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9 young hurlers to watch in the 2021 GAA season

These talented players could make their mark this season.

THE 2020 SEASON isn’t long in the books yet the new campaign is looming despite the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19. 

What fresh talent might flourish in the 2021 Allianz Hurling League when it eventually kicks off? 

We’ve taken a look at young players from some of the top tier counties who might have big futures ahead of them:

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1. Niall Brassil (James Stephens — Kilkenny)

niall-brassil Brassil takes a free in the 2019 U20 Leinster final against Wexford. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

A name familiar to many in the Kilkenny hurling circuit, the 21-year-old made his senior debut in the Leinster SHC semi-final win over Galway.

A lively forward with an eye for a score, Brassil played a starring role as James Stephens reached the senior county final in 2019. Last year, he was one of the key men as DJ Carey’s IT Carlow made it all the way to the Fitzgibbon Cup decider.

Brassil won Leinster titles at minor (2017) and U20 (2019) grades, while he replaced Richie Hogan 56 minutes into the All-Ireland semi-final loss to Waterford. He’ll likely be handed further opportunities to impress under Brian Cody in 2021.

2. Shane Barrett (Blarney — Cork) 

shane-barrett-and-eanna-mcbride Cork U20 star Shane Barrett takes on Eanna McBride of Tipperary. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

In one of the last games before the latest GAA shutdown, Barrett inspired Cork to the Munster U20 title to cap off a fine 2020 on a personal level. 

He clipped over five points from play against Tipperary in that final, highlighting why Kieran Kingston added him to the senior panel in October. Barrett went on to make his senior debut late in Cork’s All-Ireland qualifier defeat of Dublin.

He impressed in the club championhip as his native Blarney won the Cork premier intermediate title and he put in some good scoring performances for UCC on their run to the senior semi-finals.

He was also part of the Cork minor panel in 2018 and helped CBC Cork reach the Dr Harty Cup final in 2019. He stands to benefit from Kingston’s recent revamping of the Rebels squad, with an eye towards youth. 

3. Eoghan Connolly (Cashel King Cormacs — Tipperary)

eoghan-connolly Connolly takes a long-range free against Cork U20s. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Connolly was recently called up to Liam Sheedy’s senior set-up for the coming season. A tall and strong defender, he lined out at centre-back and captained the Premier side that narrowly lost the U20 Munster final to Cork.

Connolly was full-back under Liam Cahill when Tipperary lifted the All-Ireland U20 trophy in 2019. The previous year, Cahill handed him his debut at the U21 grade off the bench in the All-Ireland semi-final against Galway.

With All-Ireland U20 and U21 medals to his name, Connolly’s ability to play at both full- and centre-back should provide competition in the Sheedy’s defence. His quality as a long-range freetaker gives him added value.

4. Josh Considine (Patrickswell — Limerick)

josh-considine-and-eoin-carey Limerick U20 star Josh Considine is tackled by Cork's Eoin Carey. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

The Limerick team is settled with a young age-profile, so it’s hard to see any newcomers making a major impact this season. Considine was one of four U20s to make John Kiely’s extended senior panel in 2020 and he’ll be hoping to make his debut in the coming months. 

Capable of playing at half-back or half-forward, the 20-year-old partnered Cian Lynch in the Patrickswell midfield on their run to the senior county title in 2019, scoring 1-2 in the final against Na Piarsaigh.

He lined out at centre-field for the Limerick U20s this year and will provide competition on the strongest panel in the country. 

5. Evan Niland (Clarinbridge — Galway)

evan-niland Niland takes a free for NUIG in the Fitzgibbon Cup. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The Clarinbridge sharpshooter arrived into the white heat of the All-Ireland semi-final loss to Limerick as a 68th minute replacement for the injured Joe Canning and immediately looked at home. 

Niland dispatched two booming scores, including a long-range free with his first puck, to give an indication of his mettle. A proven scorer at county minor, U21 and club level, he was described as ‘a fabulous stick man’ by Shane O’Neill last March.

First called up to the senior panel in 2019, he may need further development on the physical aspect of the game, but the All-Ireland minor and Leinster U21 medalist has all the tools to become a key forward for Galway.

He may well be the long-term successor to Joe Canning on placed balls whenever the Portumna star finishes up. 

U20 hot-shot Donal O’Shea, son of former Tipperary manager Eamon, is another fine attacking prospect in Galway, though it could be 2022 before he really makes his mark at the senior grade.

6. Richie Lawlor (Faythe Harriers — Wexford)

richie-lawlor-celebrates-with-the-trophy Richie Lawlor celebrates with the Leinster minor hurling trophy. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

A clubmate of Lee Chin, Lawlor shone under Derek McGrath with Faythe Harriers during this year’s Wexford SHC, scoring a goal in their quarter-final exit to eventual champions Shelmalliers.

The young attacker was recently called up to Davy Fitzgerald’s Model squad following impressive performances at club and county underage level. An excellent fielder of the ball and composed in possession, Lawlor’s first thought is usually to take the direct route and go for goal.

He skippered Wexford minors to their first Leinster crown in 34 years back in 2019 and along with fellow rookie forward Ross Banville, should add some energy to the senior attack.

7. Iarlaith Daly (Lismore — Waterford)

seamus-flanagan-and-iarlaith-daly Iarlaith Daly is consoled by Seamus Flanagan after the All-Ireland final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

In his first season on the Deise senior panel, Daly arrived off the bench as a first-half replacement in last month’s All-Ireland final for the injured Tadhg de Burca.

His assured showing that afternoon against Limerick indicated he’ll be a fixture in the Waterford defence for years to come.

Days later, Daly returned to U20 duty where he lined out at centre-forward in the Munster championship against Tipperary, which Waterford lost after extra-time.

Young forward Michael Kiely, who grabbed 2-2 against the Premier in that game, is another potential addition to Cahill’s senior set-up.

8. Lee Gannon (Whitehall Colmcilles — Dublin)

lee-gannon-and-kevin-connolly Gannon in action against Offaly in the Walsh Cup. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Gannon has been tipped as a potential star in recent years, having made his senior bow for Dublin in the 2019 Walsh Cup.

A talented dual player, he was part of the Dublin U20 football side that lost the All-Ireland final to Galway at the end of last year.

Physically strong and pacey, Gannon has played with Dublin’s U21s and minor hurling sides in recent years and if he commits to the small ball code he’s surely a player that Mattie Kenny will be looking at.

9. Aidan McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona — Clare)

aidan-mccarthy-with-kieran-bennett-and-ian-kenny McCarthy is tackled by Kieran Bennett and Ian Kenny of Waterford. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

A number of youngsters shone during Brian Lohan’s first year in charge and among them was Aidan McCarthy.

The Inagh-Kilnamona man missed the Munster U20 quarter-final with a broken thumb but recovered in time to feature for the seniors against Limerick in Munster.

He broke onto the half-back line for successive games against Laois, Wexford and Waterford – scoring a vital second-half goal in the defeat to the Deise.

Younger brother of fellow Banner player Jason, he’ll be looking to kick on after announcing his arrival on the scene with a brilliant debut campaign.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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