The emphasis will be on experimentation by both Jack O’Connor and Conor Counihan as they seek to bolster their squads with new talents for the season ahead. Tonight is an early opportunity to assess what nascent talent to keep an eye on.
Denis O’Sullivan (Ballinascarthy): The West Cork player first surfaced in 2007 as a dual county minor, collecting a provincial medal at wing-back for the footballers and lining out at midfield for the minor hurlers that reached an All-Ireland decider. Since then O’Sullivan has been cursed by injuries. He underwent two serious knee operations which interrupted his U21 playing days but was part of the Cork squad that claimed the All-Ireland U21 title two years ago. O’Sullivan has shown great resilience to overcome those setbacks and the dynamic play that was the hallmark of his underage career has been evident in this year’s McGrath Cup. He is a player in demand, having been named on the bench by the Cork senior hurlers for tomorrow’s Waterford Crystal tie.
David Goold (Macroom): The younger brother of senior panellist Fintan was an obvious contender to get game time in this year’s McGrath Cup. A Munster minor football medallist in 2005, it was during Cork’s run to All-Ireland U21 glory in 2009 that he really came to the fore. Lining out at full-forward, Goold linked up wonderfully with Colm O’Neill as a potent duo close to goal and kicked 0-22 over the five games in the campaign. His big-game temperament was illustrated in the Munster final when he registered 0-6 on a day that the Cork performance dipped and he chipped in with 0-5 in the All-Ireland final against Down. Showed good form last year for UCC in the Sigerson Cup as well and given his free-taking prowess with his right foot, Goold looks a good bet to push for panel place this season.
Mark Cronin (Gabriel Rangers): The surprise candidate to emerge from the Cork ranks to date in the McGrath Cup has yet to even start a game. Indeed Cronin has only played 36 minutes of football in his substitute cameos but has racked up an impressive total of 0-7 from play, and the quality of his score-taking from tricky angles has caught the eye. It’s a testament to the Cork management’s trawl for new players that Cronin has been spotted and given a chance. His club Gabriel Rangers, a Ballydehob and Schull combination from West Cork, were only formed in 1973 and last season won their first divisional junior football crown with Cronin the go-to man. A natural corner-forward, he’ll now get exposure to a higher level of football.
Shane Enright (Tarbert): The Tarbert defender has worked steadily up through the underage ranks of Kerry football. He lined out at right half-back on the Kerry minor team that were beaten in the All-Ireland decider in 2006 but atoned when playing at left corner-back on the side that swept to U21 honours in 2008. A tight and tidy player most comfortable at corner-back, Enright was also a key component in UCC’s march to last year’s Sigerson decider. Will be keen to get a series of opportunities to put his case forward in the next few months.
Jonathan Lyne (Legion): Lyne, along with club colleagues Paudge O’Connor and James O’Donoghue, is one of a trio of Legion players that will be jostling for inclusion in the senior panel. Lyne was involved last year and following the retirement of Mike McCarthy, the Kerry half-back line has an opening for new faces — Lyne looks the best young candidate. The 2008 Munster minor medal winner is set for a hectic time over the next few months with commitments for the UL Sigerson Cup side and the Kerry U21s. Lyne is a linchpin for both outfits and should be offered game time for the senior’s during the league campaign.
Paul Geaney (Dingle): The precocious Dingle attacker is regarded as an emerging talent. Ideally positioned at corner-forward, he has offered glimpses of his capabilities in the McGrath Cup over the past two weekends and has linked up with his cousin David to post plenty of scores. Was a peripheral presence for the county minor side in 2008 but his rate of improvement has been rapid. Sparkled for the Kerry U21s en route to last season’s Munster final before they suffered a surprising defeat to Tipperary. Even in that loss, Geaney was one of Kerry’s best and will be to the fore for the U21s again this spring.
Would benefit from being drafted into the senior squad for the coming months too.