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New star pointing Armagh forward

By John Campbell

Michael Stevenson was unknown outside the confines of Armagh until he masterminded their stunning victory over Down in Division One of the National Football League at the weekend.

Now following his memorable debut the precociously talented Derrytrasna youngster is poised to take a lead role in seeking to preserve the team’s status in the top tier.

When Armagh travel to Ballybofey to meet Donegal on Easter Sunday, nothing less than a victory will ensure an extension of their tenure among the elite and Stevenson is eager to play his part in what he hopes will prove a fruitful conclusion to the campaign.

His six points from all angles and distances against James McCartan’s side hinted at a level of marksmanship that is right out of the Oisin McConville scoring manual.

But it’s from another Orchard County legend that Stevenson admits he derives his inspiration.

He had the name of Kieran McGurk imprinted on his wrist during Saturday night’s showdown against the Mourne county, a visible reminder of the drive, encouragement and ambition he has inherited from a player who gave magnificent service to Armagh in the 70’s and 80’s.

Sadly, McGurk died from a heart attack last year but for his Sarsfields club colleague Stevenson his memory will always loom large and particularly so when he dons the orange jersey.

“Kieran set a wonderful example for other players and he was brilliant for Armagh. I have heard an awful lot of talk about him and I like to look upon him as a role model.

“He took great pride in playing for the county and it was a great thrill for me to be involved in that win for Down,” says Stevenson.

His father Denis was in the Armagh side that lost to Dublin in the 1977 All-Ireland final.

But while Stevenson jnr is a hungry forward, his father was a tenacious corner-back who went on to make a huge impact in coaching after his playing days.

“I enjoy playing up front and even though there was a bit of pressure on Armagh to get something out of last Saturday’s match I did not feel unduly fazed when having to take the free-kicks. I knew it was a big opportunity,” explains Stevenson.

He certainly has his feet on the ground, though, and is conscious that Armagh are currently missing several key players.

“I know I am getting my chance because of the overall circumstances but I want to make the most of it.

“Normally I am a confidence player — I think you have to have a certain level of belief if you want to do things especially at county level,” reflects Stevenson.

When Armagh go to Donegal, Stevenson will travel with an endorsement of his talent from manager Paddy O’Rourke ringing in his ears.

“Michael and young Caolan Rafferty did very well for us against Down, you could not ask more of them.

“These two guys have been making the most of their opportunities,” states O’Rourke.

Belfast Telegraph

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