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9 young players to watch out for in this summer's football championship

As the championship is upon us, here’s a guide on some of the country’s best young players likely to make the step up this year…
May 13th 2014, 7:00 PM 14,288 17

A FEATURE OF recent football championships has been the promotion of an increasing amount of young players into their intercounty senior panels, and teams.

Over the past two years the likes of Ciaran Kilkenny, Paddy McBrearty, Ciaran Byrne and Cillian O’Connor have graduated straight out of their minor teams to lead the line for their respective counties.

So we had a look at who could be next.

Cormac Costello – Dublin

Among a number of Dublin U21′s already involved, or set be involved in this year’s senior panel, Cormac looks to be the one closest to making an impact on Jim Gavin’s starting fifteen.

The dual star earned a call-up to last year’s senior panel after starring in Dessie Farrell’s All-Ireland winning minor panel, but a broken ankle last March and a fractured collarbone in July meant he didn’t recover until the lead-up to the All-Ireland Final.

Although the pacy corner forward did make his senior Championship debut against Westmeath, and he was of course a vital cog in this year’s U21 winning team.

His direct running game will add to an already frightening Dublin attack.

Cormac Costello with Ger Cafferky and Aidan O'Shea Costello's pace causes all sorts of problems for defenders. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Diarmuid O’Connor – Mayo

The younger brother of the Young Footballer of the Year Cillian O’Connor, Diarmuid was a shock starter in Mayo’s opening round championship victory over New York.

Lining out at wing-forward, Diarmuid scored one of his side’s four goals, as Mayo eased to victory in the Big Apple.

An All-Ireland minor winner last year, playing in the middle of the field, Diarmuid is one of a handful of youngsters to be drafted in to Mayo’s senior panel this year.

Having already made three appearances in this year’s league campaign, the DCU student has the size, athleticism and skill to be a useful player for James Horan this summer.

Ross Wherity and Diarmuid O'Connor Diarmuid taking on Ross Wherity in New York earlier this month. Source: Andy Marlin/INPHO

Ian Fahey – Tipperary

An All-Ireland minor winner in 2011, Ian Fahey has developed in to one of the country’s most promising talents. At 6’5 the rangy midfielder is equally effective in the half forward line where he lined out in this year’s u21 Munster final.

Fahey, still only 19 broke into Peter Creedon’s Tipperary senior football team last year, making two Munster championship appearances; and as the county look to build on their recent underage successes Fahey is set to play a pivotal role.

Unlike other stars of the 2011 minor success such as senior hurling panelists Colin O’Riordain and Stephen O’Brien, Fahey seems to have his sights set entirely on the county’s footballing prospects.

Source: ForKingAndCountry2014/YouTube

Diarmuid Murtagh – Roscommon

Diarmuid, still only 19, will be a key man this summer for Roscommon – having already bagged 2-5 in this year’s National Football League.

Diarmuid scored 3-25 during the county’s run to the U21 All-Ireland final, including ten points in an impressive man of the match performance in the semi-final win over Cork.

The left footed corner forward first made his name with a run of fantastic performances in Roscommon’s Connacht minor triumph in 2012, scoring five points in the final.

The Rossies will be banking on their inside line of Murtagh, Senan Kilbride and Cathal Cregg to be firing on all cylinders against Leitrim this weekend, and beyond.

Diarmuid Murtagh Diarmuid Murtagh has scored 5-30 between u21 and senior already. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Michael Argue – Cavan

The towering midfielder has been involved in two of the last four U21 Ulster winning Cavan teams, as well as winning a minor championship in 2011.

Argue broke in to the county’s U21 team last year, doing enough to also earn a senior call-up from Terry Hyland last summer.

Argue has built upon the experience of facing the likes of Kerry’s David Moran in last year’s All-Ireland quarter final, by excelling for Cavan in this year’s U21 championship.

The classy 20 year-old is well capable of getting on the score sheet from the middle, as he displayed when grabbing the last minute insurance point in this year’s Ulster U21 final.

Michael Argue with Martin O'Reilly Big Michael Argue in action in the u21 Ulster final. Source: Presseye/Jonathan Porter/INPHO

Darragh O’Hanlon – Down

The adventurous wing back showed his enormous potential in his club’s Ulster championship win over Crossmaglen last November.

O’Hanlon bagged four points in Kilcoo’s famous win, after initially bringing the game to a replay with two late frees in the earlier drawn game.

Free-taking is a vital part of the twenty year-old’s game as he also slotted over four more against Monaghan in this year’s Ulster quarter-final defeat.

O’Hanlon has already made four league appearances for Down this year and he is likely to establish himself as a regular in the Down starting fifteen during the summer.

Source: Connor Donnan/YouTube

Padraig Keenan – Monaghan

Padraig Keenan is an exciting young half-forward, who made his name with a thrilling goal in the Ulster Club junior final for Corduff, aged sixteen.

His goal proved crucial in winning the game, although Cavan’s Swanlinbar would appeal the result on the basis of Keenan’s ineligibility.

Keenan has since gone on to captain the Monaghan minor team in 2012, as well as being an integral part of the county’s U21 set up over the past three years – this year lining out in the half back line.

The 20 year-old started in four of Monaghan’s league games this year, and if he hits form he is certainly one to keep an eye out for.

Dara McVetty and Padraig Keenan Keenan in this year's u21 championship Source: Presseye/Russell Pritchard/INPHO

Evan O’Carroll – Laois

At 18 years of age Evan O’Carroll has featured in every single one of Laois’ league games this year.

He bagged two goals as Laois overcame Offaly in the O’Byrne Cup in March and the UCD corner forward has become an important part of this year’s senior panel.

Earlier in the year he was among a number of AFL trialists to attend Tadgh Kennelly’s combine in DCU, and having scored three goals in last year’s Leinster U21 quarter-final win over Wicklow he certainly knows how to find the back of the net.

Source: ForKingAndCountry2014/YouTube

Kevin Crowley – Cork

The attacking wing back, still only 20-years-old, has so far made two appearances for the Cork senior footballers in this year’s league.

Crowley scored a goal against LIT in this year’s McGrath Cup, in his first senior start and manager Brian Cuthbert’s first game in charge – he has already been named in this year’s senior championship panel.

Crowley scored two points in this year’s Munster U21 final, the county’s fourth consecutive win at the grade, and while Cork have an abundance of talent in the half back line Crowley’s pace and enthusiasm should force him in to contention.

Kevin Crowley celebrates with the cup Kevin Crowley celebrates after the Munster u21 final Source: James Crombie/INPHO

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Eamon Donoghue

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