By Niall McCoy
Rory Grugan – 1-22
NINE out of 10 guesses probably would have opted for Rian O’Neill but it was actually Rory Grugan who topped the charts for Armagh this year with 1-22. That was two points ahead of O’Neill, whose return of one goal in six matches is actually quite low by his lofty standards. He did hit 1-11 in the championship though, which is a super return over two games. Grugan was in sensational form for club and county in 2021 and his goal against Antrim was excellent. Oisin O’Neill and Stefan Campbell also scored heavily while Conor Turbitt deserves a special mention for hitting 3-5, mostly through cameos off the bench.
Rian O’Neill 0-41
RIAN O’Neill’s biggest tally of the season – 0-7 – actually came in the final game of the campaign as the Orchard county were hammered by Donegal in the Ulster semi-final. Throughout the league he showed a remarkable run of consistency. After hitting two points on the opening day against Cavan, he went on a run of 0-5, 0-4, 0-4, 0-4, 0-4, 0-5, 0-6 and 0-4. Rory Grugan was his closest challenger with 1-19 while Conor Turbitt had a great breakthrough season with 1-11. Jamie Clarke showed that there was plenty of life left in him yet as he hit 2-11, a lot of that coming from the bench.
Rian O’Neill 3-40
THE 2019 season was the last one prior to Covid’s straight knock-out format, and it was also Rian O’Neill’s highest scoring return as he plundered 3-40. We all know the Cross sharp-shooter is a man for the big occasion and all three of his green flags came in the championship with two coming against Monaghan and another coming against Mayo as Kieran McGeeney’s side nearly pulled off a big shock in Castlebar. It was also the first time the country got to see his John Cena celebration too, and it was clear he was a star in the making. Jamie Clarke also had a superb championship as he hit 0-18 in five games with his performance in the Ulster semi-final replay loss to Cavan one of the best of the year.
Rory Grugan 2-55
A WONDERFUL return from Ballymacnab’s Rory Grugan but he was left ruing a shot he missed rather than a score as Armagh’s season came to an end against Roscommon in boiling conditions in Portlaoise. With Andrew Murnin unmarkable in the first half, Armagh were on course for the ‘Super Eights’, especially when they won a penalty in the third quarter. Grugan’s kick was saved though and although the teams went toe-to-toe from there, the Rossies just had too much power coming down the stretch. Grugan deserves immense credit for his performances though, and he was perhaps the only player to come out with any credit from their Ulster flop against Fermanagh as his three points during the 23 minutes he was on the pitch was nearly half of Armagh’s 0-7 total.
Rory Grugan 1-30
RORY Grugan has been such a consistent scorer for Armagh and 2017 was no different as he scored at least more than once in nine different games. Jamie Clarke’s three goals also helped him into second with 3-23. Third was Niall Grimley (1-28) who had his best season in orange and he just edged out Stefan Campbell (2-23) in the race for a podium finish. Grimley was excellent from long-range frees and he also grabbed one of the side’s six goals in their 30-point rout of Offaly in Division Three. Some other players produced brilliant scoring returns too as Kieran McGeeney’s side found their scoring touch. Andrew Murnin scored 3-11 while Gavin McParland contributed 14 points despite not being a guaranteed starter.
Stefan Campbell 2-48
Stefan Campbell’s 2-48 comes with an asterisk because three of those points came in the voided Qualifier match with Laois. The game was replayed because the O’Moore county used too many subs so do they count? We’ll let you decide but for us the ball went over the bar so they go in. Anyway, the Lurgan man really was in fantastic form in 2016 and his league performance against Galway was special as he hit seven from play, two frees and a penalty for a 1-9 total. It was a showing worth two points but, sadly for Armagh, the Tribesmen came from eight points down after 57 minutes to earn a draw. ‘Soupy’ also hit eight points as Armagh lost to Cavan in Ulster, although he did miss a penalty on a day when midfielder Paul Courtney did goals for the Orchard county.
Ethan Rafferty 2-22
THE one thing Kieran McGeeney had in his first year as Armagh manager – he had been head coach in 2014 under Paul Grimley – was plenty of scorers, 21 in fact. Top of the pile was Ethan Rafferty with 2-22, a reminder of just how much they have missed him as injuries have really hampered his involvement. There was a tie for second as Jamie Clarke scored 3-14 while his then Crossmaglen clubmate Tony Kernan came up with 2-17. The often underused Miceal McKenna also had an impressive season as he nabbed 1-14 while Aidan Forker hit 1-11.