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6 unsung heroes set to shine in this year's football championship

We can’t wait to see this sextet in action

1. Sean Quigley (Fermanagh)

Quigley was a scoring machine for Fermanagh in their march to promotion from Division 3 of the Allianz Football League.

In the Erne County’s seven group games, Quigley racked up an astonishing haul of 4-42, before adding seven points from placed balls in the final defeat to Armagh.

Quigley’s prowess in front of goal marked him out as the most prolific marksman in the country throughout the four divisions.

There were some notable highlights along the way including 0-11 against Limerick, 1-5 in the victory over Tipperary, 2-2 in defeat to Clare and 1-4 to help down Wexford.

Quigley and Fermanagh’s thoughts are now firmly fixed on the Ulster SFC quarter-final clash with Antrim on May 31.

Sean Quigley celebrates after he scored a goal Fermanagh hitman Sean Quigley in familiar pose Source: Presseye/Andrew Paton/INPHO

2. Gary Brennan (Clare)

Experienced midfielder Gary Brennan is Clare’s captain and he leads by example.

When the Banner County needed him most, with relegation to Division 4 of the Allianz League a distinct possibility in April, Brennan produced his best performance of the season against Fermanagh.

The Clondegad powerhouse steamed forward from midfield incessantly and his standing in Munster is so high that he’s represented the province at interprovincial level.

Brennan plays his club hurling with Ballyea and he was on Davy Fitzgerald’s radar ahead of the 2014 championship.

But if Brennan lined out for any of the established Gaelic Football superpowers, he would be a household name nationally.

Gary Brennan Clare captain Gary Brennan leads by example Source: James Crombie/INPHO

3. Conor Sweeney (Tipperary)

Ballyporeen hitman Sweeney is blessed with one of the sweetest left feet in the modern game.

In Tipperary’s Division 3 campaign, he finished as top scorer for the Premier County with a haul of 2-29.

Eagle-eyed observers will also recall Sweeney’s two goals against Laois in last year’s All-Ireland qualifier victory at O’Moore Park.

And Sweeney was also Tipp’s main man against Clare in the 2014 Allianz Football League Division 4 final victory over Clare at Croke Park, scoring 1-8.

Sweeney’s two League goals this year were scored against Clare and Louth, and the Cashel-based AIB Bank official will be looking for more against Waterford on May 31.

Conor Sweeney celebrates Conor Sweeney celebrates against Laois last year Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

4. Michael Quinn (Longford)

February’s Sigerson Cup final victory for Dublin City University represented a proud day for the Killoe club in Longford.

Michael Quinn became just the second ever player from Killoe to win a Sigerson medal, following in the footsteps of Davy Sheeran, who played at right corner forward on UCD’s 1953 winning team.

Quinn’s second half display against UCC was memorable and he had a key part to play in DCU’s winning score deep into extra-time.

For Longford, Quinn is a dynamic half-back who returned home in 2012 following a spell with Australian Rules Football giants Essendon.

AFL’s loss has certainly been Longford’s gain and at 25 years of age, Quinn still has plenty of football left in him.

Michael Quinn Sigerson Cup winner Michael Quinn is a key figure for Longford Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

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5. Niall McNamee (Offaly)

As Offaly surged to Allianz Football League Division 4 glory, it wasn’t a surprise to see gifted forward Niall McNamee making an impact.

He may not have scored any of the Faithful County’s four goals against Longford in the Croke Park decider, but McNamee was involved in the creation of the first goal and he finished with four points from play.

When the counties meet again in the first round of the Leinster championship, Longford will need to keep a close eye on the Rhode attacker, who has won seven county SFC titles with his club.

McNamee has enjoyed little success at championship level with Offaly but he did play in the 2006 Leinster final against Dublin, before winning a county SFC in the capital with UCD that same year. 

The 29-year-old hitman has also worn the Ireland International Rules singlet with distinction.

Niall McNamee Offaly's Niall McNamee remains one of the best forwards in the business Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

6. C.J. McGourty (Antrim)

McGourty was sensationally axed from the Antrim senior football squad last year, having returned after almost four years in the wilderness, but he’s shot the lights out in 2015 under Liam Bradley’s successor Frank Fitzsimons.

A dual player, McGourty has worn the Antrim shirt at all levels in football and hurling and in 2010, he played for St Gall’s in the All-Ireland intermediate club hurling final, before going on to win a senior medal on St Patrick’s Day.

McGourty was sensational for his club as they collected an eighth straight county SFC crown last year, scoring 1-4 in the final against Cargin.

And Fitzsimons appeared to have brought the best out of McGourty as the outspoken attacker collected 3-38 in Division 4 of this year’s League campaign.

McGourty is undoubtedly the man that Fermanagh have to watch on May 31 and his shootout with Sean Quigley should be one to savour.

CJ McGourty CJ McGourty's return to the fold has been crucial for Antrim Source: Presseye/Matt Mackey/INPHO

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About the author:

Jackie Cahill

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