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5 senior stars we knew would shine from their U21 hurling days

Joe Canning, Liam Rushe and others who stood out from an early age.

1. Joe Canning – Galway

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

WHILE CANNING FIRST came to prominence at the minor grade, winning two All-Irelands with Galway, it was his appearance in the2006 Bord Gáis Energy GAA All-Ireland u-21 Hurling Championship semi-final that launched him into the national spotlight.

Coming on as a substitute, Canning scored 2-4 — 2-3 from play — in a losing performance. One year later, the Portumna clubman played a key role in helping the Tribesmen to the All-Ireland U21 title as they defeated Dublin in the decider and, in his last-ever game at the grade, Canning amassed a whopping 4-7 in a semi-final loss to Clare.

At senior level, Canning’s performances have been rewarded with three All-Stars, a National Hurling League crown and a Leinster Hurling title. At 28, there’s still more to come from the forward.

2. Paul Murphy – Kilkenny

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Danesfort native Murphy reached back-to-back All-Ireland U21s with the Cats in 2008 and 2009 — winning the former — and impressing those in attendance with his composure at corner-back.

The then-20 year old made his senior debut the same year but it was in 2011 that he really made his mark when he not only collected his first All-Ireland senior title but also his first All-Star.

On top of winning three National Hurling League titles and four Leinster crowns, Murphy has also amassed a further three senior All-Ireland medals, winning an All-Star each of those years.

3. Liam Rushe – Dublin

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The now-26 year old Rushe joined the Dublin U21 hurling panel in 2010 and won a Leinster title that year with victory over Wexford.

He added a second provincial crown a year later and, despite putting in a Man of the Match performance in the All-Ireland final, had to settle for a runner-up medal.

Rushe was just out of the minor grade when he made his senior championship debut for the Blues but has excelled since winning a Leinster Senior Hurling Championship in 2013, two All-Stars and the Young Hurler of the Year prize in 2011.

4. Tony Kelly – Clare

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

There is probably no better player in the history of the game at the U21 level than Kelly who won three All-Irleands in a many years between 2012 and 2014 after making his debut while still playing minor in 2011.

Kelly made his senior debut in 2012, helping Clare to the All-Ireland senior title in 2013 when he became the first player to win both Hurler and Young Hurler of the Year.

While the Ballyea man has still to collect a Munster title, he played a big role in Clare winning the National Hurling League in 2016, a first title since 1978.

5. Pádraic Maher – Tipperary

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Maher made his debut at the U21 grade with victory in Munster but Tipperary would fall to Kilkenny in the 2008 All-Ireland final.

The Premier County bounced back in 2010, however, and Maher was captain as they trounced Galway by 5-22 to 0-12.

Five Munster titles, four All-Stars and two All-Ireland senior crowns later, Maher was hugely influential in guiding Tipperary to last year’s Liam MacCarthy Cup and will be captain of the side this year.

At Bord Gáis Energy, we know players are the heart of GAA. For eight years, we’ve followed the best, supporting them from U21s right through to their senior breakthroughs. That’s why we’re proud to expand our long-standing association with the GAA as an official sponsor of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship.

Source: TheJournal.ie Commercial/YouTube

Sponsored by:

Bord Gáis Energy

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