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McGeeney is sure Orchard County youngsters will bloom

By John Campbell

Less than a year ago, Ben Crealey was playing schools football and Oisin O'Neill was exhibiting his skills at minor level. But suddenly this talented duo find themselves thrust into the spotlight as Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney conducts an ongoing overhaul of his side in preparation for 2017.

The Orchard County are already through to the O'Fiaich Cup final in which they will meet either Tyrone or Louth on Sunday week in Crossmaglen and McGeeney believes that giving his players exposure to the Red Hands' style of play will assist with their familiarisation process of the inter-county arena.

Although he is currently stripped of the services of a number of players for a variety of reasons, McGeeney remains optimistic that his infusion of new blood can inject vitality into his team.

"There are a lot of new faces in the side and it is important to get them playing together at this point in time," said McGeeney.

"We also have a few more looking to push themselves up into the reckoning which is good. There is no substitute for playing games in terms of players testing themselves."

This time last year, Shay Heffron and Joe McElroy were among players that McGeeney introduced to his squad and they made considerable headway in both the league and Championship this term.

The Orchard boss is now hopeful that their progress can be replicated by others as he seeks to revive his county's fortunes.

"It's important that players get an idea of where they are right now," he insisted. "Obviously the O'Fiaich Cup final and then the McKenna Cup will serve as building bricks for the league and by then we hope to have a more settled format. We have some experienced players due to come back from injury and that will be a help."

Meanwhile, Crossmaglen Rangers club officials are pulling out all the stops to make the O'Fiaich Cup final on Sunday week as attractive as possible.

Secretary Gerard Rushe points out that even though it is played in what is still officially regarded as the close season, the competition continues to hold appeal for fans.

"Obviously the identity of the teams and of course the weather are factors that can determine the drawing power of any game but we are hopeful that the O'Fiaich Cup final will have appeal," said Rushe.

"Naturally, we would have no objection to an Armagh v Tyrone contest which even at this point would have a certain allure."

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