time to step up

Four Irish stars looking to make a breakthrough in 2016

Injury woes and an increase in expectations shape as the biggest obstacles for this talented quartet.

Paul Dunne (golf)

PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

Greystones man Dunne made a big impression as an amateur at the 2015 British Open but he will do little looking back as he aims to carve out a successful career as a pro.

As well as his remarkable efforts at St Andrews in July, the former University of Alabama student played his part in Great Britain and Ireland’s Walker Cup win in September. And then he showed his gritty side, admittedly not playing his best golf at Q School, but doing enough to secure his card on the European Tour.

Fellow Irish golfers and Walker Cup winners Gavin Moynihan and Gary Hurley have also recently turned professional, however it is Dunne who will bear the brunt of the attention as he attempts to tackle the cut-throat world of pro golf.

JJ Hanrahan (rugby)

Tamuna Kulumbegashvili / INPHO Tamuna Kulumbegashvili / INPHO / INPHO

While many Munster fans have bemoaned the loss of the Kerry fly-half to the English Premiership, Hanrahan clearly sees Northampton as the best place for him to progress his career in his favoured position.

His battle for the Saints’ No10 shirt with Stephen Myler should help the 23-year-old’s game reach new heights. And with plenty of quality players around him at Northampton, in a league that appears to be on the rise, the former Under-20 international will be hoping to put himself in prime position as Ireland’s eventual successor to Johnny Sexton.

Harry Arter (football)

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Southampton v AFC Bournemouth - St Mary's

Ireland midfielder Harry Arter made a big impression on Bournemouth’s run to the Championship title in 2015. However, the start of his career in the English Premier League was blighted with injury which also curtailed his involvement with the national squad following his promising debut against England in June.

After missing the first three months of the season with a groin problem, he will be desperate to prove he belongs at the top table of English football, and that can only be a good thing for Ireland’s national team.

Ciaran Byrne (AFL)

Ciaran Byrne Ciaran Byrne removes a dog from the field in the Leinster Championship in 2013. Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

While there are a number of Irish youngsters looking to join the likes of Pearce Hanley and Zach Tuohy as first-team regulars in the AFL, Louth native Byrne looks the most intriguing.

Carlton have shown massive faith in the 21-year-old having recently offered him another two-year deal with only one senior game to his name. Byrne impressed in 14 Victoria Football League games before making his AFL debut against Essendon last April.

However, he suffered a hamstring injury in training only four days later which put paid to his aspirations of further selection with the first side last season. He will be keen to repay the faith the club have shown in him with a breakthrough year in the AFL in 2016.

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