THE LADIES FOOTBALL year is about to kick off once again with the return of the Lidl Ladies National Football League just around the corner.

Champions Dublin begin the defence of their first-ever Division 1 title against Donegal on Saturday, 2 February as part of a whole programme of fixtures.

The league brings a fresh start and gives managers a chance to try and test new things throughout their panel and, of course, blood young players and reward rising talent with minutes,

Here’s a few few players who should really light up 2019.

Áine McDonagh (Galway)

McDonagh established herself as an exciting young player for Galway in 2018 and at the age of 19, her star is only going to continue to rise and rise in the year ahead.

McDonagh facing Niamh Collins last year.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The Moycullen ace’s work-rate is through the roof as she seamlessly transitions from midfield to the forward line. Tall and slight in stature but incredibly physical, McDonagh’s hassling and winning of turnovers are a huge asset to this team, and she often chips in with a point or two.

The 2018 Connacht senior champion is most definitely also one to watch on UCD’s O’Connor Cup team, and was pivotal as they won the league in November.

Saoirse Noonan (Cork)

The 19-year-old’s role as Ephie Fitzgerald’s “super sub” was one of the stories of the summer in the 2018 All-Ireland senior championship.

Saoirse Noonan.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

After powering through the underage ranks, Noonan had a senior debut to remember as the Nemo Rangers star fired 2-2 in one half of football. From there, she added a further 4-9 in four more championship appearances off the bench, but her All-Ireland final appearance wasn’t just as prolific. 

The dual star — she’s also an underage Ireland international and plays with Cork City WFC — is currently recovering from a nasty knee injury but as she told The42 before Christmas, she’s going to drive on in 2019: “My aim is to get on earlier or try to start, grab a place maybe.”

Olwen Carey (Dublin) 

You could pick any one of several young Dublin players to watch here but for the purpose of this list Olwen Carey must take front and centre. 

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Dublin star Olwen Carey.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The Thomas Davis 22-year-old midfielder had a superb 2018 in the Sky Blue jersey but was overlooked for an All-Star. That said, hopefully that will drive her on this year as Mick Bohan’s charges target three in-a-row.

Another midfielder who seems to have it all: her engine and sheer fitness, her strength and physicality, her hassle in the tackle and cutting runs through the middle all epitomise Dublin’s game; and she’s fond of popping up with a goal at key moments.

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Lauren McVeety (Cavan)

In Cavan, she’ll forever be remembered as the player who scored the goal to keep the Breffni county in senior football. 

Video: Sensational goal by teenager Lauren McVeety for @CavanLGFA, cooly chipping the keeper to complete a comeback from 9 points down to win the TG4 All Ireland SFC Relegation Final with Tipperary.. #Properfan@LadiesFootball pic.twitter.com/P5GoEZ06na

— Jerome Quinn (@JeromeQuinn) August 19, 2018

A minor at the time, she expertly lobbed the Tipperary goalkeeper, cool and collected as you like, completing a terrific comeback which saw James Daly’s side come from nine points down to retain their senior status and send the Premier county down.

McVeety, the sister of Cavan star Dara, finished with 1-2 from the bench that day.

Maria Canavan (Tyrone)

Maria Canavan (17) is one to keep an eye on.

Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

In Tyrone’s Ulster IFC semi-final last June, Canavan came off the bench with 38 minutes gone and by full-time, she finished top scorer with 1-7 to her name. She’s handy on the frees and can also slot a penalty or two, just as impactful starting as from the bench.

In two minutes of the Red Hand’s All-Ireland final win in Croke Park she assisted 1-1 and caught the eye alongside her cousin Áine — Peter’s daughter. Yes, she’s his niece. It really is in the blood.

Canavan also captained her club Errigal Ciaran to the Ulster minor club title in December 2017.

Source: Jerome Quinn/YouTube

Hannah O’Donoghue (Kerry)

In August 2017, O’Donoghue grabbed the headlines with a sparkling senior debut. The underage soccer international bagged 1-4 from play and well and truly caught the eye.

O’Donoghue had a senior debut to remember.

Source: Tom Beary/INPHO

2018 was slightly quieter on the senior scene for the 17-year-old sensation as she focused on her minor exploits — her scoring returns there were brilliant — and soccer with Cork City.

She was in fine goal-scoring form in late 2018 with UL and at the LGFA inter-pro tournament, a statement of intent perhaps for the year ahead. She’s a real talent and with the Kingdom looking to prove a point this year, O’Donoghue will be key.

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