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On our radar! 12 young Ladies football and camogie stars who truly emerged in 2017

Dublin, Cork, Tipperary and Mayo are among the counties with representatives.

young players Eimear Scally, Aishling Moloney and Faye McCarthy all feature.

ANOTHER YEAR DONE and dusted.

And what a year it was for Ladies football and camogie. From exciting League campiagns to two new senior champions in the form of Dublin and Cork crowned, 2017 was one to remember.

Everything was on the up; attendances, media coverage, standard and overall interest, and at the end of the day it’s the players who make the game.

Across both codes, there’s no shortage of stalwarts but several younger players really made names for themselves this year.

The criteria for this list: they must be 23 or under with little or no senior championship experience before this year. But they left their mark on the inter-county scene in some shape or form.

Hannah O’Donoghue (Kerry)

Kerry's Hannah O'Donoghue kicks a point Source: Tom Beary/INPHO

16-year-old Hannah O’Donoghue took Nowlan Park by storm back in August, producing a sparkling senior debut as Kerry booked their All-Ireland football semi-final spot.

An underage soccer international with Ireland, O’Donoghue bagged an impressive 1-4 from play and truly caught the eye for the Kingdom, making a name for herself on the inter-county scene in doing so.

With two All-Ireland U16 medals under Graham Shine’s guidance under her belt, she retained her starting position two weeks later as Kerry faced Dublin. O’Donoghue looked lively in the opening stages and slotted over a point but the soon-to-be All-Ireland champions were relentless in the end, running out 14-point winners.

Faye McCarthy (Dublin)

Dublin's Faye McCarthy is presented with Player of the match by Tara Kaldanis of Liberty Insurance Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Although Cork won the All-Ireland title, Dublin will come as the huge success story of the 2017 senior camogie championship. David Herity’s charges beat Wexford to end a 27-year wait for a semi-final spot.

On the day, goalkeeper Faye McCarthy was instrumental as she saved a penalty and added two points that day. In just her first year with the team, the 20-year-old put on a stellar display between the posts and was named Player of the Match.

Also a back-to-back Leinster Poc Fada champion, she was consistent throughout the year, learning from Herity and was rightfully rewarded with an All-Star nomination. McCarthy narrowly missed out however, as Cork’s Aoife Murray took the number one jersey.

Eimear Scally (Cork)

Eimear Scally with Orla Conlon Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Those invested in Ladies football will have known about Scally before 2017, but the Cork sharpshooter has well and truly come to the fore of the inter-county scene this year.

Still a minor, she scored a goal from the bench in the 2014 All-Ireland senior final as Cork beat Dublin, and starred through the ranks at underage level. But then came a bout of glandular fever, and a premature return which left her sidelined for even longer.

This year brought her first championship start and the 20-year-old hasn’t looked back since, edging towards becoming a household name in Ladies football. Her ability to win all kinds of ball and her unerring accuracy caused trouble for opposition throughout the year, with her five-point display against Monaghan a memorable one.

Aishling Moloney (Tipperary)

Aisling Moloney celebrates winning Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Watching Aishling Moloney in action, it’s hard to believe she’s only 19. More often than not, she’s head and shoulders above the 29 other players on the field height-wise, and catches the eye as she shifts seamlessly between full-forward, half-forward and midfield.

Accurate off both feet, Moloney was pivotal as Tipperary capped a year to remember by lifting the All-Ireland intermediate crown in Croke Park. Unbeaten, undefeated, undeterred. 15 games with a total 52-206 scored, Moloney clocking a personal tally of 13-41.

It was a stellar year on both a team and individual basis for the dual star. The acknowledgements came thick and fast too — she featured on the Division 3 Team of the League, was nominated for an All-Star and Intermediate Player of the Year, and ended 2017 on a high by captaining DCU to Division 1 League glory.

Megan Thynne (Meath)

Megan Thynne with Clodagh Flanagan Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Another dual player but unlike Moloney who focused on just one code this year, Meath’s Megan Thynne lined out for both inter-county sides. 2017 will be remembered more for the small ball however.

The Kilmessan forward currently wears the title of Meath Young Sportsperson of the Year, and rightly so. Around the Royal county, the 19-year-old has been known as a richly talented camogie player over the past few years, but was given a platform on the national stage throughout the summer.

Her skill and work-rate were second to none as she made a major contribution throughout a memorable year for Meath camogie. Their late rally in Croke Park brought the All-Ireland intermediate final to a replay and they made no mistake on second asking, Thynne playing a starring role as they broke Cork hearts.

Lauren Magee (Dublin)

Lauren Magee and Martha Carter Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The Kilmacud Crokes midfielder made her big break this year. She was solid in midfield throughout, her physicality and controlled aggression a huge advantage as Mick Bohan’s side lifted their second All-Ireland senior title.

The DCU student has had substantial success at underage level but it wasn’t until this year that she made the full transition to the senior starting 15. She’s been a revelation around the middle of the field and was rewarded with an All-Star nomination.

Her remarkable fitness, hard work and sheer presence inspires those around her to drive on. A daughter of former Dublin footballer Johnny, Magee should be a mainstay in the eight or nine jersey for the coming years.

Catherine Foley (Kilkenny)

Aisling Maher and Catherine Foley Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Catherine Foley left the Citywest Hotel in November with her first All-Star accolade under her arm. Although the Cats’ year ultimately ended in disappointment to Cork on the biggest stage, it was also one in which they retained their Division 1 League crown and added a Leinster title.

Foley, named at full-back on the 2017 All-Stars team who historically toured Madrid, was solid in defence throughout the year. Before this season, she was generally sprung from the bench but was a leader from the get-go for each outing through 2017.

The 22-year-old Windgap defender is one to count on for a block or two, and is fond of winning ball and bursting out of defence to initiate attacks too.

Grace Kelly (Mayo)

Grace Kelly Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

An utter joy to watch, Kelly’s quarter-final performance against Donegal was one of the best individual shows of the summer. This year, Mayo proved that their forward line isn’t just Cora Staunton, with Kelly along with her sister Niamh and Sarah Rowe chipping in with big statements.

That day in Cusack Park she was potent before the posts, bagging a tally of 1-4 and the Player of the Match award. Her accuracy was best epitomised through her sublime goal — she gathered the ball out wide, and her electrifying pace had her nicely placed to send a rocket into the top of the net.

With a huge billing to live up to, she impressed again in the semi-final against Cork, her off the ball runs most noticeable. It wasn’t her side’s day in the showpiece in Croke Park, but Kelly stood up with two points from play.

Laura Treacy (Cork)

inpho_01293147 Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

22-year-old Treacy was there last year when Cork’s bid for three-in-row was brought to an end by Kilkenny last year. She’s since said that it was a ‘flop’. But 2017 was all about redemption.

A year older, a year wiser, Treacy was a different animal with the Rebels this year. She had been involved long before last season but only well and truly came to the fore in 2017. A defender from the Killeagh club, she collected her first All-Star at corner back.

Cork’s intensity in the Croke Park decider, particularly in the first half, was on another level with Treacy one of the leaders of the charge. She was immense as the Rebels were reunited with the O’Duffy Cup.

Aisling McCarthy

Aisling McCarthy Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Another vital cog on the Tipperary All-Ireland winning team who went unbeaten for the year, McCarthy worked tirelessly alongside her clubmate and close friend Moloney to finally turn the screw and end the wait for the Mary Quinn Memorial Cup.

McCarthy is also a talented camogie player, tasting All-Ireland success with both Cahir and UL in the past but she made this year her own on the inter-county football scene.

A trusty free-taker, she’s a huge attacking threat but did most of her work out around the middle of the field this year. She was devastating in the national championship decider, finishing with 1-4 and the Player of the Match award, and pipped Moloney to the Intermediate Player of the Year title.

Aisling Maher (Dublin)

Aisling Maher and Mairi Moynihan Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Dublin’s leading scorer Maher was influential at full-forward as Dublin rose back into the top four camogie sides in the country.

Accurate as can be from placed ball, the St Vincent’s star also has a deadly eye for goal and is well fit to split the post from testing angles. With Dublin’s rise through the senior ranks this year, Maher truly emerged as a rising star to watch out for.

The 21-year-old uses her strength and power to her advantage and has been a revelation of sorts to David Herity at the helm.

Emma Spillane (Cork)

There were a host of other young Cork names who made their mark this year, from Melissa Duggan to Libby Coppinger,  Niamh Cotter to Jess O’Shea, but Emma Spillane was a standout player in defence.

After making her senior debut in January, she finished the year with a first All-Star. An incredible rise within 12 months, especially given the fact that she was the only Cork player on a star-studded Team of the Year.

A graduate of the extremely successful underage ranks on Leeside, the Bantry Blues defender transitioned seamlessly into one of the best Ladies football teams there ever has been. Settling into the change of physicality, her energy paid dividends as she fast became a permanent fixture on Ephie Fitzgerald’s side.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

‘The fairytale ending. Not that she’s ending but it’s great for her to go on a high’

Dublin’s meteoric rise, a first All-Star and a thesis due during historic tour to Madrid

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Emma Duffy

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