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Versatility is vital factor in helping to keep Armagh in the promotion race, says O'Neill



Oisin O'Neill

Oisin O'Neill

©INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Oisin O'Neill

Oisin O'Neill is certainly making up for lost time in the colours of Armagh.

The Crossmaglen Rangers ace missed several months of action last year because of injury but right now he is producing some of the best form of his playing career to date as he helps to project the Orchard County to what he hopes will prove promotion.

Attaining a place in Division One has been the goal since the start of the year and right now Kieran McGeeney's men are sharing second spot in the Division Two table along with Westmeath with four points, while Roscommon and Kildare share second place each with three points.

And although they temporarily lost their momentum in defeat to Laois, Armagh are still regarded as among the favourites to take what would be viewed as a big step up.

O'Neill is in no doubt that the versatility which a number of players are offering is proving a considerable bonus as the team prepares to embark on the second half of their scheduled league itinerary against Westmeath in Mullingar on Sunday week.

"When you look at the team, you see Aidan Forker performing at full-back, Stephen Sheridan lining out at centre-half-back and Mark Shields now playing in attack," points out O'Neill.

"Aidan had been playing at half-back up until recently but he now finds himself filling at full-back, while Mark, too, had been positioned at half-back but is now a lively forward.

"The fact that players are comfortable in more than one position is a huge bonus and, with competition for places very stiff, everyone is keen to stay on their toes."

After they play Westmeath, Armagh must face travel to Fermanagh and Clare before playing host to Roscommon, and the fact that all three sides have turned in some impressive performances recently will ensure that the promotion race will go down to the wire.

"It was good to get back on track again against Kildare after that setback against Laois," adds O'Neill.

"But when you look at the calibre of sides that we will be coming up against over the next few weeks, it is easy to understand why no-one is taking anything for granted."

O'Neill's pronounced influence in midfield, from where he is still capable of poaching scores, is proving central to the orchard county's progress.

His exquisite point from play in the 28th minute against Kildare brought the Athletic Grounds gallery to their feet, although O'Neill himself is quick to hail his inside men.

"It's up to us to get the ball into them," he insists.

"We have real quality forwards who can get scores, that's for sure."

Meanwhile, Fermanagh defender Declan McCusker may have reached a career milestone when he played his 100th game for his county against Westmeath last Sunday but has been quick to point out that longevity does not guarantee him a starting place.

Ryan McMenamin's side rather surprisingly lost the contest and now face into demanding assignments against Cavan, Armagh, Clare and Laois.

"I have been lucky enough in that I have won a starting place for much of my time with Fermanagh," says McCusker.

"But at inter-county level, you're never safe in a team. One or two bad games and that can be the end of it."

Belfast Telegraph