Armagh begin season without injury-plagued Oisin O'Neill

Oisin O'Neill hasn't featured with Armagh since February last year. Pic Philip Walsh.
Oisin O'Neill hasn't featured with Armagh since February last year. Pic Philip Walsh.

INJURY-plagued Crossmaglen Rangers clubman Oisin O’Neill is a notable omission from the Armagh squad that begins the inter-county season with a Dr McKenna Cup opener against Antrim at the Athletic Grounds tonight.

The talented midfielder had struggled with a quad injury and then underwent an operation in London to address an ongoing Achilles injury during the summer. He was expected to be fit for the start of this season but it is understood that O’Neill, older brother of Ulster Player of the Year Rian, hasn’t yet regained match-sharpness.

As a ball-winning, play-making, physical midfielder who is a scoring option from free-kicks, a fully-fit O’Neill would be a huge asset to Armagh but he featured only as a substitute in Division One last year.

He scored a point in Armagh’s draw with Monaghan and then made a late appearance when Armagh lost to Mayo at Dr Hyde Park in late February. That was his most recent appearance for the Orchard County and he was not involved in Crossmaglen’s run to the Armagh senior title.

Meanwhile, there had been speculation that O’Neill’s clubmate Jamie Clarke could be set for a county comeback. Clarke was a regular scorer for Crossmaglen after returning to action for his club last season but hasn’t returned to the Armagh fold.

The former All-Ireland-winning forward last played for Armagh in a chastening Ulster semi-final loss to Donegal in 2020 and is currently playing for Irish Premiership outfit Newry City.

Cian McConville and Callum Cumiskey are included in the Armagh squad. Cumiskey scored an early goal against Clare in Ennis when Armagh clinched promotion to Division One back in 2020 but injury issues have prevented him from kicking a ball in the top flight. He missed the last two inter-county seasons but will hope to force his way into contention as will clubmate Cian McConville who was outstanding up front for the county champions last season.

New faces in the squad include Killeavy defender Lee Rice, a former underage star for Armagh. Highly-rated Madden forward Joe Sheridan will be keen to make a breakthrough at senior level as will Maghery defender Brendan Haveron and Carrickcruppen youngster Eoin Woods.