Getting to know the Tipperary U21 footballers

Introducing Tommy Toomey’s team who face Tyrone at Parnell Park in the All-Ireland U21 football final.

Getting to know the Tipperary U21 footballers

Evan Comerford (Kilsheelan Kilcash)

The former Clonmel Commercials netminder Comerford is now plying his trade at club level with Kilsheelan-Kilcash. Also a noted soccer keeper, Comerford cuts an imposing figure between the sticks at 6ft 4” tall. An All-Ireland minor medallist from 2011, Comerford also won a second successive Munster medal in that grade a year later. He’s played U21 football in 2012, 2013 and 2015 and is also firmlIn ty established as senior team goalkeeper this year.

Kevin Fahey (Clonmel Commercials)

A graduate from Clonmel High School, Fahey enjoyed a distinguished juvenile career before going on to win an All-Ireland minor medal with Tipperary in 2011. He starred at wing-back on the Tipp team that retained the Munster minor crown a year later, the first Premier County crop since 1934-35 to achieve that feat. Fahey was a sub in last year’s Munster U21 final defeat but has made a starting place his own this year.

Jimmy Feehan (Killenaule)

Feehan won a Freshers All-Ireland medal this year as part of the UCD squad that defeated UCC in the Portlaoise decider. And he’s yet another survivor from Tipperary’s 2011 All-Ireland minor winning panel. Wasfull-back a year later when Tipp held onto their provincial crown and the Killenaule man has nailed down the same position during the last two U21 campaigns.

Colm O’Shaughnessy (Ardfinnan)

O’Shaughnessy has been one of the unsung heroes of this campaign, going about his business with minimum fuss at corner back. A graduate from last year’s minor set-up, the Ardfinnan defender has grabbed his opportunity to impress with both hands and is a firm favourite with supporters and teammates alike. A member of a solid full-back line that managed to nullify Dublin trio Colm Basquel, Conor McHugh and Cormac Costello in the semi-final.

Ross Mulcahy (Moyle Rovers)

Mulcahy, who has represented Tipperary at underage level in both codes, kicked a sensational late point in the All-Ireland semi-final victory over Dublin. That cameo moment summed up the Moyle Rovers star in a nutshell – fearless in defence but possessed with the ability to move forward in support of the attack and take a score. A fresher with UCC this year, Mulcahy is expected to feature in next year’s Sigerson Cup.

Luke Boland (Moyle Rovers)

Boland’s presence in the pivotal centre-back position means that Moyle Rovers make up two-thirds of a rock-solid Tipperary half-back line. He was a member of the IT Carlow team that reached a Sigerson Cup quarter-final this year, scoring two points from corner forward against University of Limerick. Boland has been a noted scorer at club level but has nailed down the centre-back position for the county U21 team since missing out on the Munster semi-final victory over Clare.

Bill Maher (Kilsheelan Kilcash)

Maher is a marauding wing-back who loves to get forward in search of a score, much like Ross Mulcahy on the opposite flank. A minor All-Ireland football medallist in 2011, Maher then captained the Tipperary minor hurlers to Irish Press Cup glory a year later. A noted dual player, Maher is also on the fringes of the Tipperary senior hurling panel and injury permitting, he’ll also play U21 hurling this summer.

Steven O’Brien (Ballina)

Tipped as a future All-star, O’Brien has been immense this season. Already a regular at senior level for boss Peter Creedon, the Ballina man has ruled the skies alongside captain Colin O’Riordan in the U21 grade this year. O’Brien is another former dual All-Ireland minor medallist, having added a hurling medal in 2012 to the football title collected a year previously.

Colin O’Riordan (JK Brackens)

An All-star nominee in 2014, O’Riordan is now one of the most talked-about young stars in Gaelic Football. The JK Brackens powerhouse starred at wing-back in the 2011 All-Ireland minor football final and while he remains on the senior hurling team’s radar, O’Riordan’s love for football means that it’s unlikely that he’ll ever forsake the big ball code. Shrugged off a concussion against Sligo to produce a masterclass in the Munster final victory over Cork before leading by example in the Dublin win.

Jason Lonergan (Clonmel Commercials)

Longeran is a jet-heeled wing-forward who has rediscovered top form this year. On the fringes of the senior football panel in recent years, the talented Commercials man has forced his way back into Peter Creedon’s squad on the back of impressive U21 form. Scored five points in Tipp’s opener against Clare and hasn’t looked back since. The 2011 All-Ireland minor medallist added two more against Cork and another in the famous victory over Dublin.

Ian Fahey (Clonmel Commercials)

Fahey sacrificed an FAI Junior Cup semi-final with Clonmel Celtic to line out against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final. Another graduate of the 2011 minor crop, senior player Fahey has now added outstanding work-rate to his undoubted talent. Man of the match in the Munster final victory over Cork, Fahey’s physical strength and ability to win ‘dirty ball’ around the middle third is a key weapon in Tipp’s armoury.

Liam Casey (Cahir)

Another of Tipp’s senior contingent aiming for U21 glory, Cahir man Casey has been in excellent form this year. He forged a fine midfield partnership with Colin O’Riordan for the UCD Freshers as they won last year’s Division 1 league title but was unfortunately suspended for the championship final victory over UCC. A minor in 2013, Casey has played county U21 football for the past two seasons.

Kevin O’Halloran (Portroe)The man who has come from literally nowhere to leave an indelible mark on the 2015 championship. O’Halloran was drafted in from left-field for the Munster final victory over Cork and he rewarded boss Tommy Toomey’s faith with six points, including five frees. O’Halloran chipped in with four more points against Dublin and is tipped to link up with the senior team following Saturday’s U21 decider with Tyrone.

Josh Keane (Golden Kilfeacle)

A former dual minor, flame-haired attacker Keane produced his best U21 performance of the season in the All-Ireland semi-final victory over Dublin. Keane finished with three pointed frees but his work-rate was so impressive as Tipperary stopped the Sky Blues building from the back. Unlucky to receive a red card in the 2013 Munster minor final, Keane has bounced back from that setback to become a key figure in the U21 grade.

Paul Maher (Kilsheelan Kilcash)

Troubled by a hamstring injury in recent times, Maher will be hoping to put that behind him and produce a big performance in the All-Ireland final. Contributed two points in the Munster final victory over Cork, having raised a white flag in the semi-final win against Clare. Maher is a tricky corner forward who played minor football for the county in 2013 and 2014.

John McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney)

McGrath’s return to fitness presents manager Tommy Toomey with a selection headache. The Loughmore-Castleiney star, brother of Noel and cousin of Liam, missed the Munster final victory over Cork and the All-Ireland semi-final success against Dublin after being advised to rest a pelvic injury. But McGrath, a former dual All-Ireland minor medallist, was excellent in the Munster semi-final against Clare and he has also made a big impact with the Tipp senior hurlers in 2015.

Dean McEnroe (JK Brackens)

McEnroe was the only sub used by boss Toomey in the All-Ireland semi-final victory over Dublin. The JK Brackens man netted a goal against Limerick in last year’s Munster junior football championship quarter-final and is highly-regarded within the U21 set-up. In 2014, McEnroe had the distinction of netting four penalties in one game as his club won the Mid Tipperary U21 football championship. A more than useful option off the bench if required.

Paul Shanahan (Upperchurch Drombane)

Shanahan was named in the starting line-up for the Munster final victory against Cork but was sacrificed when captain Colin O’Riordan returned to full fitness following concussion. Shanahan did play in the provincial semi-final against Clare and is now waiting patiently in the wings for the chance to impress once again. A minor in 2013, Shanahan was also on the U21 set up last year, and made his senior debut against Cork in the 2015 McGrath Cup.

TJ Ryan (Rockwell Rovers)

Another forward option for Toomey off the bench, Ryan was a stand-out player in the march to All-Ireland minor glory in 2011. He’s suffered with injury in recent times but made a late cameo appearance in the Munster final victory against Cork. A diminutive corner forward, Ryan is another player with two Munster minor medals in his collection, as he was a member of the 2012 set-up.

Willie Connors (Kildangan)

Another former dual minor, Connors played in the Munster minor football final defeat to Kerry in 2013. He captained the team in 2014 and is on the fringes of the U21 team, having come on as a late sub for Luke Boland in the Munster final. Could well be the first man in at the back if manager Tommy Toomey needs a defensive tweak against Tyrone at Parnell Park on Saturday.

Pictures by Denis Vahey

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