The road to senior inter-county football is a long one and DCU’s men GAA team in recent years has found itself possessing some of the best footballers in the country. In 2012 the Sigerson Cup winning side could have been seen to be better than most of the inter-county panels in the country.
Possessing players such as Michael Murphy, Paul Flynn, James McCarthy and number of other players who were not only established senior players, but would be considered amongst the elite in the country.
This year, however, DCU very much used the academy to their strengths with no stand out names as of yet. There were some players who were making waves at U21 and minor grades but not the stand out names of senior football at the minute.
A number of thee players were already regular starters for their county panels before this year’s Sigerson campaign but this year has seen some of the lesser known players come of age.
Stephen O’ Brien for one has been the fulcrum in the Tipperary midfield for the past two seasons and has established himself as one of the up and coming midfielders in the country. Alongside Colin O’ Riordain from UCD they form one of the youngest and most exciting midfield partnerships in Gaelic football.
Other players such as Conor Moynagh, Conor McGraynor, Tom Flynn, Davy Byrne, Donie Smith and Mickey Quinn have all found themselves as established names in their respective senior panels.
College football has also found itself as a useful tool for county managers to assess their players as the level of competition has become immense and it finds some of the country’s best young footballers facing each other week in week out.
This alone gives young players the platform to impress and further aid their development. Players who are on the fringes of their senior sides are given another opportunity to impress and it often bares fruit. The majority of DCU’s players this year have found themselves staring in their senior sides.
Niall Murphy has found himself staring in midfield for Sligo in recent weeks, his first long run in the side since he broke into the panel three years ago. Enda Smith has risen to national prominence after a number of impressive performances for DCU and Roscommon at both U21 and senior football.
Rory Connor and Eoghan O’ Connor are now well established in the Louth senior side after breaking into the side last season.
Diarmuid O’ Connor also looks like following in his brother Cillian’s footsteps and becoming a stalwart of Mayo football after a successful league campaign and Conor McHugh continues to be tipped as a Dublin star of the future.
This year has seen DCU’s young players come of age both for DCU and for their respective county sides. Even though they may not have the number of all-star awards they show a huge amount of potential and there is no doubt they will be the names everyone talks about in the coming seasons.
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