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10 players to watch out for in this year's Sigerson Cup

Here are the stars we’re looking out for in the prestigious third-level football championship

THE SIGERSON CUP begins tomorrow and the race for glory promises to be as fierce as ever.

The prestigious third-level competition has spawned many a new star down through the years and we take a look at ten players to watch in this year’s tournament.

1. Cathal McInerney (UL – Clare)

Fully committed to the Clare senior footballers this year and unquestionably one of the star turns for 40/1 outsiders University of Limerick.

Seasoned observers will remember McInerney as the man who scored two goals for Clare against Wexford in extra-time in the 2013 All-Ireland SHC qualifier at Semple Stadium.

Later that same year he was kicking glorious points for Cratloe against Dr. Crokes in the AIB Munster senior club football final.

Last year McInerney was very much to the fore as Cratloe claimed an historic senior dual double in the Banner County.

Cathal McInerney kicks a free Cathal McInerney demonstrates a keen eye for goal in the colours of Cratloe Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

2. Jerome Johnston (St Mary’s – Down)

Johnston first hit the headlines as a free-scoring student at St Colman’s, Newry, and he’s been a key player in Kilcoo’s recent dominance of the Down SFC.

But Johnston was in the news for the wrong reasons last year when he and his brother Ryan opted to go on holidays following the county team’s Ulster SFC defeat at the hands of Tyrone.

In what was a difficult year for ex-boss James McCartan, the optics weren’t great as the Johnstons are sons of Jerome senior, who was a member of McCartan’s backroom staff.

But on the field of play, Jerome junior is one hell of a player when the mood takes him.

Jerome Johnston 24/5/2014 Down star Jerome Johnston is a key man for St Mary's Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

3. Cillian O’Connor (UUJ – Mayo)

It’s not difficult to understand why UUJ have been installed as 9/4 favourites for Sigerson Cup glory.

The Jordanstown outfit have rolled out the big guns with Ronan O’Neill, Paddy McBrearty and Cillian O’Connor spearheading a lethal-looking attack.

O’Connor, an education graduate from St Patrick’s, Drumcondra, finished as championship top scorer in 2013 and 2014 following his prolific exploits with Mayo.

And he will bring a real x-factor to UUJ as they hunt a first Sigerson success since 2008.

Cillian OÕConnor Mayo ace Cillian O'Connor in action for his home club Ballintubber Source: James Crombie/INPHO

4. John Heslin (Westmeath – UCD)

Former Australian Rules export Heslin once scored 2-16 in a club championship fixture for St Lomans.

Still only 22, the Westmeath ace returned home to Ireland in 2012, shortly after signing a rookie contract with the Richmond Tigers.

Heslin cited homesickness as a factor in his decision to leave the AFL giants but he quickly adapted to life back at home and if the versatile powerhouse can inspire UCD, the Belfield boys could be worth a punt at 9/2.

John Heslin 17/5/2014 Westmeath's John Heslin is one of UCD's key men Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

5. Ciarán Reddin (Dublin – Dublin IT)

Dublin ace Ciarán Reddin has already amassed a career CV that is the envy of many, at the relatively tender age of 23.

The St Maurs clubman is an All-Ireland and Leinster SFC medallist and has also won two All-Ireland and two Leinster titles at U21 level.

Reddin is also a two-time National Football League winner with the Sky Blues and a former Leinster minor winner.

Having been axed from the Dublin senior panel in 2013, prior to a recall last year, Reddin will feel that it’s time to really kick on with his senior intercounty career by attempting to nail down a more regular place in the side.

Ciaran Reddin Dublin's Ciarán Reddin will hope for more game time in the Sky Blue shirt this year Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

 6. Brendan Murphy (Carlow – Carlow IT)

Brendan Murphy’s decision to return to intercounty football in 2015 is a massive boost for the Barrowsiders.

And he’s also lining out for Carlow IT in the Sigerson Cup, having left the Army.

Last year, Murphy decided to absent himself from county duty after being placed on a waiting list for a possible tour of duty in the Lebanon.

That never happened and Murphy’s return to full-time football is good news for county and college.

Darragh Daly and Brendan Murphy Carlow's Brendan Murphy is set for a big season with county and college Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

7. Steven O’Brien (Tipperary – DCU)

Ballina native O’Brien earned rave reviews in his Fresher year at DCU and is now ready to take the Sigerson Cup by storm.

The former dual All-Ireland minor medallist burst onto the senior intercounty stage with Tipperary in 2013 and continued to progress last year.

A member of the Tipperary U21 hurling panel in 2013, O’Brien is highly rated with stick in hand but looks more suited to a long-term career as a footballer at this point in time.

Steven OÕBrien 12/7/2014 Steven O'Brien is hoping to play a key Sigerson Cup role for DCU Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

8. Eric Lowndes (Dublin – Maynooth University)

Promising young Dublin star Eric Lowndes will line out for NUI Maynooth in this year’s Sigerson Cup campaign.

The former dual underage star has committed himself to football at county level, despite the best efforts of the senior hurlers to lure him across the divide.

At just 20 years of age, Lowndes has already captured All-Ireland medals at minor, U21 and senior level with Dublin.

He’d love to add Sigerson Cup glory with Maynooth, who start the competition on offer at 12/1.

Eric Lowndes The career of Dublin star Eric Lowndes is on an upward curve Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

9. Donal Óg Hodnett (Cork – Cork IT)

Donal Óg Hodnett will feel that his intercounty career is only just starting, having been drafted into the Cork senior panel last year.

The O’Donovan Rossa hitman made the championship cut but injury hampered his progress following an excellent Allianz League campaign.

Hodnett excelled for Cork at U21 level and his physical clout can see him emerge as a viable long-term option for the Rebels in attack.

But before that, Hodnett will hope that 16/1 outsiders Cork IT can make a mockery of their Sigerson Cup odds.

Donal Hodnett Donal Óg Hodnett is hoping to upset the Sigerson Cup odds with Cork IT Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

10. Conor Cox (Kerry – UCC)

Despite being hailed by one newspaper pundit as the best young forward in Kerry last summer, Conor Cox spent his time in San Francisco and missed out on the Kingdom’s surge to All-Ireland glory.

But the prolific forward did manage to pick up national silverware in 2014, finishing as top scorer for UCC during their march to Sigerson Cup glory.

Cox bagged 11 points in two League outings, including seven points against Derry, but his senior intercounty career to date amounts to just five League appearances, including two as sub.

Conor Cox Conor Cox has excelled in the colours of Sigerson Cup holders UCC Source: James Crombie/INPHO

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About the author:

Jackie Cahill

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