10 young hurlers who impressed on the senior stage this year

AS WE REFLECT on the 2018 All-Ireland SHC, let’s take a look at 10 youngsters who made their mark on the senior stage this summer.

With a number of young stars impressing from the likes of Limerick, Cork and Kilkenny, we’ve decided to go with one player from each county. All players included are 23 or younger. 

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1. Darragh Fitzgibbon (Cork)

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Fitzgibbon is in line to collect his first All-Star after a stunning second campaign with the Cork senior side. The 21-year-old was a key man as Cork retained their Munster crown, scoring two points from midfield in the win over Clare. Fitzgibbon is hoping to lead a talented Rebels U21 side to All-Ireland glory this weekend against Tipperary in Limerick.

2. Kyle Hayes (Limerick)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

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Any number of John Kiely’s young side could be selected for this honour, but Hayes gets the nod after winning man-of-the-match in last Sunday’s win over Galway. Hayes is just 20 but has featured in minor, U21 and senior All-Ireland finals since 2016. The versatile Kildimo/Pallaskenry star lined out at full-forward in the minor decider, centre-back in last year’s U21 success and at centre-forward at the weekend. He’s not even close to reaching his full potential.

3. Rory O’Connor (Wexford)

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

O’Connor made his debut in 2017 and took his game to new heights this season. Davy Fitzgerald generally employed O’Connor on the Wexford half-forward line and he also assumed free-taking duties – scoring 10 points in the All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Clare.

4. Ian Galvin (Clare)

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Galvin won a Fitzgibbon Cup title with UL earlier this year and brought his good form into the Clare senior set-up. He made several important interventions for the Banner during their run to the All-Ireland semi-finals, including his crucial goal that helped end Tipperary’s summer. He made big impacts in both of Clare’s semi-finals against Galway, bagging two points in either game after joining the action off the bench.

5. Billy McCarthy (Tipperary)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

McCarthy made his senior championship for Tipperary against Limerick in May and was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing campaign for the Premier. He started all four of Tipp’s Munster round-robin games, scoring a goal in their last game against Clare. McCarthy is facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines after suffering a serious knee injury during a club game last month.

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6. Conor Whelan (Galway)

Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

He’s on the scene for so long at this stage, it’s hard to believe Whelan is only 21-years-old. The Kinvara clubman played three years at minor level and first broke onto the Galway senior team at 18. He remains one of Galway’s most consistent forwards and had a wonderful semi-final replay against Clare, while he bagged a late goal in the final defeat to Limerick.

7. Eoghan Cahill (Offaly)

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The Birr native plays outfield with his club, but was Offaly’s outstanding player this season between the posts. He conceded five goals on his first championship start against Galway in Tullamore, yet came close to winning man-of-the-match after a heroic display in the nets. Cahill has an extremely long puck of the ball in his armoury and scored several long-range frees during the season.

8. Richie Leahy (Kilkenny)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

An option for the Cats at midfield or half-forward, Leahy was in and out of the Kilkenny team during the summer. Part of a new crop of Kilkenny youngsters who’ve forced themselves into Brian Cody’s plans over the last year or two, Leahy bagged 0-4 off the bench in the All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Limerick.

9. Paddy Smyth (Dublin)

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

In a difficult campaign for Dublin where they came out the wrong side of a few tight games, Smyth stood out on his debut year in the corner. The Clontarf defender captained the Sky Blues to Leinster minor glory in 2016 but he’s quickly risen through the ranks and is highly rated by Pat Gilroy.

10. Tom Devine (Waterford)

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

At 23, Devine is the oldest player to make this list but he missed the 2017 season after deciding to spend the summer Stateside. The Modeligo clubman was a major physical presence for the Deise at full-forward in a year where they were decimated by injuries. He bagged 1-5 across four games in Munster and was one of the few Waterford players to see his stock rise during a campaign where they finished bottom of the round-robin format.

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