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Dublin: 6 °C Sunday 29 March, 2020
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6 unsung heroes set to shine in this year’s football championship

We’re looking forward to seeing this sextet in action.

1. Tomás Corrigan (Fermanagh)

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Last year, we earmarked Corrigan’s county-mate Sean Quigley as a player to watch and he emerged as one of the stars of the summer.

This time around, we’re tipping Corrigan to shine for the Erne County on the back of a productive League campaign.

Now based in the capital with St Oliver Plunketts/Eoghan Ruadh, Corrigan has picked up where he left off last summer, and playing club football in Dublin can only improve him.

Quigley was Fermanagh’s leading League scorer in 2012, 2014 and 2015 but Corrigan topped the list this year with a haul of 1-28.

He was a key member of the team that held its own in Division 2 after gaining promotion last year.

2. Donal Shanley (Wexford)

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Shanley, who will be 21 in August, is an exciting young graduate from the St Peter’s College nursery in Wexford.

The former Wexford Youths player was once offered a three-year soccer scholarship to the United States but is now firmly focused on his county commitments.

Shanley was a member of the Wexford panel that claimed Leinster junior glory last year and has adapted well to life as a senior player.

In seven Division 4 outings this year, Shanley collected 0-44, including a nine-point haul against Wicklow and eight in the victory over Waterford.

He’s a player that manager David Power will want firing on all cylinders if Wexford harbour hopes of stunning Kildare in the Leinster SFC quarter-final.

3. Eoin Cleary (Clare)

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It was a remarkable season for Clare’s Cleary brothers, Eoin and Conor.

With David McInerney ruled out injured, Conor took the opportunity to slot into the centre back position for the Clare senior hurlers, and collect an Allianz League medal.

And Eoin, whose first love is football, was a standout performer as the Banner County swept to promotion before collecting Division 3 silverware against Kildare at Croke Park.

Cleary notched 1-28 for Clare during the League and reserved some of his best form for the Kildare win at GAA HQ.

Cleary scored 0-6 against the Lilywhites, including the winning free five minutes into stoppage time.

4. Ryan Burns (Louth)

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Ryan Burns burst onto the intercounty stage two years ago, when, as a 17-year-old, he was named in then manager Aidan O’Rourke’s panel for the Leinster SFC opener against Westmeath. 

Burns made his mark in that game, coming off the bench to score a goal, and he also scored three points against Tyrone in the All-Ireland SFC qualifier exit.

Last year’s championship campaign was disappointing for Louth but the Wee County gained promotion from Division 4 of the Allianz League in 2016 and Burns was a key player.

The Hunterstown Rovers player scored four points in the Division 4 final victory over Antrim at Croke Park, taking his League tally to 1-22 for the season.

Keep an eye out for prolific flame-haired attacker when Louth begin their championship campaign against Carlow at O’Moore Park on Saturday evening.

5. Peter Acheson (Tipperary)

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

In what’s been a difficult campaign for Tipperary, captain Peter Acheson has shone like a beacon.

He scored a vital goal against Limerick on the opening day of the Division 3 League campaign and bagged another in the final round when Tipp battled to a draw against Sligo away from home.

Acheson, 26, plays his club football at midfield for Moyle Rovers but can operate at centre back or centre forward for the county team.

Tipp face Waterford in the Munster SFC quarter-final at the end of the month with a depleted squad and Acheson’s leadership skills will be required.

Having lost young trio Liam Casey, Jason Lonergan and Kevin Fahey to the US, Acheson carries an extra burden of responsibility into the Fraher Field fixture, one he’s more than capable of coping with.

6. Evan O’Carroll (Laois)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

A senior championship debutant at the age of 17 in 2013, O’Carroll is one of the brightest young forwards in the game.

The Crettyard player had shown stellar form in the minor and U21 championships before earning his senior bow and he’s pushed on since then.

O’Carroll helped to turn the tide when Laois defeated Wicklow in the EirGrid Leinster U21 championship earlier this year and he also bagged 1-2 in the Dublin defeat.

At senior level, O’Carroll collected 0-15 for Laois in their Division 2 campaign but despite that, the O’Moore County suffered relegation to the third tier.

He’s a player that boss Mick Lillis will be relying on when Laois begin their Leinster SFC campaign against Wicklow on Saturday evening, and the reward for the winners is a crack at Dublin.

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