O’Neill puts injury nightmare behind him

“Relief” was the word Oisin O’Neill used to sum up Crossmaglen’s emotions after 60 plus minutes of action where they saw off a battling Ballymacnab side in the Armagh SFC Final. “At half time it wasn’t looking good for us, the Nab seemed to have us figured out, they denied our kicking options inside and they had worked a good system out”.

“But we knew in the second half, if we squeeze the kick outs and deny that primary possession that our class up top would come on and our bench as well. We have a really good squad, a lot of boys have a lot of experience and we knew that would see us over the line”.

The result was beyond doubt when the whistle had reached the lips of referee Jake Magill on county final day but Oisin O’Neill still had enough time to drive one last nail into the Ballymacnab coffin, striking home a goal with the final score of the game to bring his personal tally to 1-5.

Staring from centre half forward, O’Neill has been colossus in the black and amber jersey throughout the championship and was happy to put a miserable few months in the early part of the year behind him, “I had a really tough first six or seven months of 2019, I had an operation and I picked up a lot of niggily setbacks on my way back”.

“Not regarding my ankle or the operation but just the other stuff around it because my body had been shut down for that long. I done an awful lot of work, especially since Armagh finished, I trained really, really hard on my own and with the rest of the Cross lads to get back and days like this make it all worthwhile”.

O’Neill was part of a Crossmaglen unit that powered to a 2-18 while O’Neill felt they also played well defensively, “We’ve done a lot of work on our defence and our defensive structure and not leaving ourselves as exposed as we did last year. You just can’t take away, the pass that Jack (Grugan) gave to Gavin (McParland) for the first goal was sublime, there’s no defender in the world going to stop that”.

While McParland’s goal did allow Ballymacnab to go into the half time break in control of the contest, O’Neill again heaped praise on his sides defence for the turning of fortunes in the second period and once the South Armagh team were able to get on level terms, there was only ever going to be one winner.

“I think the turning point really was our defenders, they came out with a couple of balls at the back and we won a few important balls round the middle and then obviously getting back level. When we got back level the whole momentum was with us and the crowd rolled in behind us and we never really looked like losing it then after that”.

Looking forward to this weekend’s action, O’Neill insisted that Crossmaglen’s only target from the start of the year was to be crowed county champions and they’d worry about everything else once they had achieved that. “The target at the start of the year, always, is just to win Armagh and we’ll take it from that”.

As Crossmaglen legend John McEntee will be standing in the opposite corner on Saturday evening, O’Neill recognises the challenge in front of them as they take on the Monaghan Champions in the Athletic Grounds, “John Mac’s Clontibret won and that’s a big upset, we’ll go again hard then for the 10 or 11 days leading into the next game”.