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Crossmaglen trio including Oisin McConville's nephew prove Armagh have bright future: Vernon

 

Rising stars: Rian and Oisin O’Neill (pictured) have been hailed by Armagh legend Charlie Vernon
Rising stars: Rian and Oisin O’Neill (pictured) have been hailed by Armagh legend Charlie Vernon
Armagh legend Charlie Vernon
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Charlie Vernon may have taken his leave of Armagh after 14 years in the tangerine jersey but he is in no doubt that a new generation of players is destined to make an impact at county level.

Vernon, now 32, plans to channel his energies into the Armagh Harps club for the immediate future but is adamant that a fresh raft of talent is about to make an impact on the Ulster Club Championship scene before flourishing within the more demanding inter-county sector.

Having observed the manner in which Crossmaglen Rangers demolished Ballymacnab in the second half of their senior County Championship final, Vernon's previously held view that the O'Neill brothers Oisin and Rian, along with Cian McConville, nephew of the legendary Oisin, can pave the way to success was further cemented.

"I think that Cian McConville is an exceptionally talented player who is poised to go places and we already know that the O'Neills are a class act," stated Vernon.

The Rangers trio will have key roles in Saturday's first Ulster Club Championship quarter-final at the Athletic Grounds (7.30pm) against newly-crowned Monaghan champions Clontibret and he views this as another big step in their progress.

"I think that the experience these players will gain in the Ulster Championship will stand to them. They will be coming up against a Clontibret side that deprived Scotstown of five-in-a-row and have top-class players in people like Conor McManus, Vinny Corey and Dessie Mone," pointed out Vernon.

Oisin O'Neill missed out on action in the earlier part of the year but turned in an immense performance in Crossmaglen Rangers' win over Ballymacnab in the Armagh final, and Vernon believes he can be a key figure in the Orchard County side.

"There is no doubt that Oisin is a big player who can have a major impact on games, and we have all seen what Rian can do," pointed out Vernon.

Vernon has played down speculation that he might move into coaching or management in the near future.

"No, family and work commitments were my reasons for stepping away from the inter-county scene. I have two children and I am living in Magherafelt now," said Vernon, one of the most popular Armagh players ever.

"I might be tempted along the way maybe to look after an Under-16s side or something like that but we will see how things go in the meantime.

"Obviously work and the commute to training and playing with Armagh took up a lot of time, but I am just readjusting now."

And he expresses the hope that players who come into the Armagh side will share in the good fortune which he himself enjoyed.

"I consider myself extremely lucky to have shared a dressing room with top-class players, among whom were some real characters," he said.

"There is no bond like a dressing room bond, and since I came into the side in 2005 until this year I have regarded myself as privileged to have played alongside players who were great competitors and tremendous colleagues. I am very grateful for that.

"It's something that I will carry with me always."

Meanwhile, Derrygonnelly Harps ace Shane McGullion is expected to be fit to face Tyrone champions Trillick in Sunday's Ulster Club Championship quarter-final.

He picked up an injury in his team's preliminary round win over Cargin but is responding to treatment.

In overcoming Cargin, Brendan Rasdale's team recorded only their second win in eight years' involvement in the Ulster Club series, and they see their mission against Trillick as a defining task in this sector.

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