Who’ll be this year’s Kevin McManamon?

Every county is looking for inspiration off the bench

Aaron Cunningham (Clare/Wolfe Tones)

He’s only barely out of the minor ranks but that has not halted Cunningham’s progress this season. In his first year at senior level, Cunningham was to the fore during Clare’s Division 1B winning campaign.

He shot 0-2 during their crucial win in Tullamore against an Offaly team that is coached by his father and hit a fantastic point when sprung as a substitute during their success in the decider against Limerick. A fast, skilful corner-forward who is a valuable asset on the bench for Davy Fitzgerald to utilise.

Gary Sweeney (Dublin/St Sylvester’s)

2012 has already been a prosperous year for Sweeney as he collected a Sigerson Cup medal with DCU in February, coming on a second-half substitute in their final win over NUI Maynooth, and then helped steer Dublin to All-Ireland U21 glory against Roscommon recently in Tullamore. That represented Sweeney’s second All-Ireland U21 title in three years and was a reward for his inventive displays in dictating the game from centre-forward. A senior call-up beckons and he will be an extremely useful option for Pat Gilroy to have in reserve to alter the shape of his attack this summer.

Kieran Joyce (Kilkenny/Rower-Inistioge)

Joyce has had to bide his time trying to break into a Kilkenny rearguard but has gained key experience in the recent campaigns. Full-back on the 2008 All-Ireland U21 winning side, Joyce has put together an impressive CV as he also captained UL to a Fitzgibbon Cup triumph at left half-back in 2011. The Waterford IT student is a strong, competitive and versatile defender. Recent games suggest that he ranks high in the pecking order of Kilkenny defensive replacements, having come on as a sub early during their league semi-final and league final victories.

- Fintan O’Toole

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