The weekend is almost here and it’s one that many would say kick starts the Irish summer. The Sunday Game returns to television screens and the All-Ireland championships truly begin. The round robin series has already started in the Leinster hurling championship and the Connacht football championship is already underway. But now the television coverage is ready to begin and the country will be gripped by G.A.A from now until September.
This weekend sees the beginning of the Ulster football championship with Tyrone taking on Down in the preliminary round. Leitrim and Roscommon also shape up in the Connacht championship while in Leinster, Wicklow face Laois and Longford take on Offaly. It should be the start of another hectic summer and since it’s the football championship up first, we will look at some of the names to look out for in this summer’s championship.
1. Kyle Coney (Tyrone)
Coney could be key to Tyrone’s fortunes this season. Mickey Harte made the most of limited resources last year and possibly overachieved in reaching an All-Ireland semi-final where they were comfortably disposed of by Mayo in the end. They were quite defensive last year but players like Darren McCurry and in particular Coney have added a lot to their attacking play. He is a player of huge potential who has been plagued by injuries since returning from Australia. He showed some of his best quality in the league and he will be one to watch for the summer if he can stay injury free.
2. Alan Brogan (Dublin)
Retaining All-Ireland titles is a very tough thing to do. Many counties have failed in recent years and this year it is the turn of Dublin to show their class by retaining their title. They are deserved odds-on favourites and Alan Brogan could be the key ingredient. A defending champion often needs something new to add to their side and a returning Alan Brogan could make that difference, especially in the absence of Ciaran Kilkenny. He is a very experienced player, with only one All-Ireland to his name and will be determined to add to his collection. He may be the man to give the Dubs that bit extra they may need to win the difficult two-in-a-row.
3. David Moran (Kerry)
Kerry need something different. Colm Cooper is unavailable for the year and a player of his calibre is all but irreplaceable. There isn’t another player of Cooper’s capability in the country so a like-for-like replacement will not work out. They need to change the way they play and finding the personnel will not be easy. David Moran is a player that could add something different. He is another one of those players who hasn’t had any sort of run at games at the top level. He was a massive underage talent and like the aforementioned Kyle Coney, if he can stay clear of injury he could add something new to the Kingdom.
4. Mark Lynch (Derry)
The Derry man was one of the best players in the league and was the driving force behind Derry’s eye-catching run to the National League Final. They were heavily beaten by Dublin but have still put themselves in a healthy position for the summer’s championship. They will be watched closely in Ulster and will be looking to build on some impressive performances. Lynch will need to carry his league form into the championship and is definitely a player to watch. He is another one who was a huge underage talent but has been inconsistent at the top level so far. He now looks to be at home at centre-forward with his point scoring being his biggest asset.
5. John Heslin (Westmeath)
One from a lesser county. Westmeath were relegated from the top tier of the league but they still possess one of Ireland’s best talents and it will be interesting to see how he performs in the championship. Heslin scored an astonishing 2-16 in a club game last year, showing how much potential he has. It’s always hard for a player to shine if they aren’t featuring in the business end of competitions but a player of Heslin’s potential should be watched closely. We have seen the likes of Declan Browne and Gary Brennan perform and get recognised when player with smaller times and Heslin could have an even greater impact. He should be watched closely.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.