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10 young players who caught the eye in the 2017 National Hurling League

There’s plenty more to come from players who have enjoyed encouraging cameo moments during the Spring campaign.

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THE DUST HAS settled and the Allianz Hurling League silverware has been handed out.

Across the divisions, promotion and relegation issues have also been decided and thoughts are turning to championship, with the Leinster round-robin series already underway. 

Spring is a time for experimentation and blooding new players, but who has emerged from the various counties to stake a claim for summer inclusion?

Here, we look at 10 players, one from each of the counties included, who caught the eye during the 2017 National League campaign…


1. Luke Meade (Cork)

Source: Conor Wyse/INPHO

Cork manager Kieran Kingston will believe that he got what he wanted out of the Allianz League campaign.

After losing all five group games last year, the Rebels managed to win three out of five in 2017, while also unearthing some new players.

The manager’s son, Shane, Mark Coleman and Luke Meade were just three of Cork’s young guns to impress.

Newcestown’s Meade has carried the confidence of winning a Fitzgibbon Cup medal with Mary Immaculate College into his League performances.

He was particularly good in the wins against Waterford and Tipperary, and will feature heavily in attack for the Leesiders during the summer.

It might not have been seen by too many, but Meade scored one of the goals of the year in Mary I’s Fitzgibbon Cup win over NUI Galway in February. 

2. Tomás Hamill (Tipperary)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

When James Barry was ruled out of Tipperary’s clash with Clare in March, Tomás Hamill slotted in seamlessly.

His display was so good that the Moyne-Templetuohy player earned the man-of-the-match award.

Source: breakingthrough/YouTube

Hamill’s already an All-Ireland minor and senior medallist and he’ll be hoping that this is the year for a definitive breakthrough in the blue and gold.

But Hamill’s arguably more suited to a central position and with James Barry and Ronan Maher holding down the full and centre back positions, the 22-year-old may have to bide his time.

3. Damien Reck (Wexford)

Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Reck was a county minor last year and his progress under Davy Fitzgerald is remarkable when you consider that the Oylegate-Glenbrien player is a current Leaving Cert student at St Mary’s CBS in Enniscorthy.

He’s the son of MJ Reck, who was a member of Wexford’s 1996 All-Ireland winning squad, and he’s a tight-marking defender with a bright future ahead of him.

Reck may have struggled with the physicality of Steven O’Brien in Wexford’s League semi-final defeat but still at such a young age, there’s plenty of physical development still to come.

But Reck already boasts some big game experience and with his club last year, he operated in the pivotal centre-back position as county intermediate glory was annexed.

4. Stephen Bennett (Waterford)

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Bennett, a member of Waterford’s All-Ireland U21 winning squad last year, finally looks to have put his injury worries behind him.

The Ballysaggart player, joined on the Déise senior panel by brother Shane, managed to get a full pre-season under his belt for the first year in four.

Bennett’s undergone hip surgery on four occasions in the past and that’s stalled his progress at senior level.

But the dangerous forward showed what he’s capable of in flashes during the League, and he scored two goals in a man-of-the-match display against Dublin at Croke Park.

5. Richie Leahy (Kilkenny)

Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Kilkenny could do with some new forward talent emerging to take the pressure off TJ Reid and Richie Hogan up front.

St Kieran’s graduate Richie Leahy was a member of Kilkenny’s All-Ireland intermediate winning set-up last year, before earning a senior call from manager Brian Cody.

Source: stkieranscollege/YouTube

Leahy’s a 2014 All-Ireland minor winner from Rower-Inistioge, and he starred for his club in last year’s county U21 final victory over Dicksboro. 

It will take some time for Leahy to make a consistent impact at the highest level but he served notice of his talent with a three-point haul against Cork at Nowlan Park in March.

6. Paul Killeen (Galway)

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Paul Killeen’s inclusion in the Galway starting line-up for last Sunday’s League final victory over Tipperary was a major show of faith in the  Tynagh-Abbey/Duniry player.

A former minor and U21 captain, it seems like Killeen’s been around for a while but he’s still only 22.

A versatile player, Killeen’s also played in attack for Davy Fitzgerald’s Limerick IT in the Fitzgibbon Cup, but is nailing down a defensive place for the county team.

In and out of the side in recent seasons, it now appears that Killeen is finding the levels of consistency that he’s been striving for.

7. David Dempsey (Limerick)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

David Dempsey’s one of the many players who have progressed to the senior ranks after winning a Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U21 crown in 2015.

Dempsey was also an All-Ireland senior club medallist with Na Piarsaigh in 2016 and he’s grabbed his chance to impress under his former U21 boss Kiely at senior level with Limerick this year.

A good run of form has firmly established Dempsey under Kiely’s watch and he looks set for a senior championship debut against Clare in the Munster semi-final.

Limerick may not have gained promotion from Division 1B of the Allianz League but Dempsey managed 1-1 against Cork in the quarter-final win.

8. Donal Burke (Dublin)

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It was a League campaign that ended with relegation for Ger Cunningham’s Dublin – but Donal Burke was a major positive to emerge from the campaign.

Cunningham was hamstrung by the absence of his Cuala stars but that gave the former Cork goalkeeper the chance to experiment.

Burke signalled his intent with a 1-10 haul against UCD in the Walsh Cup in January and he carried that good form into the League.

One of Dublin’s best days in the League was victory over Cork at Páirc Uí Rinn and Na Fianna clubman Burke scored 0-8 on that occasion. 

9. Jason McCarthy (Clare)

Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Former Clare minor Jason McCarthy once scored 11 points as a teenager in a county junior A hurling final to secure victory for his club Inagh-Kilnamona. 

A current member of the county’s U21 squad, McCarthy also made a decent impact in this year’s National League campaign for the Banner County seniors.

Whenever called upon, McCarthy impressed and in the Division 1A relegation playoff victory over Dublin, he came off the bench to score two points. 

McCarthy will hope that his League cameos have proven good enough to nail down a championship start, when Clare tackle Limerick in June’s Munster semi-final.

10. Ross King (Laois)

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Current Laois captain Ross King turned his back on a promising soccer career to focus exclusively on hurling.

The 23-year-old Rathdowney-Errill player was a highly-rated young striker who was once on trial at Aston Villa, while also impressing with Republic of Ireland underage emerging talent squads.

King’s soccer career began with local club Clover United before he joined Evergreen in Kilkenny as a 15-year-old, playing with them until Leaving Cert and also starring on Kilkenny & District League selections.

On a soccer scholarship at UCD, King won a Collingwood Cup in 2012 before opting for hurling, lining out in the 2015 and 2016 Fitzgibbon Cup campaigns.

He was brilliant for Laois in their Division 1B relegation playoff victory over Kerry and he scored ten points as the O’Moore County kicked off their Leinster SHC round-robin campaign with victory over Westmeath. 

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