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On our radar! 10 young ladies football and camogie players to watch in 2021

You’ll be hearing a lot about these rising stars when inter-county action returns.

WITH THE LADIES football and camogie All-Stars done and dusted, that’s the 2020 season officially wrapped up.

lgfa (1) Kate Sullivan, Aoife Doyle and Erika O'Shea. Source: Inpho.

Attention now turns to 2021 although uncertainty remains around the bigger picture amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

That said, we will get an inter-county season at one stage or another, where Mick Bohan’s Dublin ladies footballers will set out on their Drive For Five and camogie’s elite, Kilkenny, will hope to keep their hands on the O’Duffy Cup.

Young talents are always coming to the fore in both codes, with many establishing themselves as star players on their respective teams despite their tender age or lesser experience. 

Here, we take a look at five young ladies football stars and five from the camogie scene (all 20 or under) we are backing to really take 2021 by storm.

Kate Sullivan (Dublin)

Sprung from the bench in all four of Dublin’s championship clashes in 2020, Sullivan was Mick Bohan’s first switch in the All-Ireland final. Her introduction at half time ahead of a star-studded list of players emphasised the high regard she’s held in. 

kate-sullivan Kate Sullivan facing Cork in the All-Ireland final. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The St Sylveter’s youngster replaced her clubmate Sinéad Aherne and helped Dublin down the home straight, chipping in with a lovely angled effort Aherne would have been proud with. Likewise, Sullivan put the icing on their semi-final win over Armagh with a lovely point in the dying minutes.

She’s is one who has been raved about around Malahide for quite some time now, a prodigious talent at the club. 2020 was just the tip of the iceberg, expect a further breakthrough in 2021 — like that of Jennifer Dunne in midfield recently — and to hear her name quite a lot over the coming years.

Erika O’Shea (Cork)

While Sullivan is one of many you could pick in the Dublin set-up — Caoimhe O’Connor is certainly another — O’Shea is among several rising stars in Cork.

siobhan-mcgrath-with-aine-osullivan-and-erika-oshea Erika O'Shea enjoyed a breakthrough 2020 season. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The 18-year-old enjoyed a real breakout season in 2020, establishing herself as a vital cog in the Cork machine as they went all the way to the All-Ireland final. In her first year with Ephie Fitzgerald’s side and still a minor player at the time, O’Shea made her Croke Park debut in the controversial semi-final against Galway. The Macroom star lit up HQ with piercing runs from half-back, and was a constant thorn in the Tribe’s side.

She retained her starting position for the decider and was one of Cork’s best on the day, holding Carla Rowe scoreless from play, which is no mean feat. Expect much more of the same going forward.

Síofra O’Shea (Kerry)

2-2 against Cavan, 0-2 against Cork and a constant threat in Kerry’s inside forward line alongside Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh — one of the best in the game — O’Shea well and truly announced her arrival to the senior inter-county scene last autumn.

cork-v-kerry-tg4-all-ireland-senior-ladies-football-championship-round-2 Siofra O'Shea on the ball. Source: Eóin Noonan/SPORTSFILE

In March 2020, just before the Covid-19 pandemic shut everything down, O’Shea recorded a stunning 2-6 haul as the Kerry minors beat Tipperary in their Munster championship opener. It was ‘The Síofra Show,’ as Kerry Sports Hub put it. 

The Southern Gaels ace has been on the radar in Kerry for quite some time now but it was just last year that most neutrals got a glimpse of her brilliance on the national stage. Also a talented basketball player, O’Shea has captained Ireland and several underage county teams in the past, so it’s inevitable that she will establish herself as a real leader for the Kingdom as they make their way back to the top table. 

Emma Duggan (Meath)

While Duggan has been one of the stars of the intermediate championship over the past two years, it will be interesting to see how she fares in the senior grade.

emma-duggan Duggan is one of Meath's main scoring threats. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

A Leaving Cert student at present, the Dunboyne ace was nominated for Intermediate Player’s Player of the Year award last season but was pipped to the prize by clubmate and fellow star forward Vikki Wall.

Like Wall, 18-year-old Duggan is a huge scoring threat for Meath and deadly accurate from placed ball, chipping in with 0-7 — two of those from play — in December’s All-Ireland final victory over Westmeath. It wasn’t the first time she lit up Croke Park, either, the towering attacker’s 0-5 tally — two from play — huge for the Royals in their 2019 decider defeat at the hands of Tipperary.

Andrea Trill (Galway)

Trill was a shining light for Galway when sprung off the bench for the second half of their semi-final defeat to Cork, lively on the ball and chipping in with two well-taken points having replaced another exciting, but better known, young talent in Ailbhe Davoren.

andrea-trill Andrea Trill has a serious eye for goal. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

She’s one of many young players from the west who came of age in 2020 — team-mate Lynsey Noone and Mayo’s Dayna Finn are others who spring to mind — firing three points past Dublin in their league win pre-Covid. “She was simply unmarkable” that day, as former manager and journalist Stephen Glennon wrote in The Connacht Tribune.

Another on fire from frees and having excelled for her club Claregalway of late, expect Trill’s star to rise further and further under the watchful eye of new boss Gerry Fahy. Scorer of 3-2 in the 2018 All-Ireland minor final, the teenager is also a former Ireland underage soccer international and a talented player with Galway WFC. 

Saoirse McCarthy (Cork)

saoirse-mccarthy Saoirse McCarthy is one to keep an eye on. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

20-year-old McCarthy burst onto the Cork camogie, scene winning a Player of the Match award back in 2018 when Cork defeated Galway in the All-Ireland Minor A camogie Final.

McCarthy has won a Minor A title, intermediate camogie All-Ireland and also a senior All-Ireland medal — winning the Player of the Match award in the Intermediate camogie All-Ireland also. The youngster is a known goal-getter, raising the green flag against Wexford and Waterford last year.

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Clodagh Tynan (Laois)

clodagh-tynan Tynan was named Player of the Match in the 2019 All-Ireland Minor B championship final replay against Limerick. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

19-year-old Tynan single-handedly broke Kerry hearts in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland quarter-final last year, when her last-minute free travelled over 60 yards to level the game which Laois went on to win.

Named on last night’s Soaring Star team, Tynan has won an All-Ireland Minor B title with Laois. She has Tommy Walsh characteristics breaking forward, but is also reliable to defend when needed in her wing-back position.

Maeve Kelly (Antrim)

maeve-kelly Kelly in action in last year's intermediate final. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

At 19 years of age, Maeve Kelly is one of the youngest players to be nominated for the Liberty Insurance Intermediate Player of the Year. Another newly-crowned Soaring Star, all eyes were on Kelly throughout Antrim’s campaign to the final as the wing forward made her scores look effortless. Her family also made an appearance on this year’s Ireland’s Fittest Family.

Aoife Doyle (Kilkenny)

aoife-doyle Doyle was named Player of the Match in the 2020 All-Ireland final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Prior to the 2020 All-Ireland final, Doyle’s biggest achievement was receiving the POTM award in a Leinster minor final. Fast-forward two months, the 20-year-old has won a All-Ireland senior championship medal, an All-Ireland Senior Player of the Match award and The Irish Times / Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Month for December 2020 which was jointly awarded to Dublin’s Sinéad Goldrick (Gaelic Football).

Siobhán McGrath (Galway)

siobhan-mcgrath Sarsfields and Galway ace Siobhan McGrath. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

It’s a family affair in the McGrath household, with Siobhán’s three sisters and father  all involved in their club team, Sarsfields, who were crowned All-Ireland club champions in 2020.

Siobhán set up her sister Orlaith for Galway’s only goal in the All-Ireland final last December and also scored the winning goal against Slaughneil in the 2020 club All-Ireland final, played last March.

- with reporting from Ann Marie Guinan

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Emma Duffy

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