Oisín O'Neill has no plans to switch to Aussie Rules
EMERGING Armagh star Oisín O’Neill has no plans to swap Gaelic football for Aussie Rules, according to his father Gareth.
O’Neill made his senior debut for the Orchardmen in his native Crossmaglen last Sunday and scored five points in an impressive display against a fledgling Derry side in the Ó Fiaich Cup.
Rumours abounded that the talented teenager had been offered an AFL contract and Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney agreed that the former minor star had the talent to be a success in Aussie Rules.
“It’s the first I heard of it but he’s good enough,” said McGeeney, who added: “Oisín and his brother Rian are excellent players.”
But Gareth O’Neill - a former Armagh full-back and All-Ireland winner as player and joint-manager of Crossmaglen Rangers - says his son remains committed to club and county.
“He was talking to a few guys, but he’s not going anywhere,” he said.
The news that O’Neill has no plans to explore his AFL options will be welcomed by McGeeney who hopes to have James Morgan and Andrew Murnin back in harness for January’s Dr McKenna Cup campaign.
Murnin missed last season with injury while Morgan has recovered quicker than normal after undergoing wrist surgery but it's unclear whether Jamie Clarke will be involved. Clarke is due to return home from the USA later this month.
“Jamie will come back when he is ready,” said McGeeney after Armagh’s 2-20 to 3-13 win over Derry.
“You don’t push him into anything. He is a free spirit that way. He is a good lad and he will make up his own mind.”
Crossmaglen’s Paul Hughes returned to action last Sunday after missing last season, but Cullyhanna pair Sean Connell and Mickey Murray weren’t involved and the inter-county future of Tony Kernan remains up in the air.
“I know Tony is playing with Ulster at the minute, so I haven’t got speaking to him,” said McGeeney.
“I think we will leave him until after Christmas, he will have to make his own mind up.”
Armagh have an Ó Fiaich Cup final against the winners of this Sunday’s Tyrone versus Louth semi-final to look forward to on December 18 as McGeeney assembles his panel for a Division Three
“We need to get our confidence back,” said McGeeney.
“We had a tough run of injuries last year. We probably had a stronger team not playing than playing we had so many missing and stuff.
“Although in one game we could have been pushing for promotion to Division One, you go the other way and it is unfortunate because Division Three will be just as tough as Division Two.
“We have Sligo away first, then we have Laois at home, then Tipperary, Louth… They are teams that will always be tough to beat and have ambitions of pushing on themselves
“We have a tough campaign ahead of us but the good thing I suppose about last year and the injuries is that there are a lot of players who got game-time like Shea [Heffron] and Joe [McElroy], who maybe wouldn’t have got it if Paul [Hughes] and James [Morgan] and these fellas had been about.
“It has really stood to them - Shea and Joe were both excellent today and we are hoping we get the mix right and have a decent campaign.
“But it’s about blooding a few players through and trying to get a competitive set-up. Probably over the last number of years, the competition for places wasn’t at the strongest.
“We have to get that. When you have been in a set-up that has people competing for places, then you are in a chance of doing something.”