GLIST – Top ten Armagh forwards since 2000

‘STEVIE from Killeavy’ terrorised defences for 13 years in orange and departed the scene with a rake of medals and awards under his arm. The 2003 Player of the Year had a ridiculous eye for goal and raised a green flag 53 times in 161 games for Armagh, and the 504 points that went with that weren’t too bad either. He had a real knack of getting shots off ridiculously quick and had a great set of hands on him too. He produced the goods on Armagh’s greatest day too as he kicked three points from play in the 2002 All-Ireland final win over Kerry.

ICE-COLD McConville will be top of many lists, and he has an extremely strong case. The rule of thumb was that no matter how badly the Crossmaglen man was performing, you never took him off the pitch. The 2002 All-Ireland final was the perfect example. He missed a penalty that looked like it could be fatal to Armagh’s Sam Maguire hopes, but responded by scoring the goal that led to them the title. A two-time All-Star, the ace free-taker often seemed to carry an air of arrogance about him on the pitch – and with good reason. He was Armagh’s ultimate clutch player.

ONE of only seven Armagh players to win more than one All-Star having been honoured in 2006 and 2008. He was unlucky to miss out in 2002 after an incredible breakout season, but did lift the Young Player of the Year award. His long list of achievements means that you can’t say his injuries ruined his career, but it’s fair to say that if he hadn’t suffered such horrific luck we could have been talking about an all-time great of the game. Strong as an ox and very clever in the air. Developed an almost telepathic understanding with Stevie McDonnell and scored Armagh’s equalising point in the 2002 All-Ireland final on a day when he gave the legendary Seamus Moynihan a torrid time.

MOST of Marsden’s career with Armagh actually came pre-2000, but his impact until his first retirement in March 2005 was sensational. He was an absolute beast, and teammates hated the idea of having to face him in tackling drills at training. Modern day forwards are all expected to work their socks off, but that wasn’t always the case. Marsden led the way in that respect  but he never lost his attacking instincts. Like McDonnell and  Clarke, kicked three scores from play in the ’02 All-Ireland final. His point at the end of the first half, shortly after Oisin McConville’s penalty miss, was huge. He made a surprise return to the Armagh panel in 2007.

ONE of the most skilful players to ever pull on an Armagh jersey, and right up there with Stevie McDonnell when it comes to scoring goals. Unlucky to play on a team that didn’t win much, and one of the few players to represent the county since that would have found a way into the 2002 attack. Has found the net 22 times for Armagh and if he does step away this season, which has been rumoured, it will be a huge blow to Kieran McGeeney’s side. At his peak, the crowd would be electric when he got on the ball. A  special, special player.

LOCKDOWN presented an opportunity to watch a lot of old games, and anyone who revisited Armagh’s 2002 run will still be wondering how John McEntee did not win an All-Star. Joe Kernan was certainly disappointed, and the fact that the Orchard county lost their way for 10 minutes after he left the final after suffering concussion speaks volumes. McEntee  seemed to play the game at three-quarter pace, but his languid style didn’t hold him back. He was always switched on and took the right decision constantly. He brought a real physicality to proceedings too.

IT was hard to know where to put the Crossmaglen ace given how green he is to the county scene, but you can be damn sure that if this list is repeated in a few years’ time he will be much closer to the top. O’Neill has only played two seasons with Armagh but has already gained comparisons with the likes of Michael Murphy. He is physically imposing, but his real strength lies in his accuracy. He has massive range on his frees and has excellent fielding skills. O’Neill went for an AFL trial in 2017 and word was that his lack of ‘explosive ability’ worked against him, but anyone watching him can see that he has absolutely no issues with speed.

THE Ballyhegan man’s influence on Armagh football sometimes is underrated, and he produced some massive moments for the Orchard county. None more so than in the 2002 All-Ireland semi-final when he bundled the ball home against Dublin. He won the crucial penalty in the 2003 All-Ireland semi-final win over Donegal and was also Man of the Match in the 2004 Ulster final against the Tir Chonaill county, helping himself to 1-3. His direct style made him a fan favourite.

‘BULL’, as he was affectionately known as by teammates, was part of the 2004 All-Ireland U-21 winning side and was a real all-action player. The Tir na nÓg man played 11 years for Armagh and gave absolutely everything. Even before that u-21 final win over Mayo, he had already made a big impact at senior level as he kicked two crucial late points in the ’04 Ulster semi-final win over Cavan on a day when Joe Kernan’s men were off colour despite having an extra man for nearly all of the contest. He gave everything to the cause.

RORY Grugan was one of the stars of the 2009 All-Ireland Minor side and made his senior debut two years later. He first made his mark in the 2011 Dr McKenna Cup against Down, leading to then Irish News journalist Paddy Heaney ringing this reporter that night to proclaim that the Ballymacnab man was “the real deal.” Since then Grugan has  been super-committed at a time when Armagh have not had much success. Had the honour of captaining his county and although he can take a score, it’s his vision and passing that stand out.

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW