Five young players to watch out for

Mark Coleman (Cork)

Started and finished all six of the county’s league games this spring — scoring in three of them. 

Not bad going for a player who only made his championship debut when sprung from the bench after 68 minutes of last summer’s qualifier defeat to Wexford. The wing-back from Blarney, a minor in 2015, is one of a raft of young players given an opportunity by management this year. In Coleman’s case, he’s grabbed it with both hands.

He has made the number seven shirt his own with a string of consistent performances. Stylish and solid in equal measure. Likely to pick up Dan McCormack on Sunday. He’ll relish the challenge.

Kyle Hayes (Limerick)

Was identified as a future Limerick senior during the county’s run to the All-Ireland minor final in 2016, but nobody expected this leap forward would materialise the following season. John Kiely, similar to his Cork counterpart Kieran Kingston, invested heavily in youth during the league with Hayes named in the Treaty attack for six of their seven league fixtures, including the quarter and semi-final games. Still has a bit of road to travel in terms of physical development, but ticks several other boxes. Cian Lynch hit 0-3 on his way to picking up the man-of-the- match award when making his championship debut against Clare this time two years ago. It will be a big ask of Hayes to make a similar impact against the same opposition on June 4.

Donal Burke (Dublin)

Another 2016 minor who has been fast-tracked to top-level hurling. In the absence of Cuala’s David Treacy, the Na Fianna teenager assumed dead-ball responsibilities during the round-robin phase of the league.

He acquitted himself well, clipping 2-29.

That only 2-5 of this total arrived via open play placed a small question mark over his worth outside of free-taking duties, but his three-point contribution during the relegation play-off against Clare, an afternoon where Treacy took care of the frees, suggests he has plenty to offer Ger Cunningham’s attack.

The physical nature of Galway defence means he can expect a championship baptism of fire on May 28.

Mikey Kearney (Waterford)

A member of that loaded Waterford attack which swept to U21 glory last summer. Kearney, built in the mould of a corner-forward, was thrown in at centre-forward for Waterford’s opening two games of this year’s league against Kilkenny and Tipperary respectively. Substituted in both, he was confined to cameo roles for the remainder of the spring. But with Tom Devine opting out for the summer, coupled with Kearney’s starring role in Cork IT’s surprise championship win over Douglas in the Cork SHC, the Ballyduff Upper man is sure to have climbed a few places in that crowded list of players vying for championship selection in the Déise attack.

Jason Cleere (Kilkenny)

With Pádraig Walsh being redeployed to the edge of the square, Cody needed to find a fresh face for his half-back line. Step forward, Jason Cleere. The Bennettsbridge defender, still eligible for U21, was an integral part of the Kilkenny intermediate team that achieved All-Ireland honours last summer. He also has an All-Ireland minor medal, as well as two All-Irelands with the club (junior and intermediate) in the back pocket. Cleere lasted the pace during the county’s pulsating encounter with Tipperary back in March, as sure an indicator as any that Cody has timed his introduction to perfection. Well built and confident in the air, we’ll be seeing plenty more of him as the summer progresses.

Words: Eoghan Cormican


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