GAA Football

Oisin and Rian O'Neill will be key men for Crossmaglen and Armagh over next decade says Joe Kernan

Rian O'Neill and his brother Oisin have been in superb form for Cross during their run to Sunday's Armagh final
Neil Loughran

ALL-IRELAND winning manager Joe Kernan has backed the O’Neill brothers, Oisin and Rian, to drive Crossmaglen and Armagh to new heights over the next decade.

Both have impressed in Cross’s run to Sunday’s decider with Ballymacnab – a first county final appearance for the club since 2015 when they defeated Armagh Harps before going on to conquer Ulster.

After a barren couple of years, they will hope to get back to winning ways this weekend. However Kernan feels that, regardless of the outcome on Sunday, the O’Neills will have a huge role to play for both club and county going forward.

“Rian and Oisin, they were probably talked up too much early on, putting pressure on the young lads, but now they’re starting to develop, they’re starting to mature,” said Kernan, who won All-Ireland titles as manager of Cross and Armagh.

“I honestly believe that, for the next 10 years, these two boys can not only keep Cross at the top, but help Armagh get back up the stairs too - back to where they want to be.

“They have that much ability, they’re naturals. They’re over six foot, they can catch it, kick it, solo it, they can play in numerous positions – important central positions. Your team has to be strong up the middle, and these are the boys who can help do that.

“Then we have another young lad Cian McConville, son of Jim McConville, and he is the next best thing. He’s a lovely lad, well disciplined, well mannered, great work ethic and he has all the skills and more that the father had.

“I can’t praise him any higher than that. You watch him, he’s going to be a great player.”

Such talented youngsters have merged well with the more experienced heads in the Cross side, and Kernan believes the players are beginning to get their confidence back after a trophyless couple of years.

“The boys are starting to believe in themselves again,” he continued.

“Probably for two years we lost a bit of belief, but that seems to be back and that’s good for Cross.

“There are no guarantees in this life and we have no divine right to think we should be in every county final.

“We’ve earned the right this year to be in the county final, we’re in the right frame of mind and if the boys go out and play well, they can win this match.”

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