Stefan Campbell returns to boost Armagh attacking options ahead of 2019 campaigns
ARMAGH’S attacking options have been boosted by the return of forward Stefan Campbell returned to the training squad for next season.
Clan na Gael clubman Campbell – who can also operate at midfield - had been the spearhead of the Orchard county’s attacking unit for several seasons but he played no part last year as Kieran McGeeney’s side won the Division Three title before progressing to the fourth round of the All-Ireland Qualifiers and a game-of-the-season contender against ‘Super 8’ entrants Roscommon.
The Irish News has learned that ‘Soupy’, who played as a striker for soccer outfit Lurgan Celtic in the 2017/18 season, will return to the fold for the 2019 campaigns.
Also in the Armagh pre-season panel is Ballymacnab forward Jack Grugan, younger brother of team captain and Allstar nominee Rory. Grugan was instrumental in the Round Towers’ run to this year’s Armagh Championship final.
Ballymacnab went into that game against a resurgent Crossmaglen side as underdogs but, with the outstanding Grugan contributing 1-6, the favourites, who have gone on to beat Tyrone champions Coalisland, required a late rally to get over the line.
Also expected to be in McGeeney’s plans for next season are Cullyhanna pair Aidan Nugent and Ross McQuillan and there are five players from county champions Crossmaglen including players who have yet to play senior football at county level.
Emerging midfielder Steven Morris and mobile full-forward Rian O’Neill are both in the reckoning along with O’Neill’s elder brother Oisin and versatile defender James Morgan, neither of whom featured last year. Also included is defender Paul Hughes who was the only player from the south Armagh kingpins to play in 2018. His season was cut short through injury but he has regained fitness and has been in impressive form on the Rangers’ run to the Ulster club championship semi-finals.
The other Crossmaglen native in the squad is Jamie Clarke. Clarke lined out for New York in last season’s Connacht Championship, scoring five points as the Exiles came within a kick of the ball of beating Leitrim.
Out of the inter-county picture next season will be Grange clubman Michael McKenna. The former U21 captain returned to the panel last season after missing 2017 to go travelling but work commitments in Dublin mean he has been unable to link up with the Orchardmen this year.
McKenna’s Grange clubmate Ethan Rafferty is expected to miss the early rounds of Armagh’s Division Two campaign after he underwent surgery on his right shoulder.
Rafferty was outstanding as a mobile, targetman full-forward during the 2018 National League as the Orchardmen adapted to the absence of several forward regulars by recording five wins on-the-trot over Sligo, Wexford, Longford, Offaly and Derry to lay the platform for a deserved return to the second tier next year.
Meanwhile, former Armagh star Oisin McConville has taken on a joint-manager’s role with Meath club Seneschalstown next year.
The Royal county outfit announced that the 2002 All-Ireland winner will work alongside former player Joe Cowley in the new year. The Crossmaglen legend, who has also managed the Rangers senior team, acted in an advisory capacity last year.