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Armagh thoroughbred O'Neill hopes to build on promising debut season

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Rian O'Neill at the McKeever Sports launch event in Croke Park

Rian O'Neill at the McKeever Sports launch event in Croke Park

Rian O'Neill at the McKeever Sports launch event in Croke Park

If an ounce of breeding beats a tonne of feeding then it was written in the stars that Armagh's Rian O'Neill would go all the way to the top.

The son of former Armagh and Louth footballer Gareth and nephew of Oisín McConville, O'Neill was to the manner born in his first season of inter-county football last year.

A point with his first touch in championship football in the derby win over Down set him up perfectly and saw him slalom his way through the summer. By the time the season ended, O'Neill had made his mark and was nominated for an All-Star as well as the Young Footballer of the Year award alongside the Kerry duo of David Clifford and Seán O'Shea.

"I suppose over the league 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," O'Neill said, speaking at the McKeever Sports launch event in Croke Park..

"I suppose against Down it was good to get a good debut under the belt ... it wouldn't have mattered if I played well or not as long as we got the win, that's the main thing, that always matters."

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O’Neill: “I suppose over the league 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.” Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

O’Neill: “I suppose over the league 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.” Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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O’Neill: “I suppose over the league 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.” Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

McConville in particular had a huge influence on him.

"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 (to play for Armagh). I suppose 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 (his brother Oisín is also part of the Armagh set-up) wanted to do.

"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," he laughs.

"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 he doesn't put that much pressure on you."

Armagh face Roscommon this Saturday night in a Division 2 top-of-the-table clash. The winners will put one foot in the top flight for next year.

"Over the last number of years Armagh have been building slowly and surely.

"I suppose 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," concluded O'Neill.

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