Armagh suffer injury blow with Rian O’Neill a doubt for league finale and championship opener
Armagh talisman Rian O’Neill appears to have suffered a cruelly-timed injury setback that could have damaging ramifications for their hopes of top-flight Allianz League survival – and also their Ulster SFC ambitions.
According to various reports this afternoon, Kieran McGeeney’s joint-captain has suffered a quad muscle injury that is set to rule him out of their final Division 1 outing against Tyrone and also the early stages of the Ulster championship.
One report even referenced a likely lay-off of six to eight weeks, but a county board spokesperson had no information to hand and so was unable to comment when contacted by Independent.ie.
However, his reported setback could leave the Orchard County vulnerable as they seek to steer clear of the Division 1 drop zone on Sunday.
Armagh travel to Omagh knowing that defeat to their arch-rivals, coupled with an admittedly unlikely Monaghan victory away to high-flying Mayo, would see them succumb to relegation.
Perhaps equally worrying is O’Neill’s potential absence for a significant chunk of provincial action – presuming, of course, that Armagh’s dreadful Ulster record under McGeeney doesn’t continue.
If the injury is as serious as suggested, he would appear to have little chance of facing Antrim in the preliminary round on April 8, or Cavan a fortnight later if they progress to the quarter-finals. The semi-final on that side of the draw takes place on April 30, with the final pencilled in for May 14.
O’Neill is renowned for his versatility, a player who can excel at midfield as well as full-forward, but Armagh’s tendency to use him in a deeper role this spring has raised many eyebrows.
Only last weekend, on RTÉ’s Allianz League Sunday, former Tyrone star Seán Cavanagh pinpointed the Crossmaglen star’s positioning during a withering critique of how the team has set up during the league.
"Armagh has got Rian O'Neill, a player of that ilk, and that quality - get the ball forward, get it into his hands. Let the other guys open the gate, and let guys of that quality be the ones who are going to take the shot,” Cavanagh suggested.
"It ends up guys on the end of moves who have either run 70-80 metres, and they're out of gas, ball maybe dropped short, they take the wrong option, and they are very easy to play against."