The Young Guns who could light up Championship 2018
BY SHANE STAPLETON
The big guns are almost always in the limelight, but other players quietly make a huge impact too.
For every David Clifford that the world and its mother knows about, there's another player coming in under the radar. We’ve identified a number of guys with big summers ahead of them — some new, but with others rising in recent times. Please let us know via social media who you would add to the list, and why.
Lee Brennan (Tyrone)
One of the footballers whose quality is immediately evident as soon as they first gain possession. Brennan played just three minutes of the spring campaign in 2017 but has became a mainstay a year later. Tyrone folk are well aware of his class, as highlighted best in his haul of 3-14 (3-8 from play) against Strabane Sigersons last summer during a Division 1 league clash. With Sean Cavanagh retired, Mickey Harte needs a new threat in the square, and he may have the answer in this speedy, robust left-footer.
Colm Basquel (Dublin)
Within Dublin GAA circles, Basquel has been regarded as a hot prospect for a number of years now. The Ballyboden St Enda’s man scored 1-1 when helping his club to the AIB All-Ireland club title against Castlebar Mitchels in 2016. A scorer with poise and finesse, Jim Gavin may now trust Basquel to step up into the void of chief scorer, especially now that Bernard Brogan is sidelined with a knee injury.
Eoin O’Donoghue (Mayo)
Mayo have been robbed of the talents of Lee Keegan for the next couple of months after shoulder surgery, so it was vital that new options were developed in the defence. With Keith Higgins lining out for the hurlers during the early part of the year, O’Donoghue has had plenty of opportunities to nail down a spot in Stephen Rochford’s backline. The Belmullet man is well capable of scoring from defence and looks set to make his championship debut this summer.
Ethan Rafferty (Armagh)
Has shown some serious class this year, and before 2018 too. That cultured left foot, his accuracy, his strength on the ball, these are all reasons why Raffery could be set for a huge summer for Armagh.
Luke Loughlin (Westmeath)
Loughlin looks to be making a real name for himself with Westmeath, another scoring threat to an attack already containing Kieran Martin, Ger Egan, John Heslin and and Co. Loughlin was part of the Westmeath minor side that reached the Leinster final in 2013, and in 2016 The Downs clubman scored three points against Roscommon as New York almost caused a massive shock in the Connacht SFC clash, only losing by 1-15 to 0-17. Colin Kelly seems to be getting plenty out of this young gun.
Padraig McCormack (Longford)
Younger brother of star forward Sean, who is currently out injured with a quad issue, Padraig has been rock-solid at full-back. The Killoe Young Emmet’s man is the sort of player who likes to tear out in front of his man and drive out with possession. Longford, who have not reached a provincial semi-final since 1988, play Meath in the Leinster opener and McCormack will need to be at his powerful best.
Cillian O’Sullivan (Meath)
O’Sullivan has always looked a quality footballer but he seems to have really matured into a leader for the Royals. His ability to carry the ball into dangerous territory and identify the right option has been apparent throughout 2018 — he is a great foil for Graham Reilly. Cian is among three brothers who all play different codes, with Mark lining out for the hurlers and Hugh part of the Ireland under-20 rugby set-up. But Cillian will be doing his best to lead Meath past Longford and back into a Leinster semi-final, most likely against Dublin.
Eoghan Kerin (Galway)
The 24-year-old is one of the most abrasive defenders in Connacht, and showed that right throughout the spring and in seasons before it. At just 5’8”, he may not be the tallest defender, but certainly he’s a powerful proposition. In a Galway side very much on an upward trajectory, Kerin’s steel is precisely the type of quality Kevin Walsh is building the Tribesmen’s future on.