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9 young footballers to watch in 2016

Some have already achieved great things but all of these rising stars will hope to progress further this year.

1. Cormac Costello (Dublin)

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It won’t be easy to force a way into the Dublin attack, particularly with Paul Mannion and Eoghan O’Gara returning to provide boss Jim Gavin with even more options, but Cormac Costello could be a breakthrough star of 2016.

He’s already sampled plenty of senior fare but after an injury-interrupted 2015 campaign, Costello signalled notice of his 2016 intent by nabbing 2-6 against IT Carlow in last Wednesday’s O’Byrne Cup clash.

Costello has won minor, U21 and senior medals with the Dubs and now is his time to emerge as a forward of real and consistent quality.

2. Colm O’Shaughnessy (Tipperary)

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

O’Shaughnessy was one of Tipperary’s unsung heroes in their march to last year’s EirGrid All-Ireland U21 final.

The Ardfinnan clubman is a pacey corner back who’s ideal for a man-marking role and new Tipp senior boss Liam Kearns is backing him to nail down a regular place in the starting team this year.

Tipp could do with some fresh young blood coming through, as they are currently engulfed by a squad crisis which has seen a number of key players sidelined for various reasons.

3. Lee Brennan (Tyrone)

Source: Presseye/Tony Hendron/INPHO

One of the stars of Tyrone’s march to EirGrid All-Ireland U21 glory in 2015, Brennan’s reward was a call-up to Mickey Harte’s senior squad.

Brennan kicked the winning score for Trillick in last year’s Tyrone county senior football final and finished with a haul of 1-4, including four pointed frees.

A diminutive inside forward, Brennan has been one of those to impress for the Red Hands in the McKenna Cup this year.

4. Conor O’Shea (Mayo)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Renowned as a brilliant character off the pitch, the youngest of Mayo’s O’Shea siblings is now hoping to make a consistent impact on it.

Conor made his senior championship debut against New York in 2014 but lined out against Mayo in the recent FBD League clash in the colours of NUI Galway, scoring a point in that game.

After a frustrating 2015 campaign that finished with injury, O’Shea will be hoping to join brothers Seamie and Aidan in the Mayo senior team this year.

5. Ian Maguire (Cork)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Ian Maguire will be busy making up for lost time in 2016.

The St Finbarr’s high fielder lined out for the Cork seniors for the first time in almost a year when he played against Limerick in last weekend’s McGrath Cup opener.

After first suffering a troublesome back injury towards the end of 2014, 21-year-old Maguire suffered successive setbacks in his quest to return to full fitness but hopefully those problems are now firmly behind him.

6. Mark O’Connor (Kerry)

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

O’Connor, from Dingle, captained Kerry to All-Ireland minor glory last year and also skippered the PS Chorca Dhuibhne team that stormed to Hogan Cup success.

O’Connor was also successful in both competitions in 2014 and his ability to fulfil a number of roles marks out as one to watch not only this year but well into the future.

O’Connor is a UCC student who has suffered with knee problems in the past but provided he steers clear of injury, he could emerge as one of the stars of 2016.

7. Enda Tierney (Galway)

Source: Mike Shaughnessy/INPHO

Tierney made his senior debut for Galway during last year’s FBD League campaign, tasted Allianz League action and also featured for the Tribesmen during the championship.

The Oughterard player has already been among the goals during the early stages of this year’s FBD League campaign and while he can also operate around the middle of the field, he’s likely to find a home in attack in 2016 if a spot opens up.

Tierney certainly doesn’t lack in size as he’s 6ft 4″ tall and after being named on the local intermediate club Dream team last year, a bright future lies in store.

8. Ryan Houlihan (Kildare)

Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Houlihan has operated in defence and attack at underage level for Kildare and his versatility could prove useful to new senior boss Cian O’Neill.

Kildare may have suffered defeat against Louth during the week but Houlihan’s impressive display after coming off the bench was one of the bright spots for the Lilywhites.

Houlihan lined out for Kildare at wing-back in last year’s Leinster U21 final defeat to Dublin and is an established senior player at club level with O’Neill’s home club Moorefield, with whom he won county titles in 2013 and 2014.

9. Ciaran Thompson (Donegal)

Source: Presseye/Andrew Paton/INPHO

Donegal boss Rory Gallagher is in the mood to experiment during the McKenna Cup and Ciaran Thompson is one player who has already made a big impression.

Thompson earned the man of the match award for his performance against Down and operating at midfield, the Naomh Conaill clubman scored three points.

Thompson is still eligible for the U21 grade and followed in the footsteps of his brothers Anthony and Leon by making his senior debut.

Which players are you looking forward to seeing emerge in 2016? Leave your feedback in the comments section below…

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