9 players to watch in the Munster U21 football championship

The action gets underway down south this week, with Tipperary aiming to hold onto their title.

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

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

1. Jack Savage (Kerry)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Savage gained a name for himself as a prolific scorer for the Kerry minors in 2012 and 2013, before stepping up to the U21 ranks last year. 

The Kerins O’Rahilly’s player, who captains the Kerry team, will be eager to make an impact against Tipperary in Tralee as he was black-carded against Cork last year.

Savage operated at centre forward during his minor days and his combined tally in the 2012 and 2013 championships was a whopping 1-65, including 1-8 against Tyrone in the 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final. That haul against the Red Hands included seven frees.

2. Peter Kelleher (Cork)

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Kelleher is a survivor from last year’s Munster final defeat against Tipperary, when he scored goals either side of half-time at Semple Stadium.

He’s already made a big impact at senior level in 2016, earning a name for himself as a regular goalgetter.

The Kilmichael player bagged braces against Waterford in the McGrath Cup and most recently against Roscommon in the Allianz League.

He also raised a green flag against Dublin at Croke Park last Saturday night at the Hill 16 end.

3. Jimmy Feehan (Tipperary)

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Feehan is a survivor from Tipperary’s Munster U21 championship win last year and also captured a provincial minor medal in 2012.

The talented defender has since graduated to the senior ranks and was impressive in Tipperary Town against Offaly last Sunday.

Feehan made his senior championship debut in last year’s qualifier against Louth and the Killenaule clubman was a member of UCD’s recent Sigerson Cup winning panel.

4. Pearse Lillis (Clare)

Lillis has made the step up from the minor to senior ranks this year and has played in every game, first as an attacking wing-back before lining out in attack against Westmeath last Sunday, and scoring a point.

Lillis was a dual minor last year and plays his club football with Cooraclare, where he hails from.

Lillis helped Cooraclare to a county senior football final appearance last year and he lines out for the Ballyea hurlers at club level.

5. Sean O’Dea (Limerick)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

U21 captain Sean O’Dea is enjoying his third season with the Limerick senior footballers.

He’s a recent Sigerson Cup winner with UCD and this is also his third year with the U21 set-up.

O’Dea missed out on last year’s defeat to Cork through injury, however, and the Kilteely/Dromkeen man will be eager to make up for lost time.

6. Conor Prunty (Waterford)

Midfielder Conor Prunty is in his first season with the Waterford senior footballers and is a key cog in the U21 wheel.

A dual minor last year, Prunty made his mark in 2014 with the Déise’s minor footballers when he scored two goals against Clare.

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He was also a member of the county’s minor hurling team that lost the 2014 Munster final replay to Limerick.

7. Brian O’Beaglaoich (Kerry)

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

O’Beaglaoich was handed a baptism of fire on his senior League debut for Kerry at the end of January, but lasted the full 70 minutes despite conceding a penalty.

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O’Beaglaoich also featured against Roscommon but is now focusing on the U21 set-up ahead of Wednesday’s clash with Munster champions Tipp.

A two-time Hogan Cup winner with Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne in 2014 and 2015, O’Beaglaoich also won an All-Ireland minor medal with Kerry in 2014.

8. Stephen Cronin (Cork)

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Stephen Cronin’s fractured leg robbed him of a Cork senior football championship medal with Nemo Rangers last year.

But still just 20 years of age, Cronin has plenty of time on his side after recovering from such a serious injury.

He’s still eligible for the U21 grade in 2016 and looks set to play a key role for the Rebels against Clare in Cooraclare on Wednesday evening.

9. Liam Casey (Tipperary)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Like teammate Jimmy Feehan, Casey was also a member of the UCD squad that captured recent Sigerson Cup glory.

And Casey played his part in the semi-final, scoring 1-1 as UCD routed UL to book their place in the final.

A minor in 2013, this is Casey’s third season with the Tipperary U21 footballers and he won a Munster medal in that grade in 2015.

He’s now an established senior player too, having made his senior championship debut against Waterford last year.

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‘There’s a always a doubt when you’re coming to a place you associate with drubbings over the years’

‘They are a very resilient bunch of players. There was a lot of soul-searching of course.’

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