Updated at 18.25
AND THEN THERE were four.
The EirGrid U21 football championship is heating up, with just the four provincial winners left standing in the competition.
On Saturday, Dublin and Donegal will meet in Kingspan Breffni Park at 2.30pm, while Galway and Kerry meet at 4.30pm in Cusack Park, Ennis. Both games will be televised live on TG4.
We take a run down through two players from each county who will be hoping to lead their teams to victory.
Con O’Callaghan (Full-forward, Dublin)
CUALA’S RUN TO the All-Ireland club hurling title was quickly followed by Dublin’s U21 campaign, meaning O’Callaghan hasn’t featured for Jim Gavin’s seniors yet this year.
The direct corner-forward did make an instant impact when he switched back to the big ball code with Dessie Farrell’s U21s, and has bagged 2-14 in his three games to date.
He’s far more than just a scorer though, and his awareness means he often creates goal chances for the late runs of half-forwards Tom Fox and Aaron Byrne.
Evan Comerford (Goalkeeper, Dublin)
Stephen Cluxton turns 36 in September and while he remains in fantastic condition, he’s very much at the tail end of his career. At the moment Evan Comerford is Cluxton’s heir apparent.
Gavin gave him significant game-time during the O’Byrne Cup and he certainly impressed. The Ballymun Kickhams stopper is built in the same mould as Cluxton – a left-footer who likes a quick restart and a find shot stopper.
This Donegal team possess a distinct goal threat so Comerford will have to be at his best on Saturday to keep a clean sheet.
Jason McGee (Midfielder, Donegal)
A minor in 2016, McGee has progressed rapidly since his move to senior ranks. He had been playing well in the Allianz Football League until a shoulder injury sustained on U21 duty kept him out for three weeks.
McGee is a talented soccer player and played centre-half for the Republic of Ireland at underage level, but Rory Gallagher will be glad he chose to stick with Gaelic football.
A fine midfielder, his arrival on the scene came at a crucial time after fellow Neil Gallagher, Rory Kavanagh and Odhran Mac Niallais departed the Donegal squad.
Lorcan Connor (Corner-forward, Donegal)
Another one of the youngsters nurtured by Declan Bonner in recent years.
Connor is an accurate free-taker and also dangerous around the goalmouth. He’s scored 1-11 in Donegal’s last two games and is a player that thrives on the big occasion.
He was a key player in Donegal’s run to the 2014 All-Ireland minor final and will be hoping the county can go one better this year and take home the ultimate honours.
Rob Finnerty (Corner-forward, Galway)
The Salthill-Knocknacarra youngster played in a Galway senior county final and All-Ireland minor decider in a breakout 2016 campaign.
Finnerty is one of those classy forwards that seems to come along every so often in Galway. While it’s very early days in his career, he has the skill set to go right to the top of the game.
Finnerty, a son of former Mayo star Anthony, is reliable from frees and very lively from open play. He has a bright future in the maroon.
Cillian McDaid (Wing-back, Galway)
McDaid is a versatile player comfortable anywhere in the middle third. He starred at midfield for the Galway minors in 2015, while featuring at wing-forward for the seniors in their Allianz Football League campaign his year.
For the minors McDaid plays as an attacking wing-back and he kicked three points from play in the Connacht U21 final extra-time win over Sligo.
An All-Ireland minor hurling winner with the Tribesmen, McDaid has also attended AFL trials in the past.
Jason Foley (Full-back, Kerry)
The Ballydonoghue youngster won All-Ireland minor medals in 2014 and 2015 and is hoping to add an U21 title to his collection in 2017.
He’s held in high regard in the Kingdom and was one of the 31 players Eamonn Fitzmaurice used in their Allianz Football League campaign.
Foley was full-back for Jack O’Connor’s U21s last year and occupied the same position during their successful Munster championship campaign this year.
Killian Spillane (Corner-forward, Kerry)
Kerry have a potent attack with Spillane, Sean O’Shea and Conor Geaney their major threats going forward.
Spillane has posted 1-11 in his last two games and while he hasn’t made the leap to senior level with the county just yet, his strong showings for UCC in the Sigerson Cup indicate he’s on the right path.
A son of Kerry legend Tom, Killian is beginning to carve out his own name in the game. A delightful forward to watch on his day.
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