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9 players to watch in the Munster U21 football championship

The provincial championship gets underway this week, with Cork aiming to retain their title.

IT’S ALMOST SHOWTIME in Munster as the EirGrid U21 football championship begins this week.

Cork begin the competition as holders, and are aiming to win the title for the sixth time in seven seasons.

There are two quarter-finals down for decision on Wednesday, as a fancied Kerry team host Clare at Austin Stack Park in Tralee, while Tipperary travel to the Gaelic Grounds to take on Limerick.

Waterford will face the winners of the Kerry-Clare tie, while the reward for the victors in the Limerick-Tipperary game is a semi-final tussle with Cork.

Here, we’ve picked 9 players from across the province to keep a close eye on in the race for honours.

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1. Jack Kennedy (Tipperary – Clonmel Commercials)

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Kennedy, a graduate from the minor ranks, has already experienced big days in his career.

He won an AIB Munster senior club medal with Clonmel Commercials in 2015 and also lined out in the All-Ireland minor final of that year for Tipperary against Kerry.

Since then, Kennedy has made steady progress and he marked his full League debut for the seniors with an impressive midfield display against Laois recently. 

2. Conor Geaney (Kerry – Dingle)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Geaney scored the clinching goal for Kerry to seal McGrath Cup glory against Limerick earlier this year. 

A former Corn Uí Mhuirí and Hogan Cup winner with Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne, Geaney won All-Ireland minor medals with Kerry in 2014 and 2015.

The Dingle forward, a cousin of Kingdom senior star Paul, scored 2-4 in the 2015 decider against Tipperary, and featured for the U21s last year.

3. Conor Murray (Waterford – Rathgormack)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

In his first full League campaign for the Waterford seniors, Conor Murray has impressed.

The Rathgormack player scored two points against Westmeath last Sunday, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a second defeat of the season for the Déise.

Murray will now turn his attentions to a third season of U21 fare and the minor graduate, who came off the bench in the senior championship clash with Tipperary last year, is a silky forward who will take watching in a semi-final against Kerry or Clare. Waterford senior hurler Conor Gleeson is also expected to feature for the U21 footballers.

4. Keelan Sexton (Clare – Kilmurry/Ibrickane)

Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

As Clare’s footballers continue on their upward curve, Keelan Sexton is playing a key role.

He featured in last Sunday’s famous Allianz League Division 2 victory over Cork and is part of a Clare U21 side hoping to stun favourites Kerry this week.

Sexton, from the Kilmurry-Ibrickane club, is also an accomplished boxer and this is the prolific forward’s third season at U21 level.

5. Sean Powter (Cork – Douglas)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Sean Powter is hoping to make another big impact in the EirGrid U21 championship, having made his debut in the competition last year against Kerry, before going off injured.

The Douglas player was back for the All-Ireland semi-final victory against Monaghan, creating Peter Kelleher’s goal, hitting the post and chipping in with three points.

A prodigious talent, Cork senior panellist Powter was a key player for St Francis College, Rochestown, as they contested Harty Cup and Corn Uí Mhuirí finals in 2015, before representing the county in both codes at minor level.

6. Brian Fanning (Limerick – Pallasgreen)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Fanning is a key member of the Limerick senior setup, and capable of operating in a variety of positions.

Limerick may have lost to Kerry at the semi-final stage in last year’s EirGrid Munster U21 championship, but Fanning still managed to chip in with 1-1 for the Shannonsiders.

The Pallasgreen man is also a former Munster medallist with the Limerick minor hurlers, but now making his name as a more than capable footballer.

7. Colm O’Shaughnessy (Tipperary – Ardfinnan)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

O’Shaughnessy has been passed fit to play against Limerick this week – and that’s good news for Tipperary.

A member of the 2015 Munster championship winning team, defender O’Shaughnessy is preparing for another season of U21 inter-county fare.

The Ardfinnan clubman made his senior debut against Louth in the 2015 qualifiers, and played a big part in the glorious march to an All-Ireland semi-final appearance last year.

8. Michael Hurley (Cork – Castlehaven)

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Younger brother of senior player, Brian, Michael Hurley was dogged with injuries earlier in his career but is now making his presence felt.

Hurley won a county senior football championship medal with Castlehaven in 2013, and he was also a member of the Cork team beaten by Kerry in the 2014 Munster minor football final, scoring two points in that game.

Hurley was impressive for the Cork U21s in their march to provincial honours last year, and he scored three points in the All-Ireland semi-final victory over Monaghan, before adding a point in the final loss to Mayo. Hurley also made his senior championship debut for Cork last summer.

9. Matthew O’Sullivan (Kerry – St Michael’s/Foilmore)

Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Matthew O’Sullivan was utilised at midfield by the Kerry U21s last year but was unfortunately ruled out of the Munster final defeat to Cork because of injury.

In 2017, he’s made his mark at full-forward and handed the captaincy for the McGrath Cup opener against Tipperary, O’Sullivan scored two goals as an U21 selection hammered Tipperary.

O’Sullivan, from the St Michael’s-Foilmore club, cuts a physically-imposing figure and after he was named in the number 14 shirt, Clare’s defence could be in for a torrid time.

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