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10 young stars ready to step up for 2020

As another new year dawns, Donnchadh Boyle runs the rule over some of the up and coming players who can make a big impression on the football season about to unfold

Shane Walsh (Meath)

A Leaving Cert student last summer, Meath boss Andy McEntee left the Na Fianna man alone until after he completed his exams, but thought enough of the 19-year-old to throw him straight into the mix in the round four qualifier win over Clare.

Walsh was handed free-taking responsibilities that day after Mickey Newman had been forced off through injury and came off the bench against Donegal and Mayo in the Super 8s before starting against Kerry in Navan where he kicked 0-6, including three from play.

With a full pre-season under his belt, Walsh will likely play a key role as Meath prepare for a top flight campaign for the first time since 2006.

Ciaran Archer (Dublin)

The U20 player of the year in 2019, the big question is whether he will be left to see out his final year of age grade football or be fast-tracked to Dessie Farrell's senior side.

The St Maur's man could hardly have done much more in terms of staking a claim for a place with the seniors, hitting 10-35 in five games last year with 9-9 coming from play. His tallies read: 3-8 against Longford, 1-8 against Wexford, and 3-8 in the Leinster final against Laois. He hit 2-6 in the semi-final against Galway and 1-5 in the final defeat to Cork while he also scored an audacious 'Panenka' penalty for DCU's Freshers team late last year. However, there are some serious operators ahead of him in the pecking order.

Paudie Clifford (Kerry)

His talent has never been in doubt, but his performances for East Kerry as they swept to county championship honours in the Kingdom for the first time in 20 years - including winning the man of the match award in the final - meant Peter Keane and his management team couldn't ignore the Fossa man for 2020.

The 23-year-old won a Sigerson Cup with UCC last year and during that campaign he scored a cheeky headed goal. It won't be lost on Keane that throughout East Kerry's campaign, he showed a brilliant understanding with his brother David and while Kerry are blessed with plenty of forward talent, Clifford gives them another option.

Cian Johnson (Offaly)

Such is the esteem in which Cian Johnson is held that he played an O'Byrne cup game for Offaly before he had started a senior club game in the county. He lived up to the billing during his senior county bow, hitting 1-3 against Wexford.

However, Johnson's gallop was halted before it ever really got going as the county adopted a rule preventing U20 players from playing with the senior side, meaning that the Ferbane man is facing into his first full season of county football in 2020.

Johnson hit 2-3 as Ferbane won a county SFC final last year for the first time since 1994 and he is sure to be a key part of John Maughan's plans.

Darragh Canavan (Tyrone)

Canavan was with the Tyrone senior team for the early part of last year before the decision was made to let him play with the county's U20s for another season.

A brilliant underage talent, he could be ready to graduate to the senior stage as Tyrone have a few gaps to fill in their forward division. All Star and last season's top scorer Cathal McShane looks set for a switch to the AFL while Conor McAlliskey has opted out for 2020 and Ronan O'Neill also left the squad last year.

Even with Mark Bradley set to be in the mix once more, Canavan will likely see plenty of action during 2020.

Brandon Horan (Fermanagh)

After Fermanagh narrowly missed out on promotion to the top flight last spring, then Erne boss Rory Gallagher hinted that Horan could be added to the panel for the championship.

At that stage, Horan had captained his school St Michael's Enniskillen to MacRory Cup glory and would go on to lead them to All-Ireland honours.

As it happened, he didn't join the county set up last summer but the midfielder is part of Ryan 'Ricey' McMenamin's plans.

Ciaran Byrne (Louth)

Older than others on this list, Byrne (25) was tipped to make a big impact for Louth in 2019 after returning from the AFL. He played 22 times down under but saw his career hampered by injury and that bad luck followed him home as a broken ankle put a dampener on his hopes of playing for the county.

Further complications meant he didn't line out for the Wee men at all last year. A versatile player who can operate anywhere around the middle third, he will be a huge boost to Louth when he finds full fitness.

Oisin Mullin (Mayo)

Mullin pitched up at the combine held by the AFL and attended by a number of their clubs that was held in UCD last month, which underlines the esteem in which he is held.

Man of the match as Kilmaine claimed Connacht JFC honours last year, Mullin was drafted straight from the U20 set up to the senior squad by James Horan after they lost out to Galway.

A versatile defender, he made the bench for the Super 8s game against Dublin last summer.

Peadar ó Cofaigh Byrne (Dublin)

Michael Darragh Macauley is the man in possession when it comes to partnering Brian Fenton in Dublin's midfield, but with Ballyboden St Enda's still in club action, he may be given a break for the early part of the season and that could open the door for ó Cofaigh Byrne.

Standing at 6'6" and weighing almost 100kg, he has been described as an "animal" by Fenton. The Cuala man made his debut in the Super 8 game against Tyrone last year and made the bench for the drawn All-Ireland final.

Damien Gore (Cork)

Cork's late charge to claim both the minor and the Under 20 All-Ireland titles last year shone the light on their underage production line.

Along with Mark Cronin and Cathal O'Mahony, Gore was brilliant as the Rebels swept to the U20 title, scoring four points as Cork came from nine down to win by eight.

Gore, who hails from the Kilmacabea club, made his league debut last year before an ankle injury halted his progress, and hit 3-5 from play against Kerry's U20s in the McGrath last weekend.