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The young and the restless: 10 young hurlers who burst onto the scene in 2017

From Mark Coleman to Peter Casey, it’s been a bright year for hurling’s young prospects.

WITH 2017 IN the books, it’s time to look back on the youngsters who emerged and made themselves at home on the inter-county stage.

It was a good year for the small ball code, with Cork and Wexford enjoying a rise in fortunes, while Limerick swept all before them in the All-Ireland U21 championship. Those three counties contribute six players to this list

The criteria for this list: the players must be under the age of 23, they must have made an appearance in the All-Ireland SHC, and they had to be inexperienced at senior level at the start of the year.

Mark Coleman scores a sideline cut Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

1. Mark Coleman (Cork)

Coleman was one of five Cork youngsters to make their first championship starts against reigning All-Ireland champions Tipperary in May. By October, Coleman was named wing-back on the All-Star team after an electric debut campaign for the Rebels.

Still a teenager, Coleman’s pace, skill and intelligence saw him quickly rise to prominence during the summer. The Blarney starlet lifted a Munster title with the seniors and was part of the Cork side that narrowly lost to Limerick in the provincial U21 final.

Coleman was named as GAA/GPA Player of the Month in June and his sideline cuts became a highlight of the championship.

2. Darragh Fitzgibbon (Cork)

Another man to roll off the Cork production line this year. Like Coleman, Fitzgibbon started out the year playing with the UCC Freshers team and finished up as a Munster senior medalist after playing a key role in midfield.

The 20-year-old from Charleville is a natural athlete standing at well over six feet tall and with electric pace. He looks set to be a feature of the Cork midfield for most of the next decade. He’s won All-Ireland medals with Cork at U14, U15, U16 and U17 level.

New Cork boss John Meyler will no doubt be looking to build his team around Fitzgibbon in 2018.

Rory O'Connor Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

3. Rory O’Connor (Wexford)

Given that his father and uncle are Wexford legends, and his brother Jack was already a regular under Davy Fitzgerald, there was an expectation that Rory O’Connor would arrive on the scene before long.

And so he did, making his senior debut not long after completing his Leaving Cert. Fitzgerald handed him his championship debut at midfield in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Waterford and the 19-year-old looked right at home.

He underlined his class with some huge performances as St Martin’s lifted the Wexford SHC title in Otcober.

Posted by on Thursday, 30 June 2022

4. Kyle Hayes (Limerick)

Hayes made his senior debut for Limerick as a teenager in June, and scored 1-1 in his two appearances for the Shannonsiders in his debut campaign.

He captained the county to the All-Ireland minor final in 2016, before anchoring the Limerick U21 defence from centre-back during their run to All-Ireland glory this September.

Hayes was subsequently named at centre-back on the Bord Gais Energy U21 Team of the Year and chosen by the Limerick Leader readers as their U21 Hurler of the Year.

5. Donal Burke (Dublin)

2017 was a difficult year for Dublin hurlers, it may go down in history as a season where several talented players made their championship bows.

Ben Quinn, Eoghan Conroy, Sean Moran, Cian O’Sullivan and Rian McBride all established themselves at senior level, while Donal Burke really blossomed in his debut campaign.

Burke took up free-taking duties in the absence of David Treacy, who was busy on club duty with Cuala, and proved himself as a reliable dead-ball shooter. A Leinster minor title-winner in 2016, he’ll be hoping continue his rise under new boss Pat Gilroy.

Peter Casey Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

6. Peter Casey (Limerick)

Casey was a key part of two Limerick All-Ireland U21 victories in the last three seasons, while he also picked up an All-Ireland club title with Na Piarsaigh in 2016 and scored 0-3 in the final.

The 20-year-old only did his Leaving Cert in 2016 and was playing senior with the Limerick the following year. He scored four points for John Kiely’s side during the 2017 campaign, while he also helped Na Piarsaight to county and provincial honours in a productive season.

7. Jake Malone (Dublin)

Malone made his championship debut for Dublin off the bench against Galway in the Leinster SHC quarter-final, but didn’t feature for the remainder of the championship.

He’s been a key cog in the Cuala machine over the last few years and at 21 has already won three Dublin SHC titles, two Leinster club crowns and an All-Ireland club medal.

Malone is a dynamic midfielder or half-forward and has been impressive during Cuala’s recent club campaigns.

Kieran Kingston celebrates with Shane Kingston Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

8. Shane Kingston (Cork)

Kingston made his championship debut in 2016, but really came to national prominence this season. With his father Kieran in charge of Cork, Shane hit 1-4 against Tipperary in front of 30,000 last May as the Rebels exploded into the championship.

He didn’t quite hit those heights again for the remainder of the summer, but the Douglas youngster was a marked man after the Tipperary game.

Kingston was part of the successful Cork underage teams that swept all before them, alongside Coleman and Fitzgibbon. Cork will look to Kingston to take some of the scoring burden off Patrick Horgan and Alan Cadogan in 2018.

9. Oisin Kelly (Offaly)

Belmont star Kelly emerged as a regular goal threat in the Faithful attack in 2017. While it wasn’t a vintage year for Offaly, Kelly sparkled in attack during the league and championship.

The Limerick IT student hit 0-2 against Westmeath in the Leinster opener and then fired in a goal against Galway in the semi-finals, while he shot 4-3 during the league campaign including a goal against Tipperary in the Division 1 quarter-finals.

Richie Leahy Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

10. Richie Leahy (Kilkenny)

Leahy’s exploits for Kilkenny in the Leinster U21 hurling final saw him summoned by Brian Cody into the Cats senior squad for their crunch qualifier clash against Waterford last July.

He scored 0-6 from play and claimed the man-of-the-match award in their U21 provincial final success to come to Cody’s attention.

Leahy chipped in with two points as a 62nd minute substitute for Kilkenny in their extra-time defeat to the Deise, and will be aiming for a more central role in the Cats attack in the spring.

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