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O'Neill keen to rejoin brother in Armagh squad


Fired up: Oisin O’Neill is primed for action again
Fired up: Oisin O’Neill is primed for action again
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Oisin O'Neill found himself cast in the role of onlooker as Armagh charted their path through Division Two of the Allianz League.

A hip injury ensured that the tall, lean Crossmaglen Rangers ace played no part in the competition but he has revealed that he is hoping to be in contention for a place for the Ulster Championship campaign.

Having made his debut with the county senior team in 2017, O'Neill had cemented his place in the side until his injury.

But instead of fulfilling a role within the side he has found himself monitoring the progress of younger brother Rian, who has been very much to the fore in Kieran McGeeney's line-up of late, most recently against Cork at the weekend.

"Yes, Rian has been doing very well and I can't wait to get back in there alongside him," said O'Neill. "It's very frustrating when you are unable to play. You are kicking every ball while you are sitting there in the stand. Hopefully I will be back for the Championship in which Armagh will meet Down in Newry at the quarter-final stage.

"This is a massive match for both counties who missed out on promotion and will now want to make an impact in the Ulster and All-Ireland Championships."

The O'Neill brothers have come up through the highly successful Armagh Academy, another phase of which was formally launched last weekend. Already a number of exciting young players have come through the Academy and St Mary's University College student Oisin cannot speak highly enough of the effort being put in by those who oversee it.

"Ultimately there is only so far you can go with your club at under-age level whereas if you are involved with your school and your county this really exposes you to different styles of play and bigger challenges," pointed out O'Neill.

"You come up against a different standard of opposition and this means that if you are competing against better players it's going to bring you on further.

"My brother Rian and I have been lucky enough to have benefited from our involvement in the Armagh Academy in that it helped to further develop whatever level of talent we might have had. This brought us to another level in our careers and it's just great now to be involved at senior inter-county level because it gets no better than that."

Manager McGeeney could be faced with interesting selection posers ahead of the Ulster Championship.

As well as Oisin O'Neill, absentees from the starting line-up against Cork at the weekend included Mark Shields, Jamie Clarke, James Morgan, Gregory McCabe, Shane Ryan and Rian O'Neill.

Ryan was not included in the 26-strong match day squad which has already led to speculation in relation to his future with the county.

Clarke, Morgan and Rian O'Neill were introduced and all played significant roles in the closing stages but could not prevent their side going down to a one-point defeat (3-9 to 1-14).

It is understood that Shields and McCabe have been troubled by injuries lately but on the credit side Ben Crealey is back in the squad, although it is still unclear whether or not Andrew Murnin will be available for the Championship.

Meanwhile, midfield ace Niall Grimley was among the young sports volunteers who took centre stage at the recent GoldMark Awards Ceremony in Belfast.

The event, which was jointly organised by Ulster GAA, the Irish FA Foundation and Ulster Rugby, highlighted the huge volunteering effort across the three sports among young people aged 14-24.

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