Players to watch in the up-coming Allianz National Football Leagues

Players to watch in the up-coming Allianz National Football Leagues

Emmett O Conghaile playing in the Bord na Mona O'Byrne Cup Final on Sunday January 25, Kildare v Dublin.

Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE

By Grainne McGuinness

The Allianz NFL gets underway this weekend and signals the start of the football season after the warm-up of the various early-season cup competition. Each season we see players make the jump from success at underage level and showing potential to become established senior stars.

Here are four players we think could have a breakthrough season in 2015.

Emmet Ó Conghaile - Dublin

Emmet Ó Conghaile looks set for a big year in the Dublin midfield.

The 21-year-old has been impacted by injuries in the past couple of seasons, but has shown his class in the O’Byrne Cup and will be hoping a similar showing in the league will cement his place in the centre of the park when the championship kicks-off.

Ó Conghaile scored the winning goal in their victory over Laois earlier this month and manager Jim Gavin highlighted the midfielder for praise after the match.

"Emmet (Ó Conghaile) is very good at taking his scores and one of the best high-fielders we have technically,” Gavin said. “He has a classic style of catching and we encourage that. It was good to see some high-fetching.”

John O’Rourke - Cork

John O’Rourke will be part of the Cork team facing Ó Conghaile’s Dublin in their opening league match.

The 22-year-old was a cornerstone of the Cork U21 team that won three Munster championships in-a-row between 2011 and 2013.

The wing-forward has been part of his county’s senior team since 2013 and is one of the players Cork will be looking to for strong performances to improve on their disappointing season in 2014.

Players to watch in the up-coming Allianz National Football Leagues

John O'Rourke challenging Tipperary’s Colin O’Riordan in the McGrath Cup quarter-final on January 11

Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Speaking to this week O’Rourke made it clear he is relishing the task in front of him.

“People are saying things might not go our way but, as players, you take the opposite view and embrace these challenges” he said.

“Dublin are the first of those challenges and we cannot wait for Sunday.”

Cathal McInerney - Clare

Cathal McInerney is one of the Clare players who have chosen to commit to football this season following hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald’s ban on dual players.

The Cratloe club man already has an All-Ireland hurling medal and his choice of football is a big boost for Colm Collins' team.

After Cratloe were narrowly beaten by Dr Croke's in the Munster club final of 2013, Collins said McInerney had the potential to be a star of football.

“People outside Clare mightn't know it but if Cathal concentrated on football he would probably be a household name like Declan Browne was for Tipperary,” Collins said.

This season is McInerney’s opportunity to prove him right.

Eoin McHugh - Donegal

After eye-catching performances in the McKenna Cup, the latest McHugh from Kilcar will be hoping to add to the family reputation this season.

Eoin, 20, cousin to Mark and Ryan, also impressed at U21 level where he was coached by new Donegal boss Rory Gallagher.

McHugh will reportedly miss the first two games of the league due to a virus but should be back by the start of March when Donegal welcome Cork to Ballyshannon.

Players to watch in the up-coming Allianz National Football Leagues

Eoin McHugh in action for Donegal in the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup earlier this month.

Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Tie of the weekend - Cork v Dublin at Páirc uí Rinn Sunday February 1 2pm

Two counties with a lot to prove open their league campaigns in Cork on Sunday.

Dublin were seen as All-Ireland champions last season in-waiting before they were knocked out by Donegal in the footballing shock of the year.

Cork, meanwhile, flattered to deceive in the league before enduring a humiliating defeat to Kerry in the Munster final.

Both sides will be looking to lay down a marker in this weekend’s game.

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