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10 players to watch out for in this year's Fitzgibbon Cup

Here are the stars we’re keeping an eye on in the glamour third-level hurling championship

The 2015 Fitzgibbon Cup begins tomorrow
The 2015 Fitzgibbon Cup begins tomorrow
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THE FITZGIBBON CUP begins tomorrow as a number of would-be contenders chase the crown won by Waterford IT in 2014.

It might be classed as ‘winter hurling’ but it’s usually brilliant and here’s your run-down on ten players to watch in this year’s competition.

1. Aidan Walsh (Cork IT-Cork)

During his time at DCU, Walsh was deemed ineligible to represent the Dublin outfit in the Sigerson Cup.

But the Kanturk powerhouse is ready for Fitzgibbon Cup fare in the colours of Cork IT as last year’s runners-up look to go one step further by lifting the coveted silverware for the very first time.

Dual ace Walsh has committed himself exclusively to intercounty hurling with Cork this year and CIT could also reap rich rewards.

Walsh’s Cork colleagues Mark Ellis, Jamie Coughlan and Bill Cooper are also on board the CIT bus, as well as Tipperary Allstar John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer.

Aidan Walsh 17/8/2014 Aidan Walsh will be a key man for Cork IT in the Fitzgibbon Cup Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

2. Niall O’Meara (Mary Immaculate College-Tipperary)

Tipperary senior hurling manager Eamon O’Shea has high hopes for his Kilruane MacDonagh’s clubmate Niall O’Meara.

The younger brother of former county senior star Brian ‘Buggy’ O’Meara was all set to take the championship by storm last year before his progress was stalled by a series of injuries.

O’Meara has already made his mark this year, netting a brilliant goal against Tipp in the Waterford Crystal Cup, in the colours of Mary Immaculate College.

And the former Premier County U21 team captain is anxious to make up for lost time, which could spell trouble for opposition defences in the Fitzgibbon Cup.

Niall OÕMeara and Cillian Buckley Niall O'Meara in action for Tipperary during last year's Allianz Hurling League final Source: James Crombie/INPHO

3. Cillian Buckley (UCD-Kilkenny)

Cillian Buckley crowned a stellar 2014 campaign by claiming his first Allstar award and now he’s gunning for Fitzgibbon Cup glory.

But 32-time winners UCD have not won the competition since 2001 and are ranked as 10/1 outsiders with the bookmakers.

In a team of superstars, Buckley claimed his second All-Ireland medal for Kilkenny last year as one of the team’s unsung heroes.

But not even the presence of Buckley, along with Wexford duo Conor McDonald and Matthew O’Hanlon, looks like being good enough to end UCD’s long Fitzgibbon Cup famine.

Cillian Buckley Kilkenny star Cillian Buckley in the colours of UCD Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

4. Austin Gleeson (Waterford IT-Waterford)

Having burst onto the senior intercounty stage with THAT goal against Cork last summer, Waterford sensation Austin is ready to make his mark on the Fitzgibbon Cup.

The Mount Sion was centre back on the Deise side that stormed to All-Ireland minor glory in 2013 before making the step up to the senior ranks.

As holders, WIT will fancy their chances of springing a surprise yet again, having emerged from the shadows to beat all before them last year.

And after serving his apprenticeship as a Fresher, Gleeson is relishing the prospect of mixing it with the big boys on the third-level stage.

Austin Gleeson 8/6/2014 Austin Gleeson in action for Waterford against Cork last summer Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

5. Bobby Duggan (NUI Galway-Clare)

Bobby Duggan has been a prolific scorer in the underage ranks and will now hope to make the grade with the Clare seniors over the coming seasons.

The Clarecastle hitman has already been busy making waves in 2015, pilfering 1-5 for NUI Galway in the Walsh Cup clash with Carlow earlier this month.

NUIG may have bowed out of the competition against the same opposition last weekend but their sights are firmly fixed on the Fitzgibbon Cup and tomorrow’s group B opener against UL.

Duggan, an All-Ireland U21 medallist last year, has already proven that he’s not overawed by the big stage, having scored 0-12 on his senior intercounty debut for Clare last year as an 18-year-old.

Bobby Duggan 23/8/2014 Bobby Duggan in action for Clare's U21s during last year's All-Ireland semi-final Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

6. Jason Forde (University of Limerick-Tipperary)

Former Tipperary U21 captain Jason Forde has been shooting the lights out at club and colleges level in recent years.

The Silvermines clubman is a prolific scorer at local level and despite UL’s defeat to city rivals LIT in last year’s Fitzgibbon Cup, Forde still managed a personal haul of 1-6.

Forde also helped himself to 5-25 during the 2013 U21 championship but his progression as a senior intercounty hurler has been slower than many would have predicted.

Tipp are blessed with a myriad of options in the attacking division but Forde has the class to break through and a decent Fitzgibbon campaign would do his chances no harm.

Padraig Walsh and Jason Forde Jason Forde shrugs off Kilkenny's Padraig Walsh at Croke Park

7. Jason Flynn (GMIT-Galway)

Flynn was one of Galway’s goalscorers during last summer’s All-Ireland qualifier defeat against Tipperary at Semple Stadium.

The Tommy Larkins forward made his League debut earlier in the year and is a 2011 All-Ireland minor medallist.

Flynn continued his upward curve in the Galway U21 set-up and since breaking through to the senior stage last year, he has marked himself out as a player with rich potential.

And if 150/1 rank outsiders GMIT are to make any impact in this year’s Fitzgibbon Cup, they’ll need Flynn firing on all cylinders.

Jason Flynn celebrates at the final whistle Jason Flynn celebrates All-Ireland minor glory in 2011. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

8. Alan Cadogan (UCC-Cork)

UCC have been installed as 2/1 favourites for Fitzgibbon Cup glory and with players of Alan Cadogan’s calibre in their ranks, it’s not too difficult to understand why.

Cadogan, younger brother of fellow dual star Eoin, has represented Cork in both codes at minor and U21 level but just like last year, he will play senior intercounty hurling only in 2015.

To get himself right up to speed, Cadogan has been spending plenty of time in the ball alley, honing his touch ahead of UCC’s opening fixture with GMIT, a game the hosts are expected to win comfortably.

Cadogan’s excellent form in 2014 saw the Douglas attacker nominated for an All Star award in the corner forward position.

Alan Cadogan Alan Cadogan is hoping for further success in 2015 Source: James Crombie/INPHO

9. Aidan Fogarty (IT Carlow-Kilkenny)

When IT Carlow made history in December, defeating UCC in the Higher Education League final, Aidan Fogarty played his part.

After eleven years in the black and amber, ‘Taggy’ called time on his intercounty career following last year’s All-Ireland final replay victory over Tipperary.

Fogarty left with a bulging collection of honours including eight All-Ireland senior medals and nine Leinster titles.

With Fogarty in attack and Kilkenny legend DJ Carey heavily involved in the coaching set-up, any would-be opponents will underestimate IT Carlow at their peril.

Aidan Fogarty Aidan Fogarty grabs possession during last year's drawn All-Ireland final against Tipperary. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

10. Padraig Brehony (DCU-Galway)

Free-scoring Brehony is another graduate from Galway’s 2011 All-Ireland minor winning team who is tipped for big things.

Despite not making the final last year, Brehony was still named on the Bord Gais Energy U21 hurling team of the year.

Brehony hit 1-6 in the All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Wexford but even that big haul wasn’t enough to prevent defeat.

Brehony, from the Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry club, was also a regular in Anthony Cunnnigham’s Galway senior team last year and showed that he was good enough to compete, and succeed, at the top level.

Padraig Brehony Padraig Brehony in action against Kilkenny during last year's League semi-final Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

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About the author:

Jackie Cahill

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