Who are likely to be the stars of this year's Championship?
1 JACK McCAFFREY (Dublin)
YES, out of the under-21 bracket and as a former Young Footballer of the Year (2013) (inset), not in any way an unknown quantity. But after a disappointing second album last year, looks back to his exhilarating, jet-heeled best. Arguably the most efficient – and certainly the most exciting - ‘transition’ player in Gaelic football.
2 DIARMUID O’CONNOR (Mayo)
EVAN REGAN would probably have been Mayo’s offering to this collection had he not suffered the remarkable misfortune of two collar bone breaks. O’Connor though, started last year’s Championship in the Mayo team against New York and whilst not quite so prolific as his brother, Cillian, brings a level of calm and
age-belying street smarts to their half-forward line.
3 COLIN O’RIORDAN (Tipperary)
NOMINATED for an All Star last year for some sparkling displays, predominantly from wing-back, O’Riordan (inset) should now take his underage midfield double-act with Steven O’Brien to the big stage. An awesome athlete, with a beautiful strike of a football – already in the ‘he’d get his game on any team in Ireland’, bracket.
4 DONAL KEOGAN (Meath)
HARDLY a novice at 24 but in his first season captaining the Royals and given the extra responsibility of playing at centre-back this year, it’s a huge season for Keogan. Pacey, good in possession and an accurate tackler, he has been given the tag ‘the one current Meath player who would make the Dublin team’ by some of the Royals own fans.
5 CATHAL McSHANE (Tyrone)
“I’LL tell you what …. McShane is some man,” said Tyrone under-21 manager, Fergal Logan after their eventful All-Ireland U21FC final win over Tipperary in Parnell Park a couple of Saturdays back. Didn’t fully penetrate Mickey Harte’s spring thinking but if not quite ready to step into the stylistically similar, Seán Cavanangh’s shoes yet, certainly now capable of aiding and abetting.