Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership

Become A Member
Dublin: 5°C Sunday 17 January 2021

10 young footballers to watch out for in this summer's senior championship

Keep an eye out for this lot during the summer months.

Updated at 12.00 

THE 2017 ALL-Ireland senior football championship is upon us, and the race for September glory now begins in earnest.

Hope springs eternal for fans of various counties, with some aiming for the biggest prize of all, while others will look towards a provincial title.

Experienced stars will lead the way, ably assisted by a number of rising young stars.

Here, we take a look at 10 young players, one from each of the counties selected, aiming for big impacts in the summer….

1. Con O’Callaghan (Dublin)

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Fresh from his exploits with Dublin’s EirGrid All-Ireland U21 winning footballers, Con O’Callaghan is now turning his attentions to the senior grade.

Breaking into a star-studded Dublin attack won’t be easy but O’Callaghan has the belief and confidence to back up his undoubted talent.

He won an All-Ireland senior club hurling medal with Cuala in March but at inter-county level, O’Callaghan is focusing on football as he targets a senior breakthrough.

A member of last year’s panel, O’Callaghan is already a Leinster and All-Ireland SFC medallist with Dublin, but now he wants game time.

2. Keelan Sexton (Clare)

Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

This is Sexton’s third season on the Clare senior football panel, and he’s still just 20 years of age.

He completed his Leaving Certificate last summer and made a big impact in the 2016 qualifiers, scoring three points against Sligo and another in the narrow victory over Laois.

Sexton was excellent as Kilmurry-Ibrickane stormed to Clare county SFC glory last year and he’s carried that good form into 2017.

In the Banner County’s Division 2 League campaign, Sexton scored goals against Down, Galway and Fermanagh, and was also on the scoresheet in the games against Kildare and Meath.

3. Fergal Boland (Mayo)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Mayo dual star Fergal Boland has enjoyed an excellent debut campaign with the senior footballers to date, playing at wing-forward in each League match.

The Aghamore man was on the scoresheet against Monaghan, Roscommon and Cavan and his emergence provides manager Stephen Rochford with another attacking option.

Boland was a member of the Mayo team that lost last year’s Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U21 B hurling title, scoring eight of his nine points from frees in defeat to Meath.

Boland starred with stick and ball earlier in the summer, too, scoring two points for Mayo in their Nicky Rackard Cup final victory over Armagh at Croke Park.

2016 was a landmark season for Boland, who also won an All-Ireland medal with the U21 footballers.

4. Michael Daly (Galway)

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

A stand-out EirGrid U21 campaign for Daly ended with disappointment against Dublin in the All-Ireland final.

But Daly, son of former Galway star Val, left his mark on the campaign.

Daly was well-shackled by Dublin’s pocket rocket Eoin Murchan in the final but he was named as the competition’s player of the season in Connacht.

Daly’s already captained his club Mountbellew/Moylough to county minor glory while also appearing in a senior decider.

Daly made his senior League debut against Cork this year, and notched two points in the Division 2 final victory over Kildare at Croke Park.

5. Lee Brennan (Tyrone)

Source: Presseye/Andrew Paton/INPHO

We marked out Lee Brennan as a player to watch last year and he’s in our summer list.

The Trillick clubman previously made history by becoming only the second ever player to pick up three consecutive Ulster Colleges All-Star awards – and the first to claim all three in the same positoin.

Brennan, an All-Ireland minor runner-up in 2013 but an U21 winner in 2015, hasn’t enjoyed the senior progress he would have liked, however.

His sum total of Allianz League action this year was three minutes, in the opening round against Roscommon, and many Tyrone fans are wondering what he has to do to get a chance.

Brennan recently reminded manager Mickey Harte of his capabilities, registering 3-14 in a club outing. 

6. Jack Kennedy (Tipperary)

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The son of former All-Ireland SHC medallist John, Jack Kennedy has made a big impact for Tipperary this year.

Towards the latter stages of the Allianz League Division 3 campaign, he forged an impressive midfield pairing with former U21 player Liam Casey.

Kennedy, a 2015 Munster senior club medallist with Clonmel Commercials, was a Tipperary U21 this year but unfortunately black-carded in defeat to Limerick.

A senior championship debut is on the cards for the midfielder when Tipp face Cork or Waterford in the Munster SFC semi-final on 10 June.

Kennedy made his full League debut for Tipperary in their victory over Laois at O’Moore Park in February.

7. Sean Powter (Cork)

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Powter was a member of the Cork team outclassed by Kerry in this year’s EirGrid Munster U21 football final.

Be part
of the team

Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership.

Become a Member

But that setback shouldn’t derail the progress of the Douglas player, who made his senior championship debut last year.

Low to the ground and with a keen eye for goal, Powter’s also a known creator of scores.

He enjoyed a good U21 campaign in 2016, winning a provincial medal, and will now look to make further progress in the senior ranks.

A former dual minor, Powter is devoting his full attention to football at senior level, but he’ll hope for better form in the championship following a disappointing League campaign.

8. Jason Foley (Kerry)

Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Foley starred at full-back for Kerry on last year’s All-Ireland junior football championship winning side.

The Ballydonoghue player also held down the pivotal defensive position for the Kerry U21s this year, as they stormed to Munster glory.

This was a second season at U21 level for Foley, who won All-Ireland minor medals in 2014 and 2015.

Foley is a member of Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s senior squad and having made his League bow against Donegal this year, a first championship appearance might be just around the corner.

9. Ciaran Gillespie (Donegal)

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The strength of Donegal’s U21 crop was evident this year as they stormed to U21 glory even without injured Ciaran Gillespie.

In his debut season at senior level last year, the Gweedore man produced one of the moments of Donegal’s campaign, executing a superb piece of defending to deny Cork in the closing stages of the round 4 qualifier at Croke Park.

Gillespie made another substitute appearance off the bench against Dublin at half-time in the All-Ireland quarter-final defeat, having made his League debut against the Sky Blues earlier in the year.

He’s already sampled the white heat of an Ulster senior final, starting against Tyrone last year, and will now look to make further progress in 2017, injury permitting.

10. Dessie Ward (Monaghan)

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ward was one of three Monaghan players recognised as being among the best in the country following the conclusion of the 2016 EirGrid U21 championship.

Monaghan won the Ulster title for the first time since 1999 and Ward was very much to the fore with a string of fine performances.

In January 2015, Ward made his senior debut for Monaghan in the McKenna Cup defeat to Cavan, and has continued on an upward curve since then.

From the Ballybay club, Ward had to wait until March of this year for a first League start, scoring two points against Roscommon.

The42 is on Instagram! Tap the button below on your phone to follow us!

‘When you play a Division 4 final and you have 300 at it, where’s the GAA going with that?’

Quiz: How well do you really know RTÉ’s The Sunday Game?

About the author:

Read next: