Cork's Roisin Phelan and Mayo's Sarah Rowe in opposition. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
Rising Stars

The Cork, Tipp, Monaghan, Galway, Clare and Mayo players to watch in the O'Connor Cup

We’ve picked out six of the best players in action in the third-level ladies football competition this weekend.

THE BEST RISING stars in ladies football will be in action this weekend with the third-level competitions taking place in Cork IT.

We’ve taken a look at the O’Connor Cup and picked out the best six players to keep an eye on.

1. Roisin Phelan (UCC and Cork)

Roisin Phelan is a youngster with a very bright future in the game. She forced her way into the Cork senior team at the beginning of the 2014 league season and held her place right up to the All Ireland final against Dublin where she was superb in defence. The Aghada player is a natural leader in defence and plays from the front breaking up attack after attack.

With some of the attacking talent available in other colleges her role will be key to UCC’s chances of success. Allstar defender Vera Foley is another rock in defence with Maire O’Callaghan at midfield and Cork senior stars Orlagh Farmer, Doireann O’Sullivan and Jennifer Barry in their ranks they have a real chance of winning the competition for the first time since 2012.

2. Laura McEnaney (DCU and Monaghan)

In a star studded team it is Monaghan ace Laura McEnaney that stands out as the key player for the Dublin college. McEnaney is the team captain and has been showing great form with Monaghan in the Tesco NFL this season.

McEnaney, who can also play in defence has made the switch to centre forward where she acts as the playmaker for her team winning plenty of breaking ball and linking play with her dangerous inside forwards. This is a DCU team that possibly boasts the best squad in the competition so McEnaney’s job will be to ensure that the players gel and produce their best.

Laura McEnaney Monaghan's Laura McEnaney. Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO / INPHO

3. Jennifer Grant (UL and Tipperary)

The defending champions boast possibly the strongest midfield pairing in the competition as Jennifer Grant is joined by Lorraine Scanlon in the centre of the field. Grant’s job is one that often goes under the radar as she anchors midfield and helps out the UL defenders. Her ability to win clean ball from kick outs as well as spoil opposition kick outs sets her out as a player that is key to UL’s game plan.

In 2014 UL shocked the defending champions Queen’s in the final. One of the stand out characteristics of that match was Grant’s man-marking job as she limited the effect of Caroline O’Hanlon who had to be moved out of her usual midfield berth.

4. Olivia Divilly (NUIG and Galway)

NUI Galway will be the underdogs for the O’Connor Cup but that is something that will suit them fine as they meet the defending champions, UL, in their semi final. Galway’s Olivia Divilly is the star player for NUIG. She was part of the two in a row All Ireland Minor Champion Galway team winning the Player of the Match in 2013.

Divilly is a graceful forward that tends to run directly at opposition defences at wonderful pace. She is a vital source of scores from play but also has the ability to score frees from distance. If NUIG are to shock UL in their semi final meeting then Divilly will need to see a lot of possession.

Olivia Divilly Galway's Olivia Divilly. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

5. Niamh O’Dea (UL and Clare)

Niamh O’Dea is a name that has gone under the radar as her native Clare have not reached the latter rounds of intercounty competition. However, this does not hide the fact that O’Dea is one of the elite forwards in the game. The skilful attacker can take scores from distance or present a running threat to opposition defences. Her importance to UL can be seen in that she was named captain of the two in a row seekers.

O’Dea’s understanding with the excellent Roisin Leonard is also a key aspect of UL’s attacking play with one often providing the assist for the other. If any team is to have a hope of defeating the champions then they must come up with a plan to limit the effectiveness of the Clare attacker.

Niamh O'Dea scores Clare's Niamh O'Dea. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

6. Sarah Rowe (DCU and Mayo)

DCU have a frightening array of talent at their disposal but perhaps their greatest weapon is the young Mayo star. Rowe has long been marked for greatness having twice been selected as the Connacht Young Player of the Year and in the last couple of years she is beginning to fulfil that potential.

Rowe, who is also a top class international soccer player, is expected to line out at corner forward where her explosive pace and direct running style can be put to the best use. Any college that faces DCU will surely need to keep an eye on Rowe who is an ace goal poacher.

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