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5 footballers who enjoyed a breakthrough season

It was a good year for rookie defenders.

Updated Jul 26th 2022, 8:05 AM

1. John Daly (Galway)

john-daly Galway’s John Daly. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

WHILE DALY HAS been on the Galway panel since 2019, it took him a few years to properly nail down a starting place on the team. Much of that has been down to injury. A knee ligament injury sustained in July 2020 saw him miss two championships for Galway.

He has been a mainstay at centre-back under Padraic Joyce this season, often dropping off to protect the full-back line. He played at wing-back in the All-Ireland final and fulfilled a similar role, while contributing a handful of direct assists. Daly stands a great chance of winning his first All-Star later this year. 

2. Graham O’Sullivan (Kerry)

graham-osullivan Kerry’s Graham O'Sullivan. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

After a few years around the Kerry squad, O’Sullivan looked at home when he made the breakthrough this summer. He capitalised on an injury to Dan O’Donoghue to become a regular in the Kingdom full-back line.

On the biggest day of all, O’Sullivan was magnificent on Sunday. He shut down the danger of in-form Robert Finnerty and offered a real threat going forward. His two outside the boot balls into David Clifford in the first-half summed up his passing ability. He broke forward for a key score during the second period. 

3. Jack Glynn (Galway) 

jack-glynn Galway's Jack Glynn. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Another defender that marched forward for an inspirational score in Sunday’s final. Glynn held Paudie Clifford well for 50 minutes or so, until the Kerry star eventually wore him down and started causing problems. 

Glynn made his debut off the bench in last year’s Connacht final and became a regular this season. The former U21 All-Ireland winning captain is a tight man-marker and will be a presence in the Tribe full-back line for years to come. 

4. Lee Gannon (Dublin)

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lee-gannon Dublin’s Lee Gannon. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Although he coughed up possession a few times in the second-half of the All-Ireland semi-final, Gannon’s debut year for Dublin was highly impressive. From early in the league he showed his ability to defend aggressively and break forward to add scores.  

Gannon brought that form into the championship and bombed over two points against Cork in the quarter-final. A tenacious defender in the mould of John Small, Gannon’s emergence was one of the highlights of Dublin’s year.

5. Conor McCluskey (Derry)

conor-mccluskey Derry's Conor McCluskey. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Playing in the same full-back line as the outstanding Chrissy McKaigue, McCluskey’s defensive contributions were often overshadowed during Derry’s run to the Ulster title. However, the manner by which he quelled the influence of Shane Walsh in the All-Ireland semi-final made the country sit up and take notice. 

McCluskey gave a masterclass in defending with his footwork, pace and ability to get his hand in at the right time. That he didn’t concede a free while holding Walsh scoreless from play in the semi-final told its own story. Walsh’s glorious showing in the final only served to further underline the job McCluskey did.

About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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