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5 breakout Gaelic footballers from the 2014 season

Players from Kerry, Donegal, Galway and Dublin caught the eye this year.

IT WAS A Gaelic football year where Diarmuid Connolly, Michael Murphy and Kieran Donaghy further embellished their big-name reputations.

But 2014 also saw some new names come to the fore and take centre stage.

In no particular order, here’s five who had a breakout year.

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1. Paul Murphy (Kerry)

Not content with having a Tommy Walsh each, Kerry and Kilkenny now both have Paul Murphys too and the Rathmore man settled into Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s defence with the minimum of fuss. Comfortable in either the full- or half-back lines, his performance in the All-Ireland final won him the man of the match award.

Barely 23, he developed well at UCC under the guidance of Billy Morgan and his future looks mapped out as the latest in a long line of Kerry defenders who do their job quietly but effectively.

Paul Murphy Kerry's Paul Murphy Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

2. Ryan McHugh (Donegal)

When Mark McHugh left the Donegal panel after the NFL Division 2 final loss to Monaghan, few could have foreseen that the county’s number 12 jersey would be filled by another of Martin’s sons come the end of the year.

Even if they did, “the end of the year” was probably expected to be July or August, but Donegal regained Ulster with a flourish with Ryan featuring.

He announced himself to the nation with two goals against Dublin the All-Ireland semi-final. A more than deserving recipient of the Young Footballer of The Year Award.

Ryan McHugh celebrates at the end of the game Ryan McHugh celebrates Donegal's win over Dublin. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

3. Shane Walsh (Galway)

The glory days of the turn of the millennium probably seem like an age away for Galway folk, but the All-Ireland U21 wins of 2011 and ’13 offer the hope of a bright future. A first senior quarter-final appearance in six years shows progress from 2014.

Central in this run, and last year’s U21 victory, was Shane Walsh, with the Kilkerrin-Clonberne man scoring five points in the qualifier win against Tipperary, one of them of the highest order.

Source: Keith Reilly/YouTube

The Tribesmen’s loss to Kerry in the last eight means that he still hasn’t won in Croke Park but that will surely change soon. Second-highest championship scorer, behind only Cillian O’Connor.

Shane Walsh Shane Walsh starred during the summer for Galway Source: James Crombie/INPHO

4. Cormac Costello (Dublin)

Picked out as a star of the future from a young age, the 20-year-old – who has won All-Irelands at minor and U21 level – was given his senior debut at the start of the league.

He worked his way into a starting championship spot after a series of impressive performances off the substitutes’ bench, including 1-5 against Wexford.

Unfortunately for the Whitehall Colmcille clubman, that maiden start came on a day to forget for Dublin as they were well beaten by Donegal and he was substituted. It’s unlikely he’ll experience too many other days like it.

Cormac Costello Dublin's Cormac Costello Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

5. David Moran (Kerry)

An odd choice perhaps, given that he is 26 and made his debut for Kerry in 2008, but injuries have plagued the Kerins O’Rahillys man and he must have wondered himself if he would ever get to make an impact in the green and gold.

While he started against Clare, he was a sub in the Munster final win over Cork and again against Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final, where a second-minute injury to Bryan Sheehan allowed him an avenue back into the team.

It was an opportunity he took with relish, putting in powerhouse performances against Mayo (twice) and Donegal as Kerry regained the All-Ireland. As a result, he won his first Allstar.

Kerry's David Moran lifts the Sam Maguire Kerry's David Moran lifts the Sam Maguire. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Who would you have picked? Let us know in the comments section below

David Moran on the return of close friend Tommy Walsh and next year’s Kerry forward line

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About the author:

Denis Hurley

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