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On our radar! 11 young hurlers to watch in 2017

Some have already made their mark but these players hope to continue on an upward curve in the months to come.

pjimage (1) Shane Kingston, Ronan Lynch and Luke Scanlon are three of the players to watch out for in 2017. Source: INPHO

AROUND THIS TIME last year, we nominated our young hurlers to watch for 2016. 

It was pretty much a mixed bag for the nine players we selected, as Waterford’s Patrick Curran and Limerick All-Star nominee Diarmaid Byrnes emerged as arguably the most successful from our list.

We’re naming 11 players to keep an eye on ahead of the new season but as always, we’re looking for selections from the various counties.

Our suggestions are players who have seen some game time already, are on the verge of a breakthrough or have a point to prove.

1. Steven O’Brien (Tipperary)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Steven O’Brien is a coveted player for Tipperary senior football manager Liam Kearns but he’s sticking with the hurlers again this year.

The Ballina clubman was one of two players to switch codes in 2016 and while Seamus Kennedy finished the year as an All-Ireland senior hurling medallist, it was a frustrating campaign for O’Brien.

He saw just a few minutes of game time in the League, as a late sub in the quarter-final loss to Clare, and failed to feature in the championship.

But O’Brien’s form in training was excellent leading up to the final against Kilkenny and he was deemed unlucky to make the 26-man matchday panel.

With Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher on Army peacekeeping duty, there’s a chance for a ballwinner to stake a claim in Tipp’s half-forward line and O’Brien could fit the bill.

2. Luke Scanlon (Kilkenny)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Kilkenny boss Brian Cody named a number of new faces in his extended winter training panel – including three players who won All-Ireland intermediate medals in 2016.

Luke Scanlon, from Cody’s club James Stephens, is just one of them and he scored 1-2 in the final victory over Clare.

Source: HappyChristmasDad/YouTube

Scanlon was a member of Kilkenny’s 2014 All-Ireland minor winning crop but he missed out on the shock U21 defeat against Westmeath last summer due to injury.

Scanlon’s a former Leinster colleges winner with Kilkenny CBS and the dynamic midfielder looks set for a bright future.

Cody has promised that new players will be introduced, and quickly, which could pave the way for Scanlon to make his mark.

3. Jack Guiney (Wexford)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Jack Guiney’s back in the Wexford senior hurling panel and with a point to prove.

The gifted former underage start is an undoubted talent but he quit Liam Dunne’s squad last February for personal reasons.

Guiney’s absence was keenly felt in attack but he’s accepted the chance to return under new manager Davy Fitzgerald.

Now 23 years of age, Guiney will feel that it’s time to start delivering on his vast potential.

And if Fitzgerald can harness his skills, Wexford will be a much more formidable forward unit this year.

4. Ronan Lynch (Limerick)

Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Already the proud holder of proud holder of All-Ireland medals at club level and with the Limerick U21s, Ronan Lynch will hope that 2017 is a major breakthrough year at senior inter-county level.

Limerick observers are still not sure whether the Na Piarsaigh man will find a long-term home in defence or attack but it’s a nice problem for incoming senior hurling manager John Kiely to figure out.

Kiely has added a host of his former U21s to the senior panel and Lynch knows that he’ll have to work hard for a starting slot.

But Kiely is sure to give youth its fling in his Limerick revolution and Lynch will be handed the chance to impress in the Munster senior and Allianz League campaigns.

Lynch is a former Harty Cup winner with Ardscoil Rís who won two Munster medals during a three-year stint with the Limerick minors.

5. Aron Shanagher (Clare)

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Aron Shanagher finished 2016 on a high when he came off the bench to score a vital goal for Munster in their GAA Interprovincial hurling final victory over Leinster.

The Wolfe Tones man has already made an impact at senior level, scoring a hat-trick of goals against Laois in last year’s All-Ireland qualifier.

Earlier in the year, he stormed through for a decisive goal in the Allianz League quarter-final victory over Tipp at a raucous Cusack Park.

Shanagher also scored a point in the All-Ireland qualifier victory over neighbours Limerick and he looks set for an extended run in the team under new joint-managers Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor.

6. Shane Kingston (Cork)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Now happily recovered from serious injury, Kingston is a player that Cork fans have been talking about for some time now.

A former county minor captain, Kingston racked up huge tallies in that grade and lined out for Rochestown College in the 2015 Dr Harty Cup and Corn Uí Mhuirí deciders.

His father Kieran is Cork’s current senior hurling team boss and he’s already tasted senior championship fare, coming on against Dublin and Wexford in last year’s qualifiers.

Kingston was also a key player for his club Douglas as they defeated Blackrock to win the county U21 premier hurling crown in November.

7. Jake Malone (Dublin)

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Cuala’s Jake Malone is one of a number of players introduced by Ger Cunningham to his Dublin senior hurling panel for the 2017 season.

But before Malone can attend to inter-county duties, he has the small matter of an AIB All-Ireland senior club semi-final against Slaughtneil to focus on.

Malone, a former Dublin minor and U21, was influential when Cuala won their first county senior hurling title in 21 years in 2015.

And he was consistent again in 2016, primarily at midfield, when Mattie Kenny’s outfit retained their title.

8. Brian Molloy (Galway)

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

While Galway were heavily defeated by Waterford in last year’s Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U21 hurling final, captain Brian Molloy still managed to post six points, including three from play.

He was also the hero in the extra-time semi-final victory over Dublin, hitting ten points as the Tribesmen edged home.

Molloy was a member of Micheál Donoghue’s senior squad last year and the Kilnadeema-Leitrim clubman will hope that he’s done enough to stake a claim for regular inclusion this year.

He was used in the early stages of the 2016 campaign and can expect more game time in 2017 as Donoghue and Galway aim to finally crack the All-Ireland code.

9. Conor Gleeson (Waterford)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Conor Gleeson is rated by former Waterford star John Mullane as the best man-marker in the county.

That’s high praise indeed for an emerging young hurler who also happens to be a terrific footballer.

Gleeson won a county senior football title with The Nire last year and the highlight of his campaign was a five-point Munster semi-final haul, from play, against Cork’s Carbery Rangers.

But hurling is Gleeson’s main focus this year and after winning Bord Gáis Energy Munster and All-Ireland U21 medals, he’ll want to hang onto his place on the Déise senior team.

Gleeson made his senior championship bow as a late sub against Tipp in the Munster final, and did very well when called in early to replace injured Darragh Fives in the All-Ireland quarter-final victory over Wexford. Gleeson stayed in the team for the semi-final clashes with Kilkenny.

10. Oisin Kelly (Offaly)

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Oisín Kelly from Belmont is a player Offaly fans will be pinning their hopes on this year.

He ran up some big tallies at club level last year and was also a key member of the county’s U21 side in 2016.

Kelly also scored a late consolation goal against Wexford when Offaly exited the senior championship, a game that marked his first appearance at the top level.

It was a big year for Kelly, who completed his Leaving Certificate before accepting a third-level place at Limerick IT.

Renowned as a seriously athletic player, Kelly also cuts an imposing figure at well over 6ft tall.

11. Sean Downey (Laois)

Laois fans will hope that the arrival of Eamonn Kelly will signal an upturn in the county’s senior hurling team fortunes.

Tipp native Kelly will look to build on the solid foundations laid in place by his predecessor, Seamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett, as the O’Moore men look ahead to the 2017 season.

Kelly has been busy assembling his squad for the new campaign, with a number of young up and coming players drafted in.

Ballinakill’s Sean Downey is a rising star worth keeping an eye on, a midfielder who has worn the county shirt most recently at U16, minor and U21 levels.

Downey suffered county senior hurling heartbreak last year when his club lost to champions Borris-Kilcotton by just a single point after a replay.

But Downey caught Kelly’s eye with a series of fine displays at club level and will hope to carry that good form through to the senior inter-county stage.

Which players are you looking forward to seeing emerge in 2017? Leave your feedback in the comments section below…

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