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The search for consistency and advice from uncle Oisín: Rían O'Neill is Armagh's latest star

The young Crossmaglen Rangers forward comes from a family with a rich footballing history.

Armagh's Rían O'Neill.
Armagh's Rían O'Neill.

IT IS SAFE to say that for Rían O’Neill, football is in the blood.

The young Armagh forward, who has been earning recognition for some eye-catching performances recently, comes from a family with a rich footballing history.

His father, Gareth, played for Armagh before transferring to Louth, while his brother, Oisín, is also part of the current Armagh squad.

And just to add an extra pinch of pressure, his uncle is two-time All Star and member of the 2002 All-Ireland-winning Armagh team, Oisín McConville.

Unsurprisingly, playing for Armagh has always been the dream. 

“Definitely,” O’Neill says.

“I suppose when I was growing up me and Oisín were always up in the pitch kicking ball, and we never really left the pitch really over the years.

“When I was younger I was coming up to Croke Park watching those great Armagh teams, year in and year out, and it was always something you wanted to do. Oisín McConville would be my uncle and we’d always be knocking around the house and he’d be coming in, talking about Armagh and that, so yeah, it was always something we wanted to do.” 

At just 21, he’s already doing a fine job of making a name for himself. After some superb performances for club team Crossmaglen Rangers, O’Neill is starting to feel at home at inter-county level.

Kieran McGeeney’s team currently sit joint-top of a highly-competitive Division 2, with O’Neill playing a major role for the Orchard County in the full-forward line. 

He kicked 0-3 in the opening round defeat of Cavan, 0-5 against Laois, and 0-4 against Kildare, Westmeath and Fermanagh as Armagh push for promotion to Division 1. 

“I suppose over the last number of years Armagh have been building slowly and surely. Last year there was an influx of young boys into the team and maybe they’ve freshened things up and there is real competition for places there at the minute.

“You even just look at the forward line, there are a different six forwards that could play there that could do a job as equally as the six that are starting, so that competition for places really is pushing the thing along, I think.”  

Having made his league debut against Clare in February of last year, O’Neill marked his first Ulster Championship start with an 0-8 point haul against Down.

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“Over the league and stuff I struggled a small bit to get used to the intensity and stuff, but as it came up to championship I really put the head down and got stuck into it.”

It helps when you can turn to a family member with the experience of McConville for some words of wisdom.

aMcKeever Sports 2998 McKeever Sports brand ambassadors Katie Power (Kilkenny), Conor McManus (Monaghan), Andy Moran (Mayo), Rian O’Neill (Armagh) and Hannah Looney (Cork) at the brand’s GAA Licence Launch in Croke Park.

“He’d be giving me bits of advice, maybe that if I only scored a few points he’d be asking if I was only on for 15 minutes or something – that’s the sort of stuff he’d be saying! No, it’s great to have somebody like Oisín about, obviously one of the best players that ever played the game. It’s great to just ask him stuff from time to time and get his opinion. He is even managing me there at the minute with the college out in Dundalk. He’s good with that and the fact he understands you are playing with Armagh and that, he doesn’t put that much pressure on you.” 

O’Neill clearly has an exciting future ahead of him, but for now, promotion to Division 1 will keep him happy.

“It’s just trying to keep your head in the madness and get the wins. Consistency is what we’re really looking for, putting performances together back-to-back, which we haven’t really been able to do. We’ve a good chance this weekend [against Roscommon] to get a good performance in under our belt and hopefully we can get over the line. 

“That was probably our target at the start of the year, to get promoted. I suppose for Armagh we want to be playing against the best teams week in and week out, that’s the only way you are going to better yourself.” 

Rían O’Neill was speaking in Croke Park as McKeever Sports announced it has secured the official GAA licence to manufacture official club and county playing kit and leisurewear. This completes the full complement of GAA, LGFA and Camogie manufacturing licences for the fast-growing Armagh based sports company.

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