GAA young guns; the new talent set to light up Championship 2015

Ian Maguire in action for Cork
Ian Maguire in action for Cork

George Bernard Shaw suggested that youth was wasted on the young — not so on the playing fields of Ireland where the next bunch of GAA wannabe stars is preparing for the 2015 championship.

So who will feature in the Class of 2015? There are already stand-out candidates in both codes. 

Dublin’s Cormac Costello, who missed out on the official Young Footballer of the Year award to Donegal’s Ryan McHugh last 
season, is the bookies’ favourite. 

While he has featured in seven  underage All-Ireland finals in both codes – winning All-Ireland minor and U-21 football medals – he only started one senior championship match last summer. 

Tipperary ace Colin O’Riordan is another obvious candidate. An All-Star nominee in 2014, he was magnificent for the Premier County in the All-Ireland U-21 series this spring, but his fate and that of his Tipp colleague Steven O’Brien could now depend on how Tipp perform in the Munster and All-Ireland series.

Predictably, Waterford’s Austin Gleeson, one of the stand-out performers for the newly crowned Allianz Hurling League champions, is already the 9/2 favourites to scoop the Young Hurler of the Year gong.

So who are the youngsters who have been operating just below the national radar who could make a significant impact in the summer of 2015? Much depends on where they were born.
Regardless of the how talented a young Leitrim, Carlow or Wicklow footballer is, he will get so little game time that it will be next to impossible for him to make a big enough impact to catch the public imagination.


Stephen Coen

Captained Mayo to minor All-Ireland victory over Tyrone in 2013. New Mayo bosses Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly elevated him to the senior squad this spring and he featured in a number of league ties. Arguably his development has been slightly impeded by Mayo’s woeful performance in the U-21 grade in recent seasons. 

Cian Connolly


Roscommon has a very exciting cohort of young talented footballers available. The potential of Diarmuid Murtagh, the Smith brothers, Donal and Enda, and Ultan Harney has been flagged already. But in the Division 2 league final Roscommon unveiled another potential gem in Cian Connolly, who on his full senior debut scored five points – four from placed balls – in an eye-catching performance.

Brian Fenton


Even though he wasn’t Dublin’s stand-out player on last year’s All-Ireland winning U-21 side, his ball-winning ability in the middle third of the field saw him being quickly promoted by Jim Gavin. He featured either at midfield or wing forward during the league. Virtually certain to make his championship debut his summer and will probably start on May 31. 

Ian Maguire


Cork’s midfield woes were brutally laid bare by Dublin in last month’s league final. The absence of the injured UCC star from the engine room compounded their difficulties. An all-action midfielder with all the physical attributes to make it to the top, he is likely to play a significant role in this year’s championship. 

Hugh McFadden


A native of Killybegs, McFadden was a talented underage soccer player and had spells with both Finn Harps and Sligo Rovers. A physically imposing player, he played during the league at both midfield and up front. Had a baptism of fire on his Croke Park debut against Cork in the league semi-final and is likely to be used as an impact substitute this summer if all Donegal front-line players are fit.

Cathal McShane


Man of the Match in the All-Ireland U-21 final earlier this month his second-half goal against Tipperary essentially decided the outcome. So far McShane (left) has been used sparingly by Mickey Harte at senior level but given his burgeoning confidence levels he could be the player to unhinge the Donegal defence by running at them at the business end of today’s showdown against Tyrone.

Ethan Rafferty


Kieran McGeeney is rebuilding Armagh and this 21-year-old sports science student (left) is likely to be a key figure in that process. Blooded during his season’s league campaign he kicked three points in Armagh’s Division 3 final win over Fermanagh. 

Liam Silke


A nephew of Galway’s 1998 All-Ireland winning captain Ray Silke, he made his senior championship debut against New York a few weeks ago. Only a novice at inter-county level, he embellished his reputation with his performances in defence for Corofin on their way to winning the All-Ireland club title on St Patrick’s Day. 


Chris Crummey


New Dublin hurling boss Ger Cunningham gave Crummey his chance this season and so far he has repaid the faith invested in him. The Lucan Sarsfields clubman captained the Dublin minors to a Leinster title in 2011 and is finally getting an opportunity to make an impact at senior level.

Cian Lynch


Starred on the minor side beaten by Kilkenny in last year’s All-Ireland Final, he was immediately promoted to the senior squad by TJ Ryan. A nephew of former county stars Ciaran and Pa Carey, the Patrickswell clubman hasn’t looked out of place in senior hurling despite his tender years.

Cormac Murphy 


Established himself as Cork’s first-choice wing back during the league with a series of eye-catching performance. Initially made his name while starring for UCC in the Fitzgibbon Cup. Ultimately his discovery was the highlight of the Rebels’ spring season which ended on a low note.