Stars in the making: 10 GAA players to shine in 2016


Ruairí Deane (Cork):

While he is aged 24 and featured for Cork in 2014, a cruciate injury in that year’s Munster final against Kerry stunted his progress. An option at full-forward, he is likely to target a midfield spot for Peadar Healy’s side, an area where Ian Maguire will also be looking to stake a claim after a back injury ruled him out for most of 2015.

Pádraic Faulkner (Cavan):

A colossus at full-back as Kingscourt Stars won the Cavan SFC for the first time in five years, Faulkner also impressed when the Breffni County won a fourth successive Ulster U21 title in 2014. One of a number of younger players called into Terry Hyland’s senior squad for the coming campaign.

Conor McHugh (Dublin):

Selected as the Cadbury Hero of The Future after his part in the Dubs’ All-Ireland U21 win of 2014, he was underage again last year and was one of their better performers in the All-Ireland semi-final loss to Tipperary. Two-footed, the Na Fianna man can pose a number of problems and is likely to see a lot of game-time in the spring as Jim Gavin rests his All-Ireland winners.

Shane Nally (Mayo):

A rampaging wing-back on the Mayo side which lost the 2008 All-Ireland MFC final to Tyrone after a replay, Nally graduated to U21 but didn’t feature on the senior panel. New manager Stephen Rochford has included the Garrymore man, who will hope that the experience gained since his underage days can help him.

Killian Spillane (Kerry):

Son of Kingdom legend Tom, Spillane won an All-Ireland minor medal in 2014 and was part of the successful junior side last year before helping to power Templenoe to county and provincial junior glory. All-Ireland club commitments may limit his league involvement, however.


Diarmuid Cody (Kilkenny):

The last few years haven’t provided vintage U21 crops for Kilkenny, but Brian Cody does at least have the luxury of only needing to add a player or two to the senior squad each year.

As the only Cat shortlisted for the U21 team of the year in 2015, his son Diarmuid would look to have as good a chance as anyone of making an impact.

Andrew Kenny (Wexford):

While he was a wing-forward on the Wexford side which reached the All-Ireland U21 final last year — his third year as a starter in the grade — he came on at corner-back in the senior defeat to Cork.

Fiontán McGibb (Dublin):

With the Dublin panel undergoing something of a facelift, there are places up for grabs and McGibb could be one of those to profit. A strong and physical forward, the Setanta player has an eye for goal, something which was evident in the recent Fenway Classic against Galway.

Brian Molloy (Galway):

Given the turmoil in Galway in the wake of last year’s All-Ireland championship, sourcing new talent for 2016 wasn’t a massive priority and new boss Micheál Donoghue lacks time in this regard.

Molloy, who starred at U21 and intermediate level last year, is likely to be one of those given a chance.

Steven O’Brien (Tipperary):

It says much about how Tipperary football has progressed in recent times that O’Brien’s decision to choose hurling was a tough one. It also says much about O’Brien’s ability that he has opted for Michael Ryan’s side over Liam Kearns’, as he was a Sigerson Cup winner with DCU last February as well as an All-Ireland MFC medallist. The Ballina clubman hasn’t ruled out a return to football in future but is likely to be an asset to the hurlers for years.


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