By Niall McCoy
THERE are few players within Armagh who you think should be on the county panel but aren’t. Kieran McGeeney may draw criticism for working with an enlarged panel, but basically everyone who should be there is there. One of the exceptions seems to be Ciaran Higgins of Maghery. He has been one of the best club players in the Orchard county in recent seasons as the Sean McDermott’s racked up their first- and second-ever county titles. He has been involved before and has indicated to Gaelic Life previously that he would like to be there again. Another top championship, when he will rotate between three and six, and he will be hard to ignore.
DESCRIBED as the heartbeat of the Silverbridge team, Carragher was one of the stars of the 2009 All-Ireland Minor winning squad and quickly advanced to the senior set-up. Unfortunately two leg breaks saw his progress halted. He is still lining out at midfield for the ‘Bridge and is playing excellent stuff this season. A bit of a throwback, he loves nothing more than a physical battle around the middle and his aerial credentials are more than sound. He likes to break forward on occasion too and can take a score, while he is a player who likes to kick the ball as much as possible.
(CROSSMAGLEN)MORRIS’S absence for last year’s county final loss to Maghery was probably one of the main reasons why Cross lost out. He is exactly what you want in a player, someone who just consistently performs at a high level. The Rangers have always had players who did that whilst maybe not getting the fanfare – such as Martin ‘Fish’ Ahearn, Kyle Carragher and Paul McKeown – and the midfielder is in a similar category. You can be sure that the O’Neills, Rian and Oisin, just love playing with him given the work he gets through and his influence on games.
ANOTHER player who has been in the Armagh panel previously and probably can feel a bit aggrieved at his time there. He got a good few starts, but it did seem like he would be taken off early regardless of how he was performing. He spent some time in Australia and came home to help his club win the Intermediate Championship. After overcoming an early season injury, he has really rediscovered his sharpness. He has been extremely prolific for Peter Nugent’s side in recent weeks and has four goals in his last three games.
THERE’S a lot of excitement in Camlough – well the red half anyway – about the exciting young team emerging in ‘Cruppen and Eoin Woods is probably the face of that revival. It’s been hard times for a club that used to be one of the heavyweights in senior football, and for two seasons they barely picked up a win. This year, however, they eased to the Intermediate B title and now have their eyes focused on a good championship campaign. When all was said and done, Woods probably emerged as the best player in Intermediate B this season and he hasn’t looked out of place with the county u-20s under Peter McDonnell either.
MCELROY’S exit from the Armagh squad was his own decision, and you can respect his desire to play as much football as he can. He had some good days in orange, most notably scoring a late goal in Armagh’s amazing Qualifier comeback victory over Clare three years ago, but hasn’t been involved as much as a man of his talents should be. The Harps have been the main beneficiaries and McElroy has been in superb form as they hit the ground running in 2021. A real modern-day player, the teacher can be found covering every blade of grass on the pitch and he brings real drive to the side, especially around the half-back and midfield sector.
CALLUM O’Neill is the cousin of Crossmaglen brothers Oisin and Rian, so he didn’t lick his talent off a stone. He has had the honour of captaining the Armagh u-21s back in 2018 whilst he also has been part of Kieran McGeeney’s extended training panel. He is not there now, but he is still tearing it up with Belleek at junior level. The side reached last year’s final before a thrilling replay loss to Forkhill, and they will be expected to go far again this season. If Garret Thronton’s men are to do that, you can be sure this powerful midfielder will be at the heart of their positive endeavours.
DESPITE winning the Junior Championship last year, Forkhill have had to play junior league football due to restructures caused by the pandemic, but they will play An Port Mor in the Intermediate Championship this weekend. Toner has been scoring for fun all season, and now the test will be to see whether or not he can carry that up the grade. The safe money would be on him being able to do so. Ever since making his name with St Paul’s during their run to their fist MacRory final in 2013, he has been a real focal point in attack for the south Armagh side – at all grades.
MADDEN are moving back up to Senior A and Joe Sheridan played a major role in that success. An Armagh u20 last year, the attacker has pace to burn and knows where the target is. His form has tailed off a bit as the final few league matches were wrapped up, but there is no doubting that when the championship action begins he will be very much one to watch.
(DROMINTEE)THE Dromintee captain recently lifted the Senior A trophy and the south Armagh club will be hoping that allows him to move to the next level. A silky footballer with all the attributes to be a top player, the one criticism thrown at him is that he isn’t involved in games as much as someone of his class should be. The management need to find a way to get him on the ball as often as possible because his direct running, intelligent passing and ability to raise a flag ensure that he is a dangerous weapon.