Football

Conleith Gilligan keen to run an eye over Armagh prospects

Goalkeeper Blaine Hughes is aiming to return to the Armagh senior set-up. Picture by Seamus Loughran.
Goalkeeper Blaine Hughes is aiming to return to the Armagh senior set-up. Picture by Seamus Loughran. Goalkeeper Blaine Hughes is aiming to return to the Armagh senior set-up. Picture by Seamus Loughran.

BLAINE Hughes is one of the trialists hoping to impress Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney this weekend as the Orchard county hosts its first-ever Club Allstars vs County Future Stars charity game.

The Club Allstars, picked following the club championship campaign, will come up against an Armagh selection, with a number of newbies hoping to catch the eye of the Armagh manager.

Hughes, a Club Allstar himself in 2021 with Carrickcruppen, made 60 appearances in the orange-and-white since making his debut in 2017 but stepped away from the panel last season.

Clann Éireann duo Conor McConville and Daniel Magee will also be on the Armagh team, while their clubman Sean McCarthy picked up an Allstar this season. Sam McClarnon, who helped Clan na Gael reach the SFC final, is also on the trialist team.

Conleith Gilligan is keen to get a look at some of the emerging talent in the Orchard county, having recently joined the management team. 

“It’s been very good, I suppose it’s something very, very different,” said the former Derry attacker of his short spell with Armagh.

“I saw a bit of the club championship, so that gave me a decent insight into who was in form and it’s a fresh set of eyes coming in and, so far, it’s been brilliant.

“There are loads of good players in Armagh and you see Cullyhanna’s run in Ulster, Crossmaglen are always strong and dominant, so there’s loads of footballers in Armagh.

“This is an opportunity for players to put their hand up that have maybe come through with the minors and U20s and haven’t made the senior squad yet and now they’re in the shop window in a game.

“Hopefully, there’ll be a big crowd under lights in the BOX-IT Athletic Grounds and a chance to show what they are capable of.

“The Club Allstars is a mix of players that aren’t in the county panel and established players like Rían O’Neill and Stefan Campbell, so it’s a chance for those players to see just exactly where they’re at.

“A lot of the players have impressed, the future stars have impressed in the club championships and that’s why their getting the opportunity here, but it’s a chance to play a team that are maybe at a different level, who have a lot of county experience.

“It’s a chance just to see where they’re at. A lot of them have come in and done really, really well and they’re looking forward to it and it’s a really good opportunity for them.”

While the Club Allstar team will have the edge in terms of inter-county experience, Gilligan is expecting the Armagh selection, who he’ll manage alongside McGeeney, to make it a competitive affair.

“While there’s not a huge amount at stake in some regards, players that are here are at a very, very competitive level and everybody wants to win,” added the former Kilcoo manager.

“I suppose the difference between this game and maybe club championship games are that there’s more of a chance to express themselves, so it will be free-flowing, open game of football where everyone can show how good a footballers they are.

“They’re not under the same pressure that they were a number of weeks ago in the club championships so it’s a great opportunity for both the supporters to come and see these players that maybe they haven’t seen much of, and the players as well.

“Hopefully there’s a big turnout for the Southern Area Hospice, it’s a great charity and one that whenever you do need it, it’s brilliant that it’s there.”