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6 young hurlers who impressed on senior stage this year

Austin Gleeson, John McGrath and Ronan Maher were some of the brightest young talents in action this season.

AS WE REFLECT on the 2016 All-Ireland SHC, we’re taking a look at six young players who made their mark on the senior stage.

A couple of these players don’t qualify for Young Hurler of the Year, but we’re looking at hurlers in their first couple of years at this level. Let us know in the comments section below who you think we should have included.

1. Austin Gleeson (Waterford)

Austin Gleeson with Padraig Walsh Ken Sutton / INPHO Ken Sutton / INPHO / INPHO

Gleeson is a shoe-in to take home his first ever All-Star and the Young Hurler of the Year award to boot. Gleeson was a force of nature during the Deise’s run to the last four of the senior All-Ireland series.

At U21 level, he led Waterford’s youngsters to the Munster title and the All-Ireland final, where they’ll take on Galway on Saturday evening. The man who almost walked away from the county set-up last winter will pick up his first All-Star this year. He’ll add a few more before he’s done.

2. Ronan Maher (Tipperary)

Padraic Maher and Ronan Maher celebrate with their mother Helen Maher Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Maher showed his maturity in Sunday’s All-Ireland final, dealing admirably with the challenge as Brian Cody alternated between TJ Reid and Richie Hogan in the No. 11 position in the first-half.

But Maher stood strong at centre-back and cleared a sight of ball. The quality of his tackling and his nose for danger provided the platform for Tipp as they cleaned out the Kilkenny half-forwards.

3. Conor Whelan (Galway)

Conor Whelan Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

At 19 he’s already got two seasons of senior inter-county hurling behind him, but Whelan may miss out on the chance to conclude the year on a high.

He’s a major doubt for Sunday’s All-Ireland U21 final after suffering a dislocated shoulder in the semi-final win over Dublin.

Whelan enjoyed a good year for the Tribe, scoring two points in their narrow All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Tipperary.

4. Shane Bennett (Waterford)

Shane Bennett with Paul Murphy Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

Bennett was a key member of Waterford’s hard working attack in 2016. He started every one of the Deise’s championship games this year and scored five points from play, despite operating way out the field.

The 19-year-old left the field during Waterford U21′s semi-final win over Antrim as a precaution, but should return to the starting fifteen to fire them to All-Ireland glory.

5. John McGrath (Tipperary)

John McGrath scores a goal Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

At 22, McGrath finally established himself in the Tipperary attack in 2016. He made a few league appearances last year, but under the guidance of Michael Ryan he’s flourished.

He acted as the executioner of Waterford in the Munster final, following in the footsteps of Lar Corbett by scoring a hat-trick in the provincial final.

He formed part of a devastating Tipp attack alongside Seamus Callanan and John O’Dwyer, scoring 1-3 in his maiden senior All-Ireland final.

6. Michael Breen (Tipperary)

Michael Breen scores a goal Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Although he was replaced early on in the second-half of the final, Breen enjoyed a highly successful year. The 22-year-old was a victim of his own versatility in the past, but under Ryan he settled into midfield role and never looked back.

Breen’s ghosting runs from midfield saw him rack up 3-5 during an outstanding championship campaign.

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