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O'Neill writes another chapter in his surge to new peak


Big bonus: Rian O'Neill with his Ulster GAA writers award
Big bonus: Rian O'Neill with his Ulster GAA writers award
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Armagh ace Rian O'Neill has taken another step towards fulfilling the widely-held prediction that he is destined to become one of the province's leading players by being named the latest winner of the Quinn Building Products Ulster GAA Writers Association monthly merit award.

It was a majestic performance against Down in the quarter-final in which he scored eight points (four frees) that propelled the Crossmaglen Rangers forward into the national spotlight.

He may be still wet behind the ears in terms of inter-county championship action, but the 20-year-old Dundalk IT student, son of former Armagh defender Gareth O'Neill, has certainly laid down a marker that he is destined for the top.

O'Neill has already underlined his versatility in Armagh's colours by demonstrating that he can drop deep and act as a creative force, as well as unleashing his sublime finishing skills closer to the opposition posts.

If his eight points against Paddy Tally's side won him widespread enthusiastic plaudits, then his superbly drilled long range pass to Andrew Murnin which brought Armagh's all-important late goal was the work of a master craftsman rather than an emerging talent.

Since his exploits against Down, O'Neill has made a huge impact in Armagh's two games against Cavan, but it was his performance against the Mournemen that thrust him head and shoulders above the rest of the candidates for the writers' award.

"Obviously it's very much a team game, but at the same time it's encouraging to receive an individual honour," says the strapping O'Neill.

"While we are looking forward to our qualifier against Monaghan we would be hoping that it will prove a game of attacking football, but at the same time we have to keep an eye on our defensive duties.

"It's a question of getting the balance right - we can't sit back the whole time because we have to go for it."

O'Neill is a nephew of Armagh great Oisin McConville and admits he has a lot to do to follow in his footsteps.

"Oisin would be slagging me from time to time. If I scored three points in a match, he would be asking was I only on for one half," smiles O'Neill.

"Monaghan are the only team on our radar. When you look at their recent Championship record it becomes clear that we face a mighty challenge."

At a presentation ceremony in Quinn's Corner Restaurant O'Neill received an engraved Belleek Living vase, specially designed cuff links from Carlingford Design House and sports gear from O'Neill's International Sports.

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