With the pre-season provincial tournaments and the Higher Education Leagues out of the way, the eagerly awaited Sigerson cup kicks back into full swing this week. Every year the competition sees teams jam-packed with an abundance of young inter-county stars battle it out for what is to be considered to be the most coveted piece of silverware in college GAA. Here's a selection of just some of the exciting talent that will be on view over the coming weeks.
Emmet O'Conghaile - NUI Maynooth – Dublin
A classic high-fielding midfielder, O'Conghaile comes from the same crop of young Dublin footballing talent such as Ciaran Kilkenny and Jack McCaffrey, but has yet to make the same mark at senior level as his star contemporaries have. However, with a solid O'Byrne Cup campaign under his belt following an injury ravaged 2014, there is a feeling amongst many in the GAA circles in the capital, that the Lucan Sarsfields clubman may finally ripen and command a more regular spot in Jim Gavin's starting fifteen this term. With that particular objective high on his agenda, the 21-year-old will be eager to impress in Sigerson action for the Kildare university outfit.
Tom Flynn – DCU - Galway
He may well come from a part of Galway more associated with hurling than football, but Athenry native Flynn is one of the most exciting young midfielders in the land at present. A two time under 21 All-Ireland medal winner, he was named Cadbury's Hero of the Future in 2011. A towering presence in the middle of the park, Flynn captained DCU to the Independent.ie Higher Education Senior Football League Division One title before Christmas and so will be looking to play a pivotal role in helping Niall Moyna's side build on that success with a first Sigerson Cup triumph since 2012.
Cillian O'Connor – UUJ – Mayo
Mayo star O'Connor will line out for pre-tournament favourites UUJ having decided to add to the primary school teaching qualification he earned at St. Pat's, by undertaking a Masters in Sport & Exercise Psychology at the Antrim based university.
Winner of back to back All-Stars Young Footballer of the Year Awards in 2011 and 2012, the Ballintubber man was last year's championship top scorer with an impressive tally of 5-36 and is looking likely to replicate such form in this year's Sigerson Cup having enjoyed a rather prolific spell in front of goal in the Ulster side's recent McKenna Cup campaign.
Jack McCaffrey - UCD – Dublin
Now three years into a Medicine degree, Clontarf clubman McCaffrey's rise has been meteoric since arriving on the inter-county scene two years ago with him already having National League, Leinster and All-Ireland medals to his name along with the title of 2013 All Stars Young Footballer of the Year. The 21-year-old wing back missed out on John Divily's side's recent O'Byrne Cup campaign through injury but will now be seeking to help the Belfield men go one better this time around by going all the way to the final after last year's feeble semi-final exit at the hands of UUJ.
Ryan McHugh – IT Sligo – Donegal
In an era when size and physicality are king, McHugh's intelligent and skilful style of play is simply a breath of fresh air for Gaelic football purists. Currently in the process of completing a Business degree, the 20-year old Kilcar man won the All-Stars Young Footballer of the Year gong last season after helping Donegal to their second All-Ireland final appearance in the space of three years, as well as a Man of the Match display in their semi-final triumph over Dublin.
Under the tutelage of their father Martin, he and his brother Mark will be key for Sligo ten years on from when their county teammates Christy Toye and Karl Lacey lead the Westerners to their last triumph in the famous old competition.