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9 players with big points to prove in the Allianz Football League

These players are anxious to show what they can do in the Spring.

A HOST OF already-established and potential new stars will look to make their mark in the forthcoming Allianz Football League campaign.

But for others, it’s a chance to prove themselves all over again.

Individual motivations differ for each player but here, we’ve picked out 9 players who have their own reasons to ensure that the 2017 spring campaign is a positive one…

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1. Aidan Walsh (Cork)

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Cork boss Peadar Healy received a pre-Christmas boost when Aidan Walsh confirmed his return to the county’s senior football panel.

Walsh was an All-Ireland senior medallist in 2010 but opted for the hurling squad for the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

When Cork lost to Wexford in the hurling qualifiers, Walsh returned to the football set-up and played against Donegal as the Rebels exited the championship.

He tried to juggle both codes in 2014 but Walsh’s entire focus is on the big ball code for the coming season.

2. Jack McCaffrey (Dublin)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

McCaffrey, the 2015 Footballer of the Year, is back in training with the Dublin squad ahead of the Allianz League campaign.

The Clontarf flier opted out for the 2016 championship campaign as he went to Africa to fulfil study requirements.

McCaffrey was a loss to the Dubs but they still managed to retain the Sam Maguire Cup in his absence.

His return will only make what is already a formidable force even stronger, as Dublin eye up a fifth successive League title.

3. Karl Lacey (Donegal)

Source: Presseye/Jonathan Porter/INPHO

Karl Lacey’s been dogged by injuries in recent times but will hope to get an uninterrupted League campaign under his belt.

And as manager Rory Gallagher is overseeing something of a period of transition, following a spate of retirements and defections, Lacey’s experience will be needed more than ever.

A former Footballer of the Year, Lacey brings a huge amount to the Donegal set-up, even if he might not possess the energy levels of old.

Lacey’s missed some key games in the past number of seasons but Gallagher will need him at full tilt in a highly-competitive Division 1.

4. Sean Armstrong (Galway)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

In December 2014, Sean Armstrong announced his retirement from inter-county football at just 29 years of age.

At the time, he stated that he had lost his ‘grá’ for the game but now appears to have found it again, having accepted an invitation to return from manager Kevin Walsh.

Galway won the Connacht title last year but the All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Tipperary provided concrete evidence that there’s still a road to travel for the Tribesmen.

But after starring for his club Salthill-Knocknacarra en route to a county final appearance last year, the return of Armstrong to county colours is a major boost.

5. Ger Cafferkey (Mayo)

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Experienced Mayo defender Cafferkey was restricted to a watching brief last summer when a hamstring injury was diagnosed as much worse than originally feared.

Cafferkey missed out on the shock Connacht semi-final loss to Galway and then had to sit out the remainder of the season.

It was a frustrating time for Cafferkey but he did make his presence felt off the pitch when he called on Mayo county board officials to postpone club fixtures at the business end of the campaign.

Cafferkey’s return to fitness will boost manager Stephen Rochford’s defensive options ahead of the League start.

6. Bernard Brogan (Dublin)

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It might seem a little strange to see Brogan included on this list but having slipped below his normally sky-high standards last year, the decorated Dublin forward faces a fight to hold onto his starting place.

Brogan was dropped for the All-Ireland final replay victory over Mayo but has vowed that his inter-county days are far from numbered.

Now 32, Brogan is looking over his shoulder as younger players, including All-Ireland final replay hero Cormac Costello, set their sights on more regular game time.

But it would be foolish to back against a proven forward of Brogan’s calibre and he can stake his summer credentials during the League.

7. Paddy Codd (Tipperary)

Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Former Tipperary captain Codd opted to take a year out in 2016 and missed out on the Premier County’s historic march to an All-Ireland semi-final.

But the Killenaule man is back and eyeing up a return to the full-back position he filled during his previous stint.

Codd damaged his hamstring against Kerry in the McGrath Cup but it’s expected that he will be fit for Tipperary’s Division 3 League start.

It’s a big year for manager Liam Kearns and his players, who will be eager to prove that a memorable 2016 campaign wasn’t just a one-off.

8. Jamie Clarke (Armagh)

Clarke is one of the most naturally gifted forwards at Armagh’s disposal and has returned to the county fold for the 2017 campaign.

I'm ready

A photo posted by Jamie Clarke (@jamie_clarke10) on

Having suffered relegation to Division 3 of the Allianz League, Armagh will be anxious to bounce back at the first attempt.

Having a player of Clarke’s undoubted class at their disposal can only aid the Orchard County’s cause and the Crossmaglen Rangers hitman will generate plenty of attention from opposition defences.

How he copes with the pressure to perform and high expectation levels will define the success or otherwise of Clarke’s comeback, after he decided to end his long, self-imposed exile.

9. Bryan Menton (Meath)

Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

Menton’s return to the Meath fold, after he opted out last year, is a big boost to new manager Andy McEntee.

The Donaghmore/Ashbourne man is a strong and versatile player who can fill a defensive role or also operate in midfield.

McEntee is keen to rejuvenate the fortunes of Meath football and provide a genuine challenge to old rivals Dublin in Leinster.

If Meath want to improve, they’ll need all of their best players available – and Menton falls into that bracket.

Who are you looking forward to seeing making an impact this year? Let us know in the comments section below…

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