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Hot-shot O’Neill can get upbeat Armagh off to a flying start



Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney has been hoping that his wish to see a greater spread of scorers within his side might be granted.

Yet even at this embryonic stage of the season this looks more a probability than a possibility.

In the two matches against Cavan and Tyrone in the McKenna Cup, seven Armagh players scored in each with Rian O’Neill leading the way with 0-11 in all although 10 of these points came from frees.

Nonetheless the appetite that his forwards in general have been showing encourages McGeeney as he prepares for tonight’s second meeting with Cavan in the course of a month only this time in the more demanding Allianz Football League Division Two.

While Armagh’s sharpshooters have been in form, their defence has leaked rather more than McGeeney might have anticipated but he is certainly not unduly worried as Mickey Graham’s team travel to the Athletic Grounds in the hope of reversing that earlier setback at Kingspan Breffni.

Rian O’Neill, Conor Turbitt and Stefan Campbell are again expected to lead the charge for Armagh scores tonight, while Aidan Forker and Brendan Donaghy will deploy their combined experience in helping to shore up the Orchard defence.

The defection of several players from the Cavan squad is common knowledge at this stage and while Graham admits that he could be doing with their experience and craft, he is, as he puts it himself, “getting on with the job”.

The belief that Cavan have been hung out to dry following the exodus of players is more a matter of conjecture than anything else.

The fact is that in Gearoid McKiernan, Padraig Faulkner, Luke Fortune, Oisin Kiernan, Ciaran Brady, Martin Reilly, Conor Madden and skipper-cum-goalkeeper Raymond Gallagher, the Breffni side have a batch of players who can stand alongside the best of them.

McKiernan can on his day be a midfield colossus, Faulkner is an old school defender, Brady is a capable creator while Reilly’s vision, distribution and score-taking are assets that any manager would prize.

Cavan reached last year’s Ulster final only to crumble in the face of Donegal’s overpowering work-rate and ruthless finishing.

But manager Graham, who achieved immortality at club level with Longford outfit Mullinalaghta, has largely restored morale although a win tonight would go a long way towards banishing the residue of depression triggered by the player exodus.

The players will be asked to rise to the occasion and trim Armagh’s sails in their own back yard.

It might just prove a mission that is outside their compass.

Belfast Telegraph