Steven O'Brien (left) and Ian Fahey are two Tipperary U21 stars with bright senior careers ahead of them. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
Young Guns

7 Tipperary U21s set to star on the senior stage this summer

These rising young Premier County stars look set to make their mark.

1. Evan Comerford (Kilsheelan Kilcash)

Comerford will step into the senior shoes vacated by Paul Fitzgerald, following the Fethard man’s retirement last year.

Former Clonmel Commercials netminder Comerford, now plying his trade at club level with Kilsheelan-Kilcash, is also a noted soccer goalkeeper with Clonmel Town.

21-year-old Comerford played for the Republic of Ireland amateur side against a USA College selection this year.

An All-Ireland minor medallist from 2011, Comerford also won a second successive Munster medal in that grade a year later.

He’s played U21 football in 2012, 2013 and 2015, winning this year’s Munster title before playing against Tyrone in the All-Ireland final.

2. Steven O’Brien (Ballina)

Tipped as a future Allstar, O’Brien was immense in Tipperary’s march to the EirGrid All-Ireland U21 football final.

Already a regular at senior level for boss Peter Creedon, O’Brien has broken the mould in many respects by emerging as an intercounty footballer from the North division of the county, traditionally a hurling stronghold.

But O’Brien, 21, is no stranger to the small ball code as he is a former dual All-Ireland minor medallist.

O’Brien won a minor football crown in 2011 before adding a hurling medal to his collection a year later.

Ballina clubman O’Brien was also a member of Dublin City University’s Sigerson Cup winning squad in 2015.

Steven O'Brien Steven O'Brien won a Sigerson Cup medal with DCU this year. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

3. Colin O’Riordan (JK Brackens)

An Allstar nominee in 2014, O’Riordan is now one of the most feared and talked about young footballers in the country.

The JK Brackens powerhouse starred at wing-back in the 2011 All-Ireland minor football final and while he remains on the senior hurling team radar, O’Riordan’s love for football means that it’s unlikely that he’ll ever forsake the big ball code.

O’Riordan marked his senior championship debut for Tipperary last year with this stunning point against Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds:

IsleofLewisPresbyterianGaels / YouTube

O’Riordan shrugged off a concussion sustained against Sligo in Division 3 of the Allianz Football League to produce a masterclass in the Munster U21 final victory over Cork back in April. 

He also led by example in the All-Ireland semi-final victory over Dublin and while Tipp lost to Tyrone in the final, the 19-year-old team captain scored a couple of long-range crackers. 

4. Jason Lonergan (Clonmel Commercials)

Lonergan has been operating on the fringes of the Tipperary senior panel in recent years but now looks like stepping up to make his mark.

The jet-heeled forward rediscovered some of his best form during this year’s U21 campaign, forcing his way back into senior contention as a result.

Lonergan scored five points in Tipp’s U21 opener against Clare and didn’t look back for the remainder of the campaign.

The 2011 All-Ireland minor medallist added two more against Cork and another in the famous victory over Dublin.

Lonergan, 21, is named on the bench for Sunday’s Munster SFC opener against Waterford.

Conor Meyler under pressure from Kieran McGeary Jason Lonergan enjoyed a productive campaign for the Tipperary U21 footballers. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

5. Ian Fahey (Clonmel Commercials)

Fahey sacrificed an FAI Junior Cup semi-final with Clonmel Celtic against Sheriff YC to line out against Dublin in this year’s All-Ireland U21 football semi-final.

Another graduate from the 2011 minor crop, Fahey added outstanding workrate to his undoubted talent during the U21 season and at senior level in Division 3 of the Allianz League.

Man of the match in the Munster U21 final victory over Cork, Fahey’s physical strength and ability to win ‘dirty ball’ around the middle third were key weapons in Tipperary’s armoury.

Fahey, 21, made his senior championship debut against Kerry in 2013 and looks set for a long and productive career in the blue and gold.

Ian Fahey Ian Fahey sacrificed an FAI Junior Cup semi-final appearance for Tipperary's U21 footballers.

6. Liam Casey (Cahir)

Casey was one of Tipperary’s unsung heroes during their historic U21 campaign.

He also forged a fine midfield partnership with Colin O’Riordan for the UCD Freshers as they won last year’s Division 1 League title but was unfortunately suspended for the championship final victory over UCC.

A minor in 2013, Casey played county U21 football for the past two seasons and was a member of the Cahir team defeated by Loughmore-Castleiney in last December’s county SFC final replay.

He’s also named on the bench for Sunday’s clash against Waterford, having featured for the senior team in Division 3 of the Allianz Football League.

Ross McGowan tackles Liam Casey Liam Casey was a key man for Tipperary's U21 footballers in 2015. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

7. Kevin O’Halloran (Portroe)

The man who came from literally nowhere to leave an indelible mark on the 2015 U21 championship. 

O’Halloran was drafted in from left-field for the Munster final victory over Cork and he rewarded boss Tommy Toomey’s faith with six points, including five frees.

O’Halloran chipped in with four points against Dublin and six more (five frees) in the final defeat at the hands of Tyrone 

The Portroe man is one of six Tipperary players nominated for the inaugural EirGrid 21 U21 awards and he is in line for a senior debut on Sunday, provided he’s sprung from the subs bench.

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