Cian O’Neill announced a 39-man Kildare senior football panel last week, and players from the 2018 All-Ireland winning U20 side make up more than a quarter of it. While some of them will inevitably not feature to heavy for the Lilywhites in the season to come, there is plenty to suggest that there are some who can slot in right away for the league at least.
In all, there are 15 players included in the panel who weren’t part of Kildare’s championship panel in 2018, so the upcoming O’Byrne Cup games will provide a platform for some of them to make a good first impression.
KildareNow has looked at each of the players who have been added to O’Neill’s plans for the weeks to come.
Mark Barrett (Ballymore Eustace)
One of the stars of Kildare’s run to the All-Ireland U20 Football Championship title, Barrett looks more than capable of stepping up to senior level almost right away. He was one of six Kildare players named on the ‘Eirgrid 20 U20’ panel.
Tony Archbold (Celbridge)
The Celbridge flier was another key performer on the Lilywhites’ U20 side, and he carried through his good form into this year’s club championship. He will benefit hugely from being in the senior setup in the coming weeks.
Brian McLoughlin (Clane)
He was let go from the senior panel following the O’Byrne Cup campaign last year, but the Clane star returns an even better player after starring in the U20 campaign. He showed his class with a Man of the Match performance against Naas in the recent U21 Championship final, and his ability to kick frees off his left is something that has been lacking in the panel.
Padraig Fogarty (St Laurence’s)
The big Larries man is someone who Cian O’Neill rates highly and has always retained an interest in since he took over as manager more than three years ago, and Fogarty finally strung together some consistent displays this summer with his club following some injury problems in recent years. He has the ability to dominate defences all by himself when on his game.
Eoghan O’Flaherty (Carbury)
He is actually coming off one of his quieter years for his club, but O’Flaherty will be welcomed back with open arms by all Kildare supporters. He spent two seasons away from the panel but is back in contention now. He provides some vital experience that looks slightly absent following Eamonn Callaghan’s retirement over the winter.
Aaron Masterson (Moorefield)
It’s absolutely no surprise that Masterson has been called into the panel following a frankly ridiculous 18 months where he was won two county senior titles, a Leinster club title and has captained Kildare to Leinster and All-Ireland glory at U20 level, leading to a Player of the Year nomination. He has proven that he has an engine to carry his big frame all over the field, and his passing and shooting is top class also.
Ben McCormack (Sarsfields)
There was huge excitement when McCormack burst onto the intercounty scene in 2017 as he netted within a few minutes of his league debut against Meath, but injuries wrecked his year somewhat. He couldn’t represent the county this year due to apprenticeship commitments, but he certainly presents an option unlike any other in the Kildare forward line thanks to his pace and finishing ability.
DJ Earley (Monasterevan)
The diminutive defender is still under 20 again next year, so perhaps he might be in the panel on a developmental basis. He certainly has the makings of a fine intercounty back due to his physicality and bravery, and going in with the seniors will undoubtedly help his progression.
Padraig Nash (Monasterevan)
Nash was one of the stars of this year’s Intermediate Championship in Kildare as he led Monasterevan all the way to the final, and O’Neill was present for many of his finest displays. Working under Davy Burke during the Kildare U20s campaign seems to have brought his game on no end, and he has married impressive scoring ability with a ravenous workrate in the last year.
Conor Hartley (Sarsfields)
Hartley was impressing with Kildare when he was still a teenager back in 2017, but a serious knee injury in that year’s club championship hampered his progression. He spent last summer in the States, but his performances for the Sash in the U21 Championship outlined his class. O’Neill is a big fan of the UCD student, and he offers huge versatility which is key in the current intercounty game.
Jason Gibbons (Kilcock)
Gibbons was a mainstay of the successful U20s side, and he was an unsung hero for many. He is a very traditional centre-back in the sense that he holds the number six position at all times, but his composure and effectiveness means he is certainly worth looking at for O’Neill.
David Malone (Raheens)
Many felt that the Raheens man should have been called in at the beginning of 2018 such were his impressive displays as he helped the Caragh club to the Intermediate Championship title. He was key for Colin Ward’s Kildare junior side that won a provincial title this year, and he is certainly an interesting prospect in one of the half-forward positions that are so competitive right now for Kildare.
Kevin O’Callaghan (Celbridge)
The big full-forward looks to have all the physical attributes for the intercounty game, and he showcased some of that during Celbridge’s run to the championship semi-final this year. He doesn’t have a wealth of underage experience behind him, but he presents something of a wildcard option on the edge of the square if Kildare want a big man in there.
Adam Tyrrell (Moorefield)
One of the standout footballers in Kildare club football this year, Tyrrell will be welcomed back into the county panel following a two-year absence after he made his initial breakthrough in 2016. His finishing and consistency have improved since his involvement in Cian O’Neill’s first year, and he is another good attacker in the mix in what promises to be a competitive forward line.
John O’Toole (Monasterevan)
The Monasterevan defender was restricted in his involvement for club and county during the early stages of this year due to injury, but he battled back well and came on to play a pivotal role for Kildare in the U20 final win over Mayo. His flexibility in defence plays in his favour, and there is no reason to suggest he isn’t up to making the step up.
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