By Shaun Casey
ARMAGH hurler Eoin McGuinness called time on his inter-county career after ten years of service in the orange and white as the Orchard County’s 2023 season came to a close last Saturday afternoon.
McGuinness, who played in four Nickey Rackard Cup finals for Armagh but ended up on the losing side each time, captained his county into their final game of the year against Louth and finished with 0-2 to his name.
McGuinness lined out in five league games for Armagh this year as they made their way to the Division 3A, losing to Roscommon in the end, and featured in four of their five Nickey Rackard Cup outings.
“I made the decision at the start of the year that this would be my last,” said the Newry Shamrocks clubman.
“I’ve really enjoyed the year and I’ve really enjoyed my time with Armagh since I joined in 2013, I’ve loved every second of it.
“I’ve played in some great teams with some great players and today Karl (McKeegan) gave me the honour of captaining the team, he told me on Thursday night, and it’s been running around my head since. I’m sorry that we didn’t get a win but I’m just proud that I got to put the jersey on one last time.
“Unfortunately, age catches up on people very quickly. I just started to get a couple of more niggles, feeling them every day or two after training, I could feel more pains.
“When you’re still playing for your club it’s hard to do three or four nights a week so I just thought I can still move a wee bit this year, next year I mightn’t be able to move at all so I’m happy to go.”
It was a difficult decision for the big full forward, but it’s a period in his life that McGuinness will always look back on fondly.
“The easiest thing to do is to play and train because when you love it, it’s not taxing. Unfortunately, with age and when you come towards the end of your career, you start to feel the side effects of training.
“Ten years, it went by in no time. It certainly doesn’t feel like ten years. But it was brilliant, I loved every minute of it, and I loved the teams, the players, the management that I was part of over the years. I enjoyed everything.”
While McGuinness hangs up the boots without getting his hands on a much sought after Nickey Rackard Cup medal, the career highlight was a Division 2B league title victory over Down back in 2016.
McGuinness lined out at full forward that day in a team that also contained his brother Artie, who played in the full-back line. “The highlight has to be the Division 2B league win against Down,” recalled McGuinness.
“We had an absolutely brilliant team then. We had Ryan Gaffney, David Carvill, Cahal Carvill, Stephen Renaghan, the Corvans (John and Conor) from Keady, every man on that panel was brilliant.
“We went up to Division 2A, we were unlucky to come back down again which was a pity but we’re rebuilding now and the team we have now, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be back there in a couple of years.”
For now, Armagh will have to plan without the experienced McGuinness, who expects the team to build on 2023 and push on for silverware in the next number of years.
The emergence of some talented youngsters like back-to-back College All-Star Tomas Galvin, who scored two goals in Saturday’s four-point defeat to Louth, allows McGuinness to step away knowing the talent is there to continue to fly the flag.
“The crop of boys coming into Armagh at the minute are unbelievable, there’s serious potential there and if the management stay on next year, I think we’ll go places.
“Tomas Galvin, honestly, is one of the greatest players I’ve seen in an Armagh jersey. He scored two absolute screamers today and he’s only 18 years of age. Then you have a whole squad of boys about 19, 20, 21 years old.
“You have the likes of Shea Harvey, Connor Renaghan, these boys have ten or 15 years of county hurling to play, and I’ll be a happy spectator for them over the next few years. There definitely is a serious future there.”
While McGuinness has hung up the boots at county level, he’ll still complete for a place in his club, Newry Shamrocks, no matter what number is on his back. “I’ll play until I’m 50,” laughed McGuinness. “I’ll stand in nets for ten years.”