GAA Football

Armagh not getting ahead of themselves over forward power says skipper Campbell

Stefan Campbell scored 1-7 in this year's NFL including four points in the draw against Donegal. Pic Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

WITH Rian O’Neill, Stefan Campbell, Rory Grugan, Oisin O’Neill and Jemar Hall all showing good form, the Armagh forward unit is rated by many – including Antrim manager Enda McGinley – as the best in Ulster.

The first four on the list above scored in every game of the Orchard county’s Division One North campaign. Grugan led the way with 0-18, Rian O’Neill and Campbell also reached double figures and there were also valuable contributions from a supporting cast that includes Conor Turbitt, Tiernan Kelly and fit-again Andrew Murnin.

The Orchard forwards are certainly in good scoring form but county captain Campbell refuses to get caught up in the hype.

“We get bigged-up every year in conversations and we haven’t delivered,” said the experienced Campbell.

“The most pleasing thing now is that we’re not heavily reliant on one player. If Antrim plan to take one or two players out and nullify our threat, there are another three or four players who can step up on any given day and there’s another two or three who can come off the bench.

“Enda (McGinley) can build us up all he wants but, at the same time, it’s probably a headache for him. He would prefer if we weren’t firing on all cylinders and it’s probably testament to the work that the manager and the selectors have done that we’re not overly-reliant on two or three players, we have a solid unit.

“If I don’t perform, Rory has stepped up and against Roscommon Jemar was unbelievable. Rian has stepped up and Oisin… The scores came from everywhere but as far as us being the best forward unit in Ulster… That’s just Enda getting excited close to the game.”

The Antrim management have been complimentary towards Armagh and Campbell reciprocated. Armagh and Antrim last met in Division Three back in 2017, the Saffrons were relegated that year on scoring difference and languished in the basement division until this season when McGinley inspired them to three knife-edge wins in succession in the group stage and a promotion semi-final.

A more comfortable victory over Waterford in that game clinched Division Three for next season.

“I was watching Antrim versus Louth while the rest of the country was watching Kerry and Galway,” said ‘Soupy’.

“You can’t underestimate a team’s ability to close out tight games and they did that with a two-point win followed up by two one-point wins and then they were convincing winners against Waterford. “They have the Murrays (Conor and Ryan) and Odhran Eastwood up front and they are players who can rip us to shreds if we take them lightly.

“They have boys have can take long-range scores, they have runners from the back and Enda has them playing a nice brand of football and they have the buy-in from the county. Antrim GAA is on the crest of a wave given what the hurlers have achieved so the footballers won’t want to be overshadowed.

“It all makes for a good game, both sides are stacked with pace and good footballers and Antrim will be a difficult proposition for us, they’re very dangerous on the attack.”

In their first exposure to Division One football since 2012, Armagh impressed this year. Kieran McGeeney’s side lost just once – a nip-and-tuck affair against Tyrone – beat Monaghan and Roscommon and drew with Donegal.

“We showed that we can compete and we’ll benefit from keeping that status next year – seven games will bring us on massively,” said Campbell.

“Staying in Division One was the first target, we would have liked to get a semi-final but we did get an opportunity to show the strides we have taken since we last faced Roscommon.”

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GAA Football