10 footballers who will make a comeback in 2016
New year, new challenge for these GAA stars
Published 06/01/2016 | 02:30
Some have shaken themselves out of the relative slumber of retirement and have taken the risky move of stepping back on to the ever-moving inter-county carousel again.
Others have dropped anchor after global adventures. For more there is the battle to recover fitness after debilitating cruciate ligament injuries or simply the challenge to win favouritism again among their management teams.
For all there is a sense of renewed purpose about 2016, a feel of comeback about it even if, in some cases, they haven't been away.
Here, we identify 10 players who, for whatever reason, will have renewal on their minds over the next few months.
Benny coulter (Down)
Reverses a decision to retire made the precious year which he never seemed entirely comfortable with. After Alan O'Connor's display for Cork in the drawn Munster final, Coulter hinted at differences of opinion with the previous Down management over training schedules, suggesting it was "about being fresh come championship time. So many managers get it wrong." Clearly, Eamonn Burns is willing to tailor Coulter's preparations a little more to get the most out of him. At 34 later this year, it's a challenge but he can play some role.
Tommy Walsh (Kerry)
His fleeting appearances during the 2015 championship make it feel like his comeback after five years in the AFL is still on ice. Walsh started against Tipperary but played only 10 minutes over the course of Kerry's next five games, culminating in their All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin. In that brief time his powerful presence under a succession of kick-outs pointed to much more but, strangely, Kerry didn't call on him again. So 2016 hardens in importance for Walsh.
Seanie Johnston (Cavan)
Hasn't played for the Breffni County in four-and-a-half years, hasn't played inter-county football for two-and-a-half years since leaving Kildare so there are obvious risks for Johnston in rejoining the squad at this stage. Move should bring some closure, for him and the county, to his controversial Kildare switch. Talent not in doubt but it's a move that could have happened last year after very strong club form.
Daniel Flynn (Kildare)
Made an impact in his debut season, signed up to AFL in 2014, was back home for 2015 but couldn't find his feet. Now the slate is clean again and Kildare will be hoping that his athleticism around the pitch can manifest into something more substantial and deliver on the potential that was flagged three years ago.
Eoghan O'Gara (Dublin)
It is a measure of Dublin's depth of talent that O'Gara's absence wasn't felt as keenly as it was envisaged when he sustained a cruciate ligament tear early in the season. But O'Gara still offers the Dublin attack something very different that Jim Gavin will seek to harness again.
Paul Mannion (Dublin)
After spending more than a year out of the Dublin set-up between studies in China and a summer in Chicago, the classy Mannion is back with Dublin where the return of such a talented forward is timely after the retirement of Alan Brogan. Yet another gold-plated asset for the rest to consider in 2016.
Daithi Waters (Wexford)
A couple of years back Waters was considered one of the best Leinster players outside Dublin, his quiet midfield forcefulness troubling any set of opponents he came across. His switch to Liam Dunne's hurling squad can't be deemed a failure because he started one of their two championship games (against Kilkenny) and came on as a substitute in the other but it was brief. His return to the footballers gives them impetus as they face a Division 4 campaign.
Charlie Harrison (Sligo)
The veteran defender may be closing in on his 34th birthday this year but he'll be keen to make up for lost time after missing last season with a cruciate ligament injury.
Daniel Goulding (Cork)
Goulding has not started any of Cork's six championship games since the double-scores defeat to Kerry in the 2014 Munster final. Significantly in Peadar Healy's first game in charge he was restored and kicked five points, three from play, including the last two to seal victory over Limerick. Thus, 2016 will tell if there is a big kick left in one of Cork's most reliable finishers.
Emlyn Mulligan (Leitrim)
In keeping with the growing trend, Mulligan uprooted and left Ireland last year to tour the world, finishing up in Boston where he helped Donegal to a championship success.
Leitrim can't afford to be without anyone, let alone one of their guiding lights.