With the inter-county season heading for the business end, Michael McMullan lists some players to watch out for in the championship for a variety of reasons.
Lachlan Murray (Derry)
EVERYBODY knows Shane McGuigan and what he can do. Elsewhere, Niall Toner turned him 0-6 from last season into a regular starting spot. While his goals got Derry out of sticky spots against Louth and Dublin, he is more of a worker outfield.
That’s why Lachlan Murray could be Derry’s answer inside if McGuigan continues his play anywhere role. Murray kicked pressure points against both Tyrone and Dublin this year and bagged a goal in Croke Park last season. The pace he brings and his low placing of goal chances could add another dimension to a Derry team who are now the hunted.
Daire Newcombe (Dublin)
THIS time last year, not many people outside the capital knew who Lee Gannon was and he ended up a contender for Young Player of the Year. This year, it’s been a breakthrough for Daire Newcombe who played all but one game under Dessie Farrell as the Dubs sealed promotion back to the top flight.
A former u-20 runner up from four years ago, he has hit 0-4 this season to sneak into the top ten scorers.
With Eoin Murchan, Tom Lahiff and Jack McCaffrey all vying for a defensive berth, it will be interesting to see if Newcombe can follow in Gannon’s footsteps.
David McBrien (Mayo)
THE Ballaghaderreen man is another example of how Mayo don’t do transition. They always seem to pluck players from almost nowhere and plonk them into a regular spot. Gone are Oisin Mullin and Lee Keegan from their defence, but new manager Kevin McStay has unearthed McBrien from a 27-month injury hiatus. He made his debut in a hammering of Galway, but the quad injury forced him out and he is only getting back. His versatility makes him an invaluable addition. He can mark the big and the nimble man, leaving him a ready-made number three ahead of yet another search for Sam.
Darragh Canavan (Tyrone)
HE’S one of those you’d travel to see up close in live action. He has balance, vision, can finish and can stand up for himself. The Red Hands have always been laced with attacking flair and Darren McCurry needs an accomplice firing by his side of Tyrone are to shake off their inconsistent tag and challenge for the Anglo Celt Cup and beyond. He has amassed all but four of his 0-20 tally from play to date and Tyrone fans will be excited to see what he has to offer in the coming weeks.
Odhran Murdock (Down)
ONE result that raised an eyebrow or two was Tyrone’s exit from the u-20 campaign. Scratch the surface and Down’s Odhran Murdock is one of the reasons why.
Conor Laverty has built the Mourne midfield engine room around him before putting in on hold to focus on the u-20 preparation.
The Burren man, one of eight on the u-20 team, has scored 3-6 on senior duty including a stellar performance against Derry in the McKenna Cup semi-final.
Down have been away from the top for too long and I’ll be interested to see how much impact Murdock can have on them having a decent championship run this season.
Conor Turbitt (Armagh)
WHILE injured talisman Rian O’Neill tops the scoring charts, it’s Stefan Campbell and Conor Turbitt who lead the Orchard scoring charge from play. ‘Soupy’ is established but ‘Turbo’ is slowly getting that way after shooting St Ronan’s, Lurgan to Hogan Cup glory. Manager Mickey Donnelly sang his praises and when he was Derry u-20 boss, he just about got over the line on a night in Owenbeg when Turbitt was on fire. Armagh fans will hope Kieran McGeeney can hand him a regular spot and hang his hat on him as a long-term inside forward.
ONE glance at Fermanagh’s season and you see consistency hitting you straight in the face. At the heard of that is Ultan Kelm who has burled his entire 3-12 tally from play.
Darragh McGurn missed a spell with injury and Sean Quigley has been their goal savour on occasions, not more so than the late one to sink Down in stoppage time.
But Kelm has been the constant. From playing up top to his use of the ball, he has been excellent and Derry must beware when their title defence visits Brewster Park later this month. Gaels across the land will look out for his name every week from now on.