Junior Footballer of the Year – Conor McNally

For a good few years now Conor McNally has been hailed as a Division One level footballer playing in the Junior Championship. A Sigerson Cup winner with DCU, McNally has been in and out of the Armagh set up and once again displayed his talents this year, leading Derrynoose to the Junior Championship final, only to lose out to Collegeland.

Although missing out on a Championship title, McNally covered himself in glory and recorded a stunning 17 goals and 157 points throughout his sides’ league and championship campaigns in 2019. On the final game of the year he accounted for 0-8 of Derrynoose’s 1-9 and was deservingly awarded the Junior Footballer of the Year award.

“I’m obviously delighted about it, I suppose it was a disappointing way to end the year with the defeat to Collegeland but it’s a nice way to round off the year, to get a wee bit of personal recognition for the work you but in this year. Now the main thing is probably regrouping and going back at it again next year, hopefully go one step further again next year.”

“To be honest, it’s great but you’d trade it in all day long for a championship medal. You see the other lads, the Crossmaglen lads, the Grange lads, the Collegeland boys, that’s where we want to be. It’s nice to get the individual accolades but at the end of the day you want to be sitting here with a championship medal.”

Derrynoose reached their first Junior Championship final in 15 years this season while the hurlers are also playing their trade in the Senior Championship, where they pushed eventual champions Middletown to the pin of their collars, only to lose out by five points by the time the final whistle sounded.

McNally only has eyes for football and is one of the few on the Derrynoose panel who doesn’t compete in both codes. A duel club obviously has its own difficulties but McNally praises the efforts of those who also pick up the hurly stick as well as kicking football, “There’s a lot of boys in our club now that play both hurling and football and put in an absolute Trojan amount of work, it’s ridiculous.”

While there might be some problems in time commitments and different issues, McNally insists the Derrynoose club run both sports smoothly and provide the appropriate time to both hurling and football, “In fairness, both managements are unbelievable, working together, giving the hurlers hurling time whenever it’s coming up to their games and giving the footballers’ football time.”

“For me personally, just being a footballer, there’s no problem at all because you know the boys are giving absolutely everything for you and we’re all rowing in behind, we’re the one club at the end of the day. It’s no problem whatsoever, you go off and do your own football training and the hurlers do their own hurling training but there’s no questions asked of the boys, their going full hog.”

With the footballers coming so close this year, one might have thought the club will give the football a big push next year to get across the line but McNally suggests that the hurlers aren’t far away from earning their own championship title. Next year could be a huge one for the Derrynoose club and McNally eyes a lot of hard work in the coming months.

“The thing is, trying to get that nice balance. There hurlers are coming on really well, they’ve come very close to Keady and Middletown the last two years and trying to push on and we’re all very much behind them to try and hopefully get to a county final and maybe push on and try and win a Senior Hurling Championship.”

“The thing is putting the head down now, with how close we got with the football last year it’s trying to go back at it, it’s a very competitive Junior Championship so it’s putting the head down and hopefully we can go one step further next year. We got to the semi final in 2018, the final 2019 so it’s hopefully trying to get back into the mix again come 2020 and give ourselves the chance to win a championship come this time next year.”

“It would be good to win a hurling championship and a football championship next year, that would be the dream but I suppose we’ll just put the head down again come January and hopefully we can get ourselves in the best position possible come championship time both Hurling and Football wise next summer.”