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8 U21 hurlers to watch out for during this weekend's All-Ireland semi-finals

This year’s All-Ireland U21 hurling semi-finals take place in Semple Stadium, Thurles tomorrow evening.

Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

WE’RE DOWN TO THE last four of this year’s Bord Gáis U21 Hurling Championship, with the remaining provincial winners doing battle this Saturday.

While a number of players from all four teams have already proven their worth at senior level, this weekend will no doubt provide an insight into the country’s next generation of hurling stars.

So as Clare take on Antrim, and then Galway do battle with Wexford; both games played in Semple Stadium – what youngsters should we be keeping an eye out for? And other than these eight, who else is set to light up the U21 Hurling championship?

Clare

Seadna Morey

It’s hard to believe that the Sixmilebridge native is still eligible for the U21 grade. He’s been an integral part of a Clare U21 team who have won the last two All-Ireland titles, as well as being a member of last year’s senior All-Ireland winning panel.

Capable of operating in the half-back line or the full-back line the 2012 Bord Gáis Energy Breaking Through Player of the Year was the man of the match when Clare met Antrim in this grade two years ago.

Tony Kelly

The centre-forward has already won it all; one senior and two U21 All-Ireland titles, Hurler and Young Hurler of the Year awards, and an Allstar. Yet as captain of this year’s U21 team he will no doubt be hoping to add a three-in-a-row at the grade to that bulging cabinet. Amazingly still only 20 years of age.

Tony Kelly lifts the trophy Tony Kelly lifts the trophy after the Bord Ga‡is Energy Munster U21 Final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Antrim

Ciarán Clarke 

Clarke bagged 1-5 in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final victory – the win of course making Antrim the first Ulster county to ever reach an All-Ireland U21 Hurling final.

Five of those scores came from placed balls, but the corner-forward also displayed his ruthlessness from general play when he scored 1-6 (1-4 from play) in this year’s Ulster final.

Stephen McAfee 

The UUJ undergraduate made his name in Antrim’s historic success during last year’s U21 championship series. The centre-forward scored 1-4 of his side’s 2-15 as they overcame Wexford in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final. McAfee’s early goal, and all round industrious performance proved to be Antrim’s platform last year, but can he do it again this time around?

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Stephen McAfee Can Stephen McAfee be the Antrim hero again this year? Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Wexford

Conor McDonald 

The big full-forward has been the real success story for Wexford this year, with his performances at the edge of the square proving the extra dimension that the Wexford senior team needed to earn that vital big championship win.

He scored crucial goals in both the drawn and replayed games against Clare, as well as against Waterford. If his summer’s form runs into the final games of the U21 championship he’ll be in with a big shout for the Young Hurler  of the year award.

Jack Guiney 

The UCD student has been Wexford’s main man at both senior and U21 level in recent years. An integral part of last year’s Leinster winning U21 team the 6ft 3ins forward will be hoping to go at least one step further in this year’s competition. Despite struggling at times in this year’s senior championship, his return of 10 points in the replayed match against Clare reminded us of his undoubted class.

Jack Guiney 4/6/2014 Jack Guiney has a lot of senior experience to call upon. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Galway

Paul Killeen 

Hailed by many as the county’s next full back, the former minor captain made his senior breakthrough this year in the Galway half-back line. The youngster will have learnt a lot from starting this year’s Leinster semi-final against Kilkenny. He’ll need to be at his best to deal with McDonald and co.

Jonathan Glynn  

The 21-year-old made his senior debut back in 2012, proving his worth as a very effective impact sub on the edge of the square. While Glynn has become a regular starter this year, he will have to resume the talisman role for the U21 team, where his size and eye for goal will cause any defender problems.

Glynn managed four goals in this year’s senior championship, including two against Tipperary and one against Kilkenny.

Jonathan Glynn Galway's Jonathon Glynn. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

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