GAA Football

2019 Irish News Armagh Club Allstars

Crossmaglen's Oisin O'Neill shrugs off Ballymacnab's Brian McCone in the Armagh Senior Club Football final at the Athletic Grounds on Sunday 20 October 2019. Picture by Seamus Loughran.
Joe McManus

Crossmaglen are back at the top in the Orchard County senior football ranks and targetting an Ulster title. Their players feature strongly in Joe McManus's Armagh Club Championship Allstars ...

Tiarnan McConville (Crossmaglen)

A difficult enough selection with a number of other net-minders on a par including Ballymacnab’s Conor McGivern and Granemore’s Kevin Kelly.

However the St Mary’s Sigerson Cup winner gets the nod.

The son of former Crossmaglen and Armagh player, Michael (Packie) McConville made a number of outstanding saves throughout the championship.

His kick outs were excellent and whilst he may have been partially to blame for Ballymacnab’s second goal, in this his first season,he repaid the faith manager Kieran Donnelly showed in him.

2 Paul Hughes (Crossmaglen)

The loose-limbed versatile defender continues to be one of his team’s most consistent operators.

Blessed with a great engine, he has the art of ghosting through and picking off scores.

His two points in the county final helped lift Cross out of a hole.

Paul has had his fair share of time out through injury but is now back to his best.

His intelligent reading of the game and those magnificent runs up the field in his support of his attacking colleagues are his stock-in-trade.

His quick-thinking and sense of positional play, once again singled him out as arguably one of the most astute defenders in this year’s championship.

3 Ryan Kennedy (Ballymacnab)

Few would disagree that the county man was the best full-back on view in the competition.

Once again he has been the driving force behind another successful year for the Round Towers.

Kept a tight reign on man of the match Rian O’Neill in the first half and really it was only when the young Cross super star moved out to midfield that he came into his own.

Equally as comfortable on the ball as he is defending, he was regularly seen charging out of defence on the overlap to support his team-mates.

That penchant for running off the shoulder makes him a forward’s nightmare opponent.

4 Chris Crowley (Crossmaglen)

The Kerry native fits the Rangers mould perfectly and when drafted into the squad this season was quick to make the corner-back spot his own.

A tough, no nonsense defender, his tight-marking and doggedness makes life difficult for any forward and in typical Cross fashion, he relishes those ferocious hammer-and tongs battles.

His pace off the mark and sleight of hand makes him an ideal counter-attacking player.

Seems destined for to part of a brand new chapter of this extraordinary club.

5 Aaron Kernan (Crossmaglen)

Whilst most players would be content with one county senior championship medal Kernan has now 16 under his belt and continues to serve up Rolls Royce displays.

The 36-year-old despite battling with injury earlier in the season made tremendous sacrifices to be ready for the championship and was duly rewarded by leading his beloved club to their 45th county title.

When things began looking ominous early in the second half his calming influence came shinning through. Despite the years, the former county stalwart, is still poetry and motion and his remarkable athleticism is matched only by his expert kick-passing skills.

Many teams have adopted the ploy of body-checking his runs, but to little or no avail.

His exceptional football brain has yet to fail him.

6 Callum Cumiskey (Crossmaglen)

The go-ahead centre half back was very much central to Rangers’ incredible second half comeback.

He was truly inspirational and knifing through for those two crucial scores lifted his team-mates to no end. Indeed he produced a championship that may have earned him a county call-up.

He is strong and courageous with a penchant to surge forward. Undoubtedly one of the key figures in Crossmaglen’s march to a record breaking 45th title.

Cumiskey possesses the art of being in the right place at the right time, should it be breaking up an attack or being involved in a scoring raid.

7 Michael Beagan (Ballymacnab)

The Ballymacnab captain was a class act all year, a player who constantly empties the tank.

His pace and ability to break the lines places him in that rare and gifted breed of exponents.

For 40 minutes in the final he played the sweeper’s role to perfection but there was little he could do when his team suddenly collapsed.

Throughout the championship he won most of his duels with some of the top forwards.

He is a tremendous reader of the game, whose sharp link-up play, confidence and energy continually places him in the stand-out bracket.

A player who always keeps going but there is much more to his game than honest endeavour.

8 Stephen Morris (Crossmaglen)

A player who just keeps improving and was part and parcel of the side’s revival in the county final, both his second half points were right from the top drawer but more importantly were hugely inspirational helping Cross turn the wheel.

He keeps working hard on those attributes required for the midfield sector, aerial power, winning dirty ball, giving hits, taking hits and keeps going.

Has kicked a number of points from distance in the 2019 championship and has covered a lot of ground.

A young player who is tremendously determined and a useful auxiliary to a tiring attack, he is fast developing into being one of Crossmaglen’s most consistent performers.

9 James Lavery (Maghery)

Was literally head and shoulders above a crop of midfielders to impress in the competition, including Armagh Harps’ Charlie Vernon, Granemore's Brendan Boylan and Ballymacnab’s Pauric Gribben.

Even when Maghery failed to perform in their semi-final clash with Cross, the towering Lavery played a captain’s role with an exhibition of midfield power.

He has been the driving force behind the Sean MacDermott’s year in and year out, winning first phase possession and gliding past defenders.

A class act who never stops showing for the ball, his championship form this year once again reminded Orchard fans of his premature departure from the inter-country scene.

10 Rory Grugan (Ballymacnab)

Once the team’s leading scorer, his role is now more of a playmaker, spraying pin-point passes to a lethal inside forward line.

Once again throughout this championship , he produced a superb display of pass-and-move football with an ability of exploding through the lines, providing many scores as well taking some from the tightest of angles.

Not only is he one of the finest sights soloing with the ball, his outstanding foresight and vision was once again captured when picking out his brother Jack, with a long angled kick, for Ballymacnab’s second goal. Another championship which has underlined his character and style.

11 Oisin O’ Neill (Crossmaglen)

Back from injury which sidelined him from both club and county duty, some of his long range scores were simply out of this world.

In the final, which he pocketed 1-5, he opened the scoring with a spectacular point and put the final nail in the Round Towers coffin with an injury time goal.

His two goal salvo in the semi-final against Maghery were among the highlights of an affair which never reached any great heights.

He is also a highly reliable free taker. His aerial ability is awesome and he puts in plenty of tackles in defence , using his positional awareness to snuff out danger.

The older of the O’ Neill brothers, he is destined to be a top performer for club and county for many years to come.

12 Cian McConville (Crossmaglen)

The son of All-Ireland club winning captain Jim McConville, this special talent is really a star in the making.

In the first half of the county final, despite often poor delivery, he was the pick of a Cross attack that wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

His point just before half-time, was a score his team so badly needed whilst showcasing his ability to turn on a sixpence and drop the ball over the black spot.

Young Cian operates in his father’s mould with is burrowing opportunism and gritty-ball-winning style making him a nightmare to mark.

A player who seems destined to fulfil his underage potential, yet another McConville, who is very much one for the future.

13 Jack Grugan (Ballymacnab)

Once again Jack has demonstrated that he is one of the best attackers in the country by hitting the high notes just when it matter most.

Along with Gavin McParland, he has collected the bulk of Ballymacnab scores this season both in league and championship. In the final he set up the first goal for McParland and scored the second major.

His final tally was 1-6. Some of his point-taking has been both breathtaking and mesmerising.

He has been the ‘Nab’s go-to attacker for a number of seasons and his sharp link-up play, confidence and energy has surely earned him a recall to the county panel.

He is certainly the man that makes the Round Towers tick.

14 Rian O’ Neill (Crossmaglen).

In line for GAA’s Young Player of the Year Award, he is unquestionably the player for the championship. His clever movement, high fielding and accuracy meant that he was always a scoring threat both from play and frees.

He topped the Cross scoring chart by the proverbial mile, almost effortlessly landing points , at times from impossible angles and distance.

May have been somewhat anonymous in the first half of the county final, but his move to midfield, when the chips were down, proved a match-winner.

He almost single-handedly put Ballymacnab to sleep with his stunning power and aerial brilliance.

No stranger to picking up awards, his man of the match selection underlined his greatness, a player for the big occasion.

15 Gavin McParland (Ballymacnab)

On his day, the 2009 Armagh All-Ireland winner is simply unstoppable.

His first half goal in the county final was just the injection the underdogs needed helping their confidence spiral.

He is probably the best opportunist goal-striker in the county, but has also the ability to score points from distance, including frees off the ground.

Once again he was central to the Round Towers’ extended 2019 championship run.

His intelligent reading of the game and his strength both in the tackle and carrying the ball singled him out as one of the most exciting players in the competition.

No doubt Orchard boss Kieran McGeeney will be having a word in his ear about the county panel.

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