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9 young hurlers to watch in 2016

These emerging stars are worth keeping an eye on this year.

1. Patrick Curran (Waterford)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Curran is a talented young forward, still only 19, who made his senior championship debut against Cork in 2015.

Curran came off the bench in the Cork and Tipperary games to make scoring contributions and will be seeking more regular game time this year.

A former Harty and Croke Cup medallist with Dungarvan Colleges, Curran was also an All-Ireland minor medallist with Waterford in 2013.

2. Conor Cleary (Clare)

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Cleary’s hero is Seanie McMahon and the dual player at club level is determined to emulate his predecessor’s feats in the Clare half-back line.

Cleary was captain of the Clare U21s in 2015 but his season ended early when he sustained a serious injury playing hurling for Kilmaley last August.

But Cleary has been named in Davy Fitzgerald’s provisional senior hurling panel for 2016 and having returned to full fitness, he’ll be targeting a major breakthrough.

3. Steven O’Brien (Tipperary)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Colin O’Riordan’s departure to Australian Rules Football left the Tipperary footballers with a massive void to fill and the loss of midfield sidekick Steven O’Brien to the hurlers is another blow to incoming boss Liam Kearns.

O’Brien enjoyed a terrific 2015 campaign, winning a Sigerson Cup medal with DCU before starring for Tipp’s U21s as they won the Munster title and went all the way to the All-Ireland final.

But O’Brien is a former dual All-Ireland minor medallist and having also played U21 hurling for Tipperary, the chance to stake a claim with the seniors was too good to ignore.

4. Shane Moloney (Galway)

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Moloney was one of the stars as Galway claimed an historic Leinster intermediate hurling crown last year.

And he provided one of the year’s most memorable moments when he came off the bench to score the winning point against Tipperary in the All-Ireland senior semi-final.

Moloney’s aim is to now force his way into the Galway starting line-up and with new boss Micheál Donoghue operating from a blank canvass in 2016, the 2011 All-Ireland minor winning skipper will be given his chance to impress.

5. Diarmaid Byrnes (Limerick)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Limerick senior boss TJ Ryan has shown that he’s not afraid to draft in players from the underage ranks, with Cian Lynch and Tom Morrissey called in from the minor camp for the 2015 season.

Diarmaid Byrnes captained the Limerick U21s to All-Ireland glory last year and he also lined out for the intermediates.

Byrnes, from the Patrickswell club and an accomplished long-range freetaker, is dominant in the air and was one of eight scorers for Limerick in their opening round Munster senior hurling league victory over Kerry last weekend.

6. Cathal Dunbar (Wexford)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Dunbar provided one of the moments of the hurling summer in 2015 when he finished a delicious team move that culminated in a brilliant goal for the Wexford U21s against Offaly in the Leinster championship.

The Ballygarret man caught the eye of senior boss Liam Dunne throughout the U21 campaign, and has been rewarded with a call-up to his squad.

A dangerous corner forward, Dunbar has an eye for goal and could emerge as a real ace in the pack for the Slaneysiders this year.

7. Conor Dooley (Dublin)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Dooley will challenge established number one Gary Maguire for the Dublin goalkeeping shirt this year.

Dooley also provides Dublin boss Ger Cunningham with an extra option as he can also operate outfield.

The Ballyboden St Enda’s man is a renowned long-range hitter but despite seeing off the challenge of Alan Nolan for a place in the Dublin squad, he faces a battle to force his way in between the sticks.

8. Conor Twomey (Cork)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Twomey had a baptism of fire against Clare last weekend as he was taken off injured in the second half.

But the Newtownshandrum player will have been encouraged by manager Kieran Kingston’s decision to hand him a start at corner back.

Captain and centre back of the Cork U21 team last year, Twomey is eligible for the grade again in 2016 and should continue to develop.

9. John Power (Kilkenny)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

A two-time All-Ireland senior medallist at the age of 23, John Power will feel he has plenty of unfinished business to attend to.

After scoring a crucial goal in the 2014 All-Ireland final replay victory over Tipperary, the Carrickshock man would have felt confident of nailing down a regular starting place last year.

But Power had to be content with fleeting appearances for the Noresiders as Ger Aylward emerged as the ‘bolter’ on the team.

What players are you looking forward to seeing emerge in 2016? Leave your feedback in the comments section below…

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