8 Kilkenny, Galway and Derry players to watch in Sunday's All-Ireland club hurling finals

Glenmore and Bennettsbridge are aiming for a Kilkenny double at Croke Park but face stiff opposition from Galway’s Abbeyknockmoy and Derry outfit Eoghan Rua.

1. Brian Costell0 (Abbeyknockmoy – Galway)

Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Costello has represented Galway at minor, U21, intermediate and senior level, and was also the Christy Ring Hurler of the Year in 2012 in the colours of London.

Costello is back fit after undergoing keyhole surgery on a knee injury before Christmas and Abbeyknockmoy will need his defensive abilities as they aim to put the shackles on a dangerous Bennettsbridge attack in the intermediate decider.

The experienced Costello is also a former county championship winner in London with St Gabriel’s.

2. Jason Cleere (Bennettsbridge – Kilkenny)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

As Bennettsbridge aim to follow up last year’s All-Ireland junior success by claiming the intermediate title, Cleere is one of their star men.

Cleere was exceptional for St Kieran’s in their 2014 and 2015 Croke Cup wins and he also landed Leinster and All-Ireland minor titles with Kilkenny two years ago.

Operating in the half-back line, Cleere has the ability to hurt any opposition with his general play and long-range free-taking abilities, and he played for the Kilkenny U21s last summer.

3. Paul Flaherty (Abbeyknockmoy)

Source: James Crombie

Another of Abbeyknockmoy’s main men to suffer with injury before Christmas, Flaherty returned as sub in the All-Ireland semi-final victory over Antrim’s Creggan Kickhams.

A 2011 All-Ireland minor medallist with Galway, Flaherty was also a member of the county set-up that stormed to an historic Leinster intermediate title last year, before Anthony Cunningham’s team claimed All-Ireland glory.

Flaherty, joined by brother Brian in the Abbeyknockmoy team, has also played Fitzgibbon Cup hurling with Limerick IT in recent years.

4. Liam Blanchfield (Bennettsbridge)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Bennettsbridge starlet Blanchfield is another two-time Croke Cup winner with St Kieran’s and was vice-captain of the 2015 team.

At 6ft 2″ tall, Blanchfield is a proven ball-winner and scorer and he notched 1-1 for Bennettsbridge in last year’s All-Ireland junior club hurling final victory over Fullen Gaels.

Having since graduated to the Kilkenny U21 ranks, Blanchfield will hope to continue his career progress by claiming another All-Ireland club medal, this time in the intermediate grade.

5. Alan Murphy (Glenmore – Kilkenny)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Younger brother of goalkeeper and Kilkenny netminder Eoin, Alan Murphy is a lethal inside forward of rich potential who has already achieved quite a lot.

A past pupil of New Ross Vocational College, Murphy scored six points in the 2014 All-Ireland minor final victory over Limerick, five of those scores coming from placed balls, and was a member of last year’s U21 panel.

Scored two goals in the All-Ireland semi-final victory over Dungourney and will have extra attacking expectations thrust on his young shoulders with Ger Aylward ruled out through injury.

6. Sean Leo McGoldrick (Eoghan Rua – Derry)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Better known to GAA fans as a senior footballer with Derry, McGoldrick is an Eoghan Rua club hurling stalwart.

An extremely versatile and hard-working player for the Derry and Ulster junior champions, McGoldrick also lined out for Coleraine in last year’s county final defeat to Slaughtneil.

McGoldrick, who is joined by brother Barry in the Eoghan Rua ranks, operates in attack but he’s also capable of drifting back to provide defensive cover when the need arises.

7. Richie Mullally (Glenmore)

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Richie Mullally announced his retirement from intercounty hurling with Kilkenny in 2009, having pocketed five All-Ireland senior medals.

He was born in 1978 but Mullally remains a key figure for Glenmore, anchoring the centre back position and providing vast experience there.

Glenmore are managed by Richie’s brother Tom, who guided Carlow surprise packets Mount Leinster Rangers to an All-Ireland senior final appearance in 2014.

8. Ciaran Gaile (Eoghan Rua)

Ciaran Gaile is the man who makes Eoghan Rua tick up front.

When the Coleraine outfit became the first Derry hurling club to win an Ulster title last year, Gaile was top scorer in the final victory over Down’s Ballela.

And Gaile was on fire again in the All-Ireland series, bagging seven points against Fullen Gaels before chipping in with six points in the semi-final victory over Galway’s Sylane.

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