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8 players to watch in this week's Sigerson Cup quarter-finals

It’s quarter-final time in the prestigious third-level competition.

WE’RE DOWN TO the last eight as the race for 2017 Sigerson Cup glory hots up.

There are four quarter-finals down for decision this week, with holders UCD up against Ulster University in a star-studded affair.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, UCC are heavy favourites to see off IT Carlow, while 2016 runners-up DCU are expected to have too much for St Mary’s.

And on Thursday, there’s very little, on paper at least, to separate hosts University of Limerick from 2013 winners DIT.

Here, we take a look at eight players who will have a big say in the outcomes of the four quarter-finals…

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1. Mark Bradley (Ulster University/Tyrone)

Source: Presseye/INPHO

Ulster University needed extra-time before seeing off a dogged Garda College outfit in round 2.

And they’ll need to up the ante considerably in a mouth-watering quarter-final clash with holders UCD.

Tyrone’s Mark Bradley didn’t score against Garda but he did land two points off the bench for Tyrone against Roscommon on Sunday in the Allianz League.

And the 2012 All-Ireland medallist will look to make his mark for the Jordanstown outfit as they aim to end UCD’s reign as champions.

2. Jack McCaffrey (UCD/Dublin)

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

It was as if he was never away. Jack McCaffrey, the 2015 Footballer of the Year, slipped seamlessly back into inter-county fare with Dublin on Sunday, shining as the Sky Blues saw off Cavan at Kingspan Breffni Park.

McCaffrey was in Africa as part of his studies last summer but before leaving, he helped UCD win a first Sigerson Cup in 20 years, captaining the side to victory.

Ulster University boast a star-studded outfit and are slight favourites to get the job done and reach finals weekend.

But there will be plenty of interest in the 6/4 on offer for UCD, who showed ominous form last time out when they demolished IT Sligo.

3. Matthew Fitzpatrick (St Mary’s University/Antrim)

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

St Mary’s are 4/1 outsiders against former champions and last year’s runners-up DCU.

But the Belfast-based outfit have some impressive performers in their ranks, and Matthew Fitzpatrick is a player worth keeping an eye on.

An established Antrim senior, Fitzpatrick kicked two neat points as the Saffrons lost out to Tipperary in last Sunday’s Allianz League Division 3 opener.

And when St Mary’s got past NUI Galway to reach the last eight, Fitzpatrick scored a crucial goal.

4. Ryan Burns (DCU/Louth)

Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

DCU laid down a marker when they spanked Queen’s in their Sigerson Cup opener.

Ryan Burns was one of the UCD goalscorers, even if it was a disputed effort:

Source: HE GAA/YouTube

Burns burst onto the senior intercounty stage in 2014 as a 17-year-old and last year, he was one of the key players for Louth in their promotion charge from Division 4.

And last Saturday evening, Burns scored three points (two frees) as the Wee County hit the ground running in Division 3 with a big victory over Laois.

5. Mark Russell (IT Carlow/Tipperary)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The son of former inter-county football referee Paddy, Mark Russell has been making quite a name for himself in IT Carlow circles.

He’s been a key member of DJ Carey’s successful hurling set-up in recent times, while also lining out for the footballers in the Sigerson Cup.

Operating at midfield for IT Carlow, Russell is an influential figure in a side that will hope to pull off a big shock against odds-on pre-match favourites UCC.

Last year, Russell lined out for the Tipperary U21 hurlers and he also bagged two goals for the intermediates in their Semple Stadium victory over Cork. 

6. Killian Spillane (UCC/Kerry)

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

An All-Ireland junior club medallist with Templenoe last year, Killian Spillane was also an All-Ireland minor winner with Kerry in 2014.

As the Kingdom survived a scare against Limerick in last year’s EirGrid Munster U21 championship, Spillane’s class steered them home but Cork won the provincial crown.

And as UCC stamped their class all over their recent Sigerson Cup fixture with DCU St Pat’s, brothers Killian and Adrian collected 3-5 between them.

The siblings are sons of former Kerry star Tom, and nephews of eight-time All-Ireland senior winner Pat. Killian Spillane was also a member of the Kerry team that won the 2015 All-Ireland junior title.

7. Gearóid Hegarty (University of Limerick/Limerick)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Busy times for former Limerick dual player Gearóid Hegarty, who threw in his lot exclusively with the hurlers last year.

Hegarty has once again committed solely to the small ball with the county in 2017 but he’s kept his hand in with the University of Limerick footballers, who have progressed to the Sigerson Cup quarter-finals.

The bookies can’t separate UL from last-eight opponents DIT and Hegarty, who netted against Maynooth University, is sure to have a big say in what promises to be an intriguing fixture.

A dominant and imposing figure, Hegarty won a Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U21 hurling medal with his county in 2015. Gearóid’s father, Ger, achieved a similar feat back in 1987.

8. Liam Irwin (DIT/Mayo)

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

When Mayo stormed to EirGrid All-Ireland U21 glory last year, Liam Irwin scored two goals for the Westerners.

The Breaffy clubman is also a key man for DIT, who were crowned Sigerson Cup winners for the only and only time in their history four years ago.

DIT, as expected, progressed to the last eight when they took out Athlone IT in the last round.

They had to work for it after losing Tipperary’s Ian Fahey to a red card and Irwin got on the scoresheet with a free in a five-point win.

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