Shane and Michael try to predict the hurlers to watch in 2024, with Adam Screeney and Ben Cunningham high on the list for Offaly and Cork.
Hurling’s future is in great hands if the quality of action seen in recent minor and Under-20 hurling championships is anything to go by.
In Sunday’s finals at Semple Stadium, James Hegarty of Clare, Galway’s Aaron Niland, Adam Screeney of Offaly, and Cork’s Ben Cunningham showed glimpses of their potential.
Below is a list of some young stars, and please feel free to comment with your suggestions.
Adam Screeney and Dan Ravenhill (Offaly)
Screeney is like a young Joe Deane, and any venue crackles with excitement when he gets on the ball.
Ravenhill stood up when counted in the Under-20 final, and has the size and quality to step into senior action very soon.
Patrick, Mark and Padraig Fitzgerald, Jack Twomey (Waterford)
Three Fitzgeralds who have all tasted senior action and are stars for the present.
Patrick has already played in an All-Ireland club semi-final at Croke Park and started the final Munster group game against Tipperary, with his class obvious to all.
Jack Twomey was the sole youngster to play Waterford’s last Munster Under-20 game against Tipp this year and bagged a couple of goals on a day when none of the aforementioned Fitzgeralds were on duty.
Micheál Mullins and Ben Cunningham (Cork)
These two stars were crucial for Cork all year in their victorious Under-20 campaign.
The Munster final against Clare will long be remembered for Mullins’ brilliant goal after a swashbuckling run, and he followed this up with a crucial major at the start of the second half against Offaly.
Cunningham’s dad Ger was Hurler of the Year 37 years ago and the youngster is playing as if he could emulate that achievement.
A huge man, Venus-fly trap like reactions, quick across the turf, very skilful, and a player for the big occasions as seen when they needed inspiration against both Clare and Offaly.
Cian Byrne (Wexford)
A quality young player with dash and drive. Will be a Wexford senior very soon.
Jeff Neary, Billy Drennan, Timmy Clifford and Gearoid Dunne (Kilkenny)
The latter trio have all featured for Kilkenny seniors in 2023 and seem likely to have a growing influence under Derek Lyng.
Neary has that touch of class that could see him wearing the senior shirt in the short term.
James Hegarty and Eoghan Gunning (Clare)
Hegarty was impressive for the minors in 2022 and followed that up with another excellent season, culminating in All-Ireland glory last weekend.
A powerhouse at centre-back and a player that the Clare public will hope can step into the centre-back slot that will eventually be vacated by John Conlon.
Gunning is a tigerish corner-back that Banner supporters and neutrals alike cannot help but warm to.
A Cathal Barrett-esque defender who loves to get out in front of this man.
Shane O’Brien, Adam English, Colin Coughlan (Limerick)
Three of the most promising youngsters in the country and any or all could have a big say for Limerick during this year’s senior championship.
Aaron Niland, Jason Rabbitte (Galway)
Neither Niland nor Rabbitte had quite the influence they would have wanted against Clare last Sunday, but both gave snippets of their obvious class.
Niland is a scoring machine and will have his brother Evan as a sounding board as he graduates to senior level, while any Rabbitte from Athenry will not lack for advice. Two for the future.
Darragh Stakelum, Luke Shanahan, Sean Kenneally, Paddy McCormack (Tipperary)
Stakelum is a midfield dynamo and brings energy like his brother Conor, but also has an eye for a score.
Shanahan is a pacy corner-back and something that Tipperary need more of, while Kenneally is a ball-winner and skilful citog in the forward line.
Paddy McCormack, a brother of Dan’s, also has that Midas touch and a great hand under a high ball.
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