While it’s only May, it’s been a good year for a couple of Connacht teams in particular. Galway were the best team in the country at the close of business, which feels like six years ago now never mind a couple of months.
Roscommon were fighting for Division 2 honours and even Leitrim managed to get a win and a draw in their new surroundings of Division 3. So, if we ever get back to playing football, there is plenty to look forward to out west.
Here are my five footballers who I’m tipping up for big things in Connacht…
SEAN MULKERRIN (GALWAY)
There’s no doubt that Galway have the best individual footballer in the country at the moment in Shane Walsh. He showed his true skill and athleticism in the National Football League but under Padraic Joyce, it hasn’t just been about Walsh. And the one who’s really impressed me is Sean Mulkerrin. In playing at full-back, he’s a player that Galway have needed badly. Galway have always had brilliant forwards but it’s at the back where they’ve been lacking composure. Sean has plenty of that and that’s essential for Galway.
If Galway are to win anything this year, he’s going to be one of their main men. You can throw into the mix that he hails from the Aran Islands so come championship time, he’ll be the first player from those shores to play championship football for Galway. It’s a bit like the great Kerry footballer Mick O’Connell who lived on Valentia Island and used to row his boat across to go to training and play matches. I’m sure Sean has a better mode of transport than a rowing boat but it will be great to see the Aran Islands represented in that way when it happens. Sean has been one of the most impressive players for not just Galway but in the country so far this year.
OISIN MULLIN (MAYO)
Mayo have been trying to discover a whole load of new players and to be honest, they need them all as they’re an ageing team. Fellas like Keith Higgins and Colm Boyle won’t be around forever. They have introduced a couple of new backs who’ve been impressive and one of those is Oisin Mullin. He has spent time in Australia and a couple of the AFL clubs have been keen to sign him up. Those AFL clubs look for things like fitness, agility, speed and endurance and that says a lot for Oisin.
He had the job of marking David Clifford and Conor McManus in the league and that shows you what James Horan thinks of him. Padraig O’Hora is another new face in the Mayo set-up who’s done well and he’s a proper hardy fella, which Mayo badly need. Mayo have a lot of young players coming on and it’s important for James Horan that they’re good enough for championship football. But whenever we do get championship football again, everybody should keep an eye on Oisin Mullin. He’s hugely exciting and in the words of Donald Trump, he’s going to be a big hit.
ENDA KENNY (ROSCOMMON)
One of the most impressive players coming forward from Roscommon is Enda Kenny. He’s not the former Taoiseach but his name will easily be remembered. Roscommon have a lot of talent as we’ve seen in recent years with the likes of the Smith brothers, the Daly brothers, Cathal Cregg and Cian McKeon. This lad has a lot of promise and one thing I can assure you is that Roscommon fans won’t be giving out about this Enda Kenny like they used to about his namesake.
RYAN O’ROURKE (LEITRIM)
It’s been a great 12 months or so for Leitrim with their promotion from Division 4 and a day out in Croke Park as well. They’ve also managed to hold Derry to a draw in Division 3 this year and they have a lot of talent who’ve been impressing me, including Ryan O’Rourke. He’s been the star of their team and he’s been a brilliant scorer for them over the last couple of years.
To me, he’s capable of playing at a much higher standard and from operating at left-corner forward last year, he’s now playing at centre-forward, which suits him even better. Leitrim are far from a one man team and they also have Darragh Rooney and Donal Wrynn, who have been playing very well too. But in Ryan O’Rourke, he’s a very good scorer and as he’s still only young, he’s one that they’ve got for this championship and many championships to come. Leitrim are a team who are starting to get going again and it’s great to see.
LIAM GAUGHAN (SLIGO)
Sligo have had an up and down Division 4 campaign so far as their defeat to Waterford might be the result which prevents them from being promoted. In saying that, they’ve had a couple of players who’ve impressed me so far in Red Og Murphy and in particular, Liam Gaughan. After a really bad campaign last year, Sligo have improved this year and Liam is a player that they’re going to count on a lot in the future. Paul Taylor has helped them get their act together and Liam is the type of player who can inspire Sligo in the big games in the years to come.