Armagh squad boost with Ross McQuillan and Ciaron O'Hanlon ready for action

Returning from Australian Football League: Armagh's Ross McQuillan. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Returning from Australian Football League: Armagh's Ross McQuillan. Picture by Seamus Loughran Returning from Australian Football League: Armagh's Ross McQuillan. Picture by Seamus Loughran

ARMAGH may be missing a few big names at the start of the season but there was good news for the Orchard County yesterday with Ross McQuillan informing Essendon of his decision to step away from Australian Football League, effective immediately.

And Armagh assistant manager Jim McCorry is hoping that the 21-year-old Cullyhanna player can have ''the same impact as some of the other guys from other counties who have returned'' from Oz.

And on a further positive note, McCorry also announced that Killeavy star Ciaron O’Hanlon will be back in the Armagh squad.

“People have talked about Jamie being away and Callum Cumiskey and Joe McElroy, guys all leaving and taking time for valid reasons and we respect that,” said McCorry

“But on the plus side O’Hanlon is a great asset to have back into the squad, you can see the tenacity he has that we all saw in the club championship. That is a big plus.

''Then we have Ross McQuillan back from Australia, Ross was a big loss when he went to Australia and we hope he has the same impact as some of the other guys who have returned for the other counties that we seen.

''Towards the end of the league last year, we also brought in Cathal McKenna, he had been in the squad before and I expect him to make a big impact this year.

“When people step down for a period it gives other guys opportunities.

''Conor Turbitt and Jason Duffy were knocking on the door really hard last year and maybe could and should have played more games, so that creates opportunities for those guys too.”

McQuillan relocated to Australia when he was drafted by the Essendon Bombers in September 2019 under the AFL International Rookie rules.

General manager of Essendon football Josh Mahoney said McQuillan had the full support of the club to call time on his experience in Australia.

“On behalf of everyone at Essendon, we thank Ross for his services to the red and black since he arrived at the club in 2019,” Mahoney said.

“We understand the considerable time and deliberation that went into Ross’s decision to move back home to be with his family in Ireland, and he has our full support in doing so.

“Clearly the 2020 season was unlike any other, and without a second tier competition, opportunity for game exposure was limited.

''Not only was it was a difficult year for Ross to learn the game and hone his craft, geographically being so far away from home added to the trying nature of the year.

“Ross will always remain part of the Essendon family and we wish him well for the new year and beyond.

“As a list management team, we will now look at the possibility of making a further addition to our playing list for the 2021 season.

“Cian McBride (Meath) will return from Ireland and is expected to join the playing group in Victoria in mid to late January after completing the relevant quarantine requirements.”

Armagh assistant boss McCorry also said he understands the frustration Orchard County fans may feel when they miss out on playing some of the big guns in Division One of the Allianz National Football League, but he feels it is fortunate for the competition to go ahead at all, given the current Covid pandemic.

The Allianz National League is proposed to start in late February with Armagh grouped with fellow Ulster footballing sides, Donegal, Tyrone and Monaghan, meaning they will not face Dublin, Kerry or Galway.

“The main thing this year is that we are looking at a really different Division One,” said McCorry.

“The times during Covid has thrown really different things at us this year and with this new strain coming in and the impact it is going to have, because it is probably worse than what it was before.

''Lockdown is ongoing at the minute so preparation is restricted, and it is January 15 before people can get back at get some preparation done.

“You are impacted in your preparation, but you are also impacted by the competition itself.

''We really only have three league games and then we are straight into the knockout part, where it will be two teams battling it out to get into the final or two teams battling to avoid relegation.

“It is strange because if it were this time last year then people would be saying that we are looking forward to starting the season because of playing the likes of the Dubs and Kerry and now we are really looking forward to a mini-Ulster championship, with Donegal, Tyrone and Monaghan in our group.

“It is going to be tough but that is how we learn, by playing against the top teams in division one and that will help us in our preparation for the Ulster championship.”

McCorry is content that the furthest journey his team could make is Ballybofey, but he feels given Armagh played there the last time the teams met in the national league that the Athletic Grounds should be the venue for this year.