# a look back
7 footballers who have enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2014
These players all really stepped up in 2014 and established themselves among the game’s elite.

Paul Murphy (Kerry)

Darach OÕConnor with Paul Murphy Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Having failed to make the Kerry panel last year, Murphy’s aim was to establish himself as part of the matchday squad this time out. In a whirlwind debut season, the Rathmore youngster took ownership of the number five jersey vacated by Tomas Ó Sé and looked every bit the part.

His man-of-the-match display in the All-Ireland final was the pinnacle of a season where he was entrusted with marking Paul Kerrigan, Shane Walsh, Cillian O’Connor and Ryan McHugh during Kerry’s run to the All-Ireland.

Colin O’Riordan (Tipperary)

Colin OÕRiordan 12/7/2014 Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

The Tipperary dual star showed maturity beyond his 18 years in his debut season for the Premier County. O’Riordan is a fine ball player who excels under the breaking ball. He bagged 1-2 in Tipp’s qualifier defeat to Galway and they can be sure the young defender will be a fixture in the side for years to come.

Shane Walsh (Galway)

Shane Walsh James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Walsh has emerged as one of the most gifted young forwards of his generation. Quick and skilfull with an impressive range of passing, Walsh has all the attributes to make it right to the top of the game. Galway’s quarter-final exit hampered his chances of winning an Allstar, but he has time on his side.

Paul Geaney (Kerry)

Paul Geaney celebrates scoring his side's first goal James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

James O’Donoghue and Kieran Donaghy may have taken much of the plaudits this year, but Paul Geaney’s arrival on the scene was a big factor in their All-Ireland success.

Captaining UCC to Sigerson Cup glory last March seemed to have filled Geaney with confidence after being plagued with injury in 2013. He seized his chance at the beginning of the year and kicked 1-20 en route to the All-Ireland title.

Ryan McHugh (Donegal)

Ryan McHugh scores a goal Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

McHugh had a disappointing end to the year having been called ashore in the second half yesterday but he’s still likely to be named Young Footballer of the Year. The Chíll Chartha youngster filled the void left by his brother Mark to brilliant effect. Man-of-the-match displays against Monaghan and Dublin this year, he became one of Donegal’s key men in 2014.

Brian Kelly (Kerry)

Declan O'Sullivan, Paul Geaney and Brian Kelly celebrate James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Kelly’s most important contribution for the Kingdom came in the dying seconds of their win over Donegal when he parried Paddy McBrearty’s strike on goal and Colm McFadden hit the post with the rebound while under pressure from Kelly. Another Kerry player in his first season at inter-county level who has stepped up to the mark impressively.

Odhran MacNiallais (Donegal)

Odhran MacNiallais Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

A fringe member of the Donegal senior panels in 2012 and 2013, MacNiallais had about a half an hour of meaningful senior inter-county experience to his name before this year. He became a permanent fixture in Donegal’s run to the final, scoring a crucial goal in the quarter-final win over Armagh.


Did we miss out on any players? Let us know who you think enjoyed a breakthrough season in the comments section below.

Quiz: How well do you remember this year’s All-Ireland football championship?

Photos: Kerry take the Sam Maguire to Crumlin Children’s Hospital

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