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8 rising stars to watch out for in this year's Allianz hurling league

Kilkenny’s Padraig Walsh, Clare’s Conor Cleary and Waterford’s Stephen Bennett are amongst those who could progress.

Kilkenny's Padraig Walsh.
Kilkenny's Padraig Walsh.
Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

1. Padraic Walsh (Kilkenny)

“He’s every chance. The number one thing is he’s fierce into hurling. There will be no fear for him.” That was the verdict of Tommy Walsh earlier this week when asked about the prospects of his younger brother Padraig bursting into the Kilkenny starting line-up this year.

Certainly the Tullaroan player has plenty potential. Captain of the UL Fitzgibbon Cup side where he plays at half-back, he was midfield for Kilkenny’s recent Walsh Cup final win over Dublin. His progress will be worth monitoring.

2. Conor Cleary (Clare)

Cleary is a fine footballer who has impressed in the underage ranks for the Banner and he won a county intermediate medal with his native West Clare club St Joseph’s Miltown-Malbay last year. But with St Joseph’s playing only football, he lines out for the Kilmaley club in hurling.

He’s a brilliant hurling prospect as well – centre back on the Clare minor team that reached the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final and filling that position as well at the moment for the NUIG Fitzgibbon Cup team.

3. Stephen Bennett (Waterford)

He starred for the Waterford minors last September as he bagged 0-4 in their famous All-Ireland success. Of late Bennett has been pre-occupied with Ballysaggart, he fired 2-7 in the recent AIB All-Ireland junior final and plays today in the final replay in Mullingar.

After that club campaign concludes, the UL student will link up with the county senior setup. Himself and Austin Gleeson have been fast-tracked into the squad by new manager Derek McGrath.

Stephen Bennett Stephen Bennett in action for Ballysaggart. Source: ©INPHO/Tommy Grealy

4. Cathal Barrett (Tipperary)

The young Holycross-Ballycahill defender has been given the nod to make his starting debut for the senior side tonight against Waterford. He lined out for the county U21 side last summer and featured when they lost the Munster final against Clare.

Since then he has caught the eye of manager of Eamonn O’Shea and he has rapidly progressed. Now he will hope to make his mark in the springtime auditions.

5. Padraig Brehony (Galway)

One of the stars of Galway’s All-Ireland minor triumph in 2011, Brehony struck 0-4 in that final success over Dublin. He was quickly brought into the senior setup and featured last year for Anthony Cunningham’s side.

A versatile operator, the DCU Fitzgibbon Cup player is selected at midfield for the home clash with Dublin on Sunday. 2014 could be a year when he makes a push to establish himself.

6. Cian O’Callaghan (Dublin)

Full-back on the Dublin minor teams that contested the 2011 and 2012 All-Ireland minor finals, O’Callaghan displayed his defensive talents. He suffered defeats on both those occasions but has now graduated to Anthony Daly’s senior squad.

The Cuala club player lined out at right corner-back in the recent Walsh Cup final loss to Kilkenny and has kept his place for Sunday’s trip to Salthill for a Division 1A tie.

Cian O'Callaghan with Thomas Breen Cian O'Callaghan in action for Dublin in the Walsh Cup final. Source: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

7. Michael Cahalane (Cork)

It’s not often a student is asked to juggle his studies at school and senior inter-county hurling. But Bandon player Cahalane has been requested to do that after being drafted into the Cork squad by Jimmy Barry-Murphy.

He was part of the Cork minor side in 2013 and was referenced by Barry-Murphy last summer as a player who had caught his eye. His sensational displays in recent weeks for Hamilton High School (Bandon) in helping them reach the school’s first ever Dr Harty Cup semi-final, must have sealed the deal for the Cork boss.

8. Darragh O’Donovan (Limerick)

The Doon youngster shone last year as the Limerick minor side claimed a memorable Munster championship with victory in the final after a replay. He lined out at midfield in a team that only fell short amidst the Hawkeye controversy against Galway at the All-Ireland semi-final stage.

O’Donovan also won a county minor medal with his club last season and was one of three Limerick minors – along with Richie English and Darragh Kennedy – who were enlisted to the Limerick senior setup at the start of this year.

Limerick's Darragh O'Donovan celebrates Darragh O'Donovan after last year's Munster minor final win. Source: ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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