Allianz League Division 3 final victory over Louth at Croke Park.

10. Brian Ó Beaglaoich (Kerry)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Ó Beaglaoich was handed a baptism of fire on his senior debut for Kerry, an Allianz League defeat against Dublin at Croke Park in January 2016.

But 15 months on from that, wing-back Ó Beaglaoich has improved immeasurably.

A 2014 All-Ireland minor winner, Ó Beaglaoich saw plenty of game time last summer but he was dropped for the All-Ireland semi-final defeat against Dublin, despite being named in the starting line-up.

Ó Beaglaoich featured in the McGrath Cup earlier this year before switching his attentions to the U21 grade.

The An Ghaeltacht man was part of a star-studded U21 line-up but Kerry’s campaign was ended by Galway at the All-Ireland semi-final stage.

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