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GAA Football

How many Armagh Harps make it in to The Irish News Armagh Club Allstars selection?

Joe McManus


Armagh Harps’ county final win over defending champions Maghery ended a quarter-of-a-century wait for the city side, who lead the way with six selections in Joe McManus’ choice of the Armagh SFC’s best 15...

1. Patrick Morrison (Armagh Harps)

BY far the best net-minder on view, giving an exhibition of goalkeeping in the final. He made a number of outstanding saves throughout the championship, none moreso than his spectacular late diving stop in the dying moments of the decider, killing off Maghery’s hopes. His kickouts were invariably excellent, always finding his man, and his handing under the high ball was also exquisite, including a number of confident catches underneath his crossbar. Kept a clean sheet in most games.

2. James Morgan (Crossmaglen)

THE 2017 Irish News Ulster Allstar carried his county form into domestic action. Few if any forwards got the better of him, the tight-marking and doggedness that have been the trademark of his career once again in evidence. A tough, no-nonsense defender, quick and fast, he is suited to most defensive positions. Was again a force to make things happen, relishing those ferocious hammer-and tongs battles which invariably get the best out of him.

3. Charlie Vernon
(Armagh Harps)

THE county’s man versatility reached new heights in this year’s competition as he performed so many roles, all excellently.

His runs from deep exploited pockets of space in opposition defences and his positional awareness when there was a need to drop back was rarely found wanting. In the county final he featured as a third midfielder in the second half, significantly curtailing Maghery’s dominance as his fielding and combative nature turned the tide. The Harps defence covered itself in glory over the course of the competition, with the Armagh full-back in the thick of the action.

4. Karol Loughran (Armagh Harps)

TURNED in some inspirational performances right across the Harps’ full-back line, excelling in a pulsating finish to the county final as Maghery threw everything but the kitchen sink at the city side in a bid to rescue their crown. 

He has a penchant to surge forward and pop up for a score at a crucial juncture. That art of ghosting through has been part and parcel of this year’s Harps success story. Leads by example,  fiercely competitive and fearless, he rises to the challenge of championship fare.

5. Aaron Kernan (Crossmaglen)

STILL rated by many as the best footballer in the county. His natural ability and attacking instinct were paramount in Rangers’ run to the semi-final. His boundless reserves of energy, pace and quality on the ball have in no way diminished. Along with the O’Neill brothers – Oisin and Rian – he accounted for the bulk of Cross scores in every round, nailing points from frees and play.

6. Declan McKenna
(Armagh Harps)

EASILY the newly-crowned champions’ most consistent player, the 2009 All-Ireland-winning minor captain was the launchpad for many attacks. He sustained that high level of performance right to the final, winning dirty ball, giving hits and taking them. Some of his
long-range point-scoring was truly inspiring. 

A highly gifted footballer who would have lots to offer the county’s cause. His workrate throughout the championship was nothing short of phenomenal, matching sheer hard endeavour with unquestionable ability. His high-fielding back in his own square was extraordinary.

7. Stephen Cusack (Maghery)

A POLISHED performer, he was central to the Sean MacDermott’s club’s run to the final. Just like last year, his dash and purpose singled him out and his scoring technique was showcased in practically every round with a series of fabulous long-range points. Very comfortable pushing out of defence, he used all of his attributes well this season. His goal in the semi-final against Cross was a classic piece of  individuality. May have had a quiet enough final but he is certainly one of the most accomplished club players around at the moment and has been for some time.

8. James Lavery (Maghery)

THE Maghery captain’s leadership attributed in no small measure in his side’s quest for back-to-back titles. Won a lot of first phase possession and his goal in round two against Cross set the Loughshore men up for the first of a memorable double against the south Armagh giants. Once again in the final he controlled much of the build-up play and his point helped Maghery to a comfortable interval lead. Apart from being ultra-consistent, he proved incredibly versatile, winning most of his duels, and was head and shoulders above the rest.

9. Ben Crealey (Maghery)

STILL a relative newcomer to the game, this rising star, named man-of-match in last year’s county final, has dove-tailed brilliantly with James Lavery in the centre of the park. Once again, the pair dominated the sector and the athletic young Crealey just keeps maturing, so full of drive and enthusiasm. Missed most of the eary part of the season with club and county through injury but on his return he showed that he had lost none of his exciting flair and mobility. Kicked a number of delightful points from distance and covered a lot of ground.

10. Ryan McShane
(Armagh Harps)

HAS already established himself as one of the fastest forwards in the county and his hat-trick of goals in the opening round against Cullyhanna was no one-off. Not only is he one of the finest sights soloing with the ball, he also has the ability to ride tackles. He got Harps off the mark in the final with an astonishing point from play and his goal at the start of the second half was just the tonic his team needed to get them back on track following a wasteful earlier period. 

11. Oisin O’Neill (Crossmaglen)

IN an unusual year when the Cross attack wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders, Oisin and his young brother Rian accounted for the vast majority of scores from every round. The youngster is not alone a prolific marksman, he poses a danger for defences with his clever running off the ball. 

Some of his long-range scores were simply out of this world and his aerial ability is awesome. He puts in plenty of tackles in defence, using his positional awareness to snuff out danger. A lot will depend on his influence if Cross are to return to the banquet table.

12. RORY Grugan (Ballymacnab)

ROUND Towers had a decent run to the semi-final and their county man was the architect-in-chief. He scored 1-7 against parish rivals Granemore and had the knack of exploding through the lines, either finishing with a score or turning provider. Throughout the championship, he produced a superb display of pass-and-move football and his accuracy from frees was unerring. 

A class act who never stops showing for the ball, producing many of this year’s highlights with some magnificent scores from the tightest of angles.

13. Rian O’Neill (Crossmaglen)

A TEENAGER of unbelievable talent and capabilities. Was Down Under earlier in the year for AFL trials, a measure of his talent. He was Rangers’ top marksman, some of his point-taking, both from frees and play, absolutely breathtaking. His clever movement, high-fielding and deadly accuracy singles him out as a remarkable performer and surely deemed good for a county call-up. Lacks none of the qualities demanded in the modern game.

14. Ultan Lennon
(Armagh Harps)

HAS always been one of the mainstays of this Harps team but this year was exceptional. His second half county final masterclass was enough to put Maghery to the sword with a personal tally of 1-4, which rightfully earned him man-of-the-match award. Beautifully balanced, composed in possession, his vision and passing were instrumental in unlocking defences. His free-taking was superb and his second half strike off the ground in the final was the score that really wrote Harps’ name on the title for the first time in 26 years. Some phenomenal scores in crucial games.

15. Stefan Forker (Maghery)

UNDERLINED his character and style in this year’s championship, scoring in most games and may have earned himself a recall to the county panel. He kicked a series of wonderful points including two in the first
half of the county final which looked like setting the Sean MacDermott’s outfit up for back-to-back titles. 

On his day he is a class act, gliding past defenders and finishing to perfection. Has also scored some wonder points from sideline frees. He always had the potential, blessed with a gem of a right foot. Was Maghery’s most consistent forward in this campaign.

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