By Eoghan Cormican
Had this been any other summer, the various provincial minor football championships would be in full flow.
Phase 2 in Munster would be well underway; All-Ireland champions Cork, provincial champions Kerry, and whichever team emerged from the initial round-robin series vying for a place in the decider.
Connacht is run off on a round-robin basis, Leinster is split into three groups, while Ulster is probably the most convoluted of the lot with its backdoors and sidedoors.
Of course, all these competitions are on hold for the moment. Were they not, here’s the players we’d likely be talking about.
Eoghan Nash (Cork)
The sole member of last year’s All-Ireland final winning team eligible to participate in Cork’s title defence – if there is a title defence.
The Douglas midfielder endured a difficult start to last year’s campaign; he was withdrawn at half-time in the 16-point annihilation to Kerry in the Munster Phase 2 series and was black-carded five minutes into the second-half of their subsequent outing against Clare.
Nash found his feet during the All-Ireland series and featured in the wins over Monaghan, Mayo, and Galway. He would certainly have been one of the go-to players on this year’s team.
Daniel O’Flaherty (Galway)
Was midfield on the Galway side which came agonisingly close to lifting the Tom Markham Cup in 2019. Indeed, O’Flaherty is the lone member of last year’s starting team underage again this year.
Tall, strong, and athletic, he was a central component in Salthill-Knocknacarra’s run to county minor glory last October.
Just a week before the lockdown came into effect, he was part of the St Joseph’s team which won the Connacht colleges senior B crown.
Jordan Kissane (Kerry)
A player of real promise is Austin Stacks’ Jordan Kissane.
He captained the Tralee club to county U14 Féile glory in 2017.
A year later, he captained Tralee CBS to the Kerry colleges U15 title, a game in which he kicked 2-4. Kissane – a national sprint champion – was at half-forward on the Tralee CBS team which earlier this year ended the school’s 13-year wait for Corn Uí Mhuirí glory.
He had 1-3 from play on the afternoon of their final win over St Brendan’s, and was second only to hat-trick hero Conor Hayes in the scoring stakes.
Eoghan Frayne (Meath)
A handful of players from last year’s Meath starting team are eligible to again line out for the county minor side in 2020. Included in that group is Eoghan Frayne.
The Summerhill youngster oversaw the dead-ball duties for a 2019 campaign which ended at the provincial quarter-final stage.
The Royals were expected to progress much further this season after last year’s U16 side edging out Dublin to win the Gerry Reilly Leinster U16 competition.
Frayne was joint top-scorer in the final victory over the Dubs, kicking two frees, two 45s, and two from play.
Eoin Wilde (Dublin)
A talented dual player who has represented Dublin in both codes at development squad level. First started to turn heads when captaining Skerries Harps to the 2017 Dublin U14 Féile title.
Last year, he was a regular in the Dublin U16 football side which reached the final of the aforementioned Gerry Reilly Cup.
Would have come as quite a surprise if he did not feature for the Dublin minors at some point this summer.
Ronan Hughes (Mayo)
The Neale youngster was in and out of the Mayo minor team last year.
He was selected at centre-forward for the extra-time Connacht final win over Galway.
Hughes came off the bench during the county’s subsequent All-Ireland quarter and semi-final outings against Dublin and Cork respectively.
Shane Kingston (Cork)
Not to be mistaken with his Cork hurling namesake. Like that Kingston lined out for the Cork minors in both codes in 2015, Ballinora’s Shane Kingston was set to do likewise in 2020.
He was corner-back on last year’s Cork minor hurling team and a member of the football panel.
Back in 2018, Kingston captained the West Cork U15 football development squad panel to Humphrey Kelleher Memorial Cup success.
He wouldn’t have been the sole dual player in Bobbie O’Dwyer’s squad as Kanturk’s Colin Walsh, who featured in our hurling pick last week, is also a member of both Cork camps.
Oisin Savage (Down)
Down didn’t enjoy a very lengthy minor campaign last year, failing to safeguard decent leads in their games against the two teams – Monaghan and Tyrone – who would go on to contest the Ulster decider.
Oisin Savage was on target in both those games and the Loughinisland clubman is underage again this year.
He impressed for the county U16s last season following the minors’ exit.
Matthew Downey (Derry)
The Lavey forward was Derry’s top-scorer during their 2019 Ulster championship campaign. H
e also top-scored on the afternoon of Lavey’s Derry county minor final win last October – their first in 35 years. He played a key role in Derry’s U16 Buncrana Cup final victory over Donegal early last year.
Would have been the focal point of their forward unit this summer.
Indeed, prior to the cessation of Gaelic games activity in mid-March, full-forward Downey had been appointed Oak Leaf minor captain for 2020.
Daragh Nagle (Clare):
Such is the format of the Munster minor football championship and the number of games it affords the so-called weaker counties, Clare’s 2020 minor footballers – from a developmental point of view – are one of the counties who will feel the loss of action more than most.
Last year’s restructure meant Clare played six championship games before bowing out – and that included running eventual All-Ireland champions Cork incredibly close in Ennis.
Half-forward Nagle started five of those games, and was on the scoresheet for three of them.
Underage again this year, he, along with St Joseph’s Doora Barefield clubmate Eoghan Talty, would have been charged with spearheading the Banner attack.