Team of the Decade – Half Back Line

Aaron Kernan (Crossmaglen)

One of the stand out club players in Armagh this decade, Aaron Kernan has done it all in the black and amber of Crossmaglen, including captaining his side to their two latest Championship winning seasons. A Rolls Royce of a player, Kernan picked up the Senior Club Player of the Year for 2018.

This decade he has secured 8 county medals, playing in 7 finals, bringing his total to 16 while also winning 4 Ulster titles along with 2 All-Irelands since the turn of the decade. A talented free taker, his sharp left foot rarely misses and his playmaking ability makes him an imperative leader in The Rangers team.

Ciaran McKeever (Cullyhanna)

He has played almost everywhere for Cullyhanna this decade, although he is most comfortable manning the centre half back position, he has enjoyed spells as a full back, sweeper, midfielder and at times full forward. He was crucial in dragging Cullyhanna to the county final in 2013 but missed out on their run to the final three years later.

Hard as nails and always leaves everything on the field, McKeever was adaptable and could often bomb forward and get his name on the score sheet, just as he did against Crossmaglen in that 2013 final, hitting 0-2.

Michael Beagan (Ballymacnab)

The Ballymacnab Captain has been crucial to his sides’ success in recent years and has been a leading figure for Ballymacnab, guiding them to a Senior league title in 2018 along with two back-to-back Senior final appearances. His warrior like attitude inspires those around him and his foot passing ability allows him to stand out.

Beagan is one of a handful of players to have picked up two Club All-Star awards in recent years, picking up two in a row in 2018 and 2019 and has made the maroon number 5 jersey his own this decade.

Paul Hughes (Crossmaglen)

Like his club teammate and half back nomination Aaron Kernan, Paul Hughes rarely has an off day for Crossmaglen and his fantastic club form has seen him regularly nail down a starting place in the Armagh team as well as collecting two Club All-Star awards in the last two seasons.

His versatility sets him apart as he is as comfortable going man to man with the oppositions most dangerous forward as he is raiding forward to score. In fact, in the last three county finals his has played in, Hughes has got two points on each occasion, against Ballymacnab in both 2018 and 19 as well as against Armagh Harps in 2015.

Karol Loughran (Armagh Harps)

In the space of four years, the Harps made it to three county finals and Loughran showed his versatility by playing in different positions in the three finals. He wore number 12 in 2014 against Cross and number 5 the following year against the same opposition while manning the edge of the square when his side won the championship in 2017.

There can be no doubt that his best position is across the half back line. His strong, roaming runs forward always causes serious headaches for each opposition he faces and he has the ability to take men on and is quite comfortable in front of the posts, having it the 45s for his side this decade as well.

Paul Duffy (Pearse Ogs)

The ever-green Paul Duffy has been a consistent high performer for Pearse Ogs for well over a decade now and is still their main man. Duffy helped the Ogs reach the Championship final in 2012 and starred at wing half back, kicking two points from play. It wasn’t enough on the day however as Crossmaglen led by 7 at full time.

Duffy now wears the number 15 jersey for the city side but still filters back to help out his defence and take the game to the opposition. He had a great 2019 in a rejuvenated Ogs side leading them to the quarter final stages.

Stephen Cusack (Maghery)

The main man in the Maghery side that reached two county finals in consecutive years, his lung-busting runs forward are a sight to behold. Stephen Cusack never shies away from getting up the pitch to take on a shot and create opportunities and is often man-marked from other teams to try and limit his influence.

His most memorable performance came in the 2017 Championship semi final win over Crossmaglen when Cusack hit 1-2 from centre half back, while assisting his sides’ second goal. Cusack’s performances that year saw him earn a spot on the Club All-Star team of the year while picking up Senior Player of the Year.

Tony McClelland (Granemore)

McClelland has been an ever-reliable presence in the Granemore ranks for more than a decade and has always been their leader. His consistent performance see Granemore often rely on McClelland and he has been used in a range of different positions, from centre half back to midfield and wing half forward at times.

This decade, Granemore have reached the last four of the Senior Championship three times, with McClelland influential in the St Mary’s getting to that stage. His two points in this season quarter final victory over Madden were heroic and McClelland, as he proved that day, never fails to bring the fight to the opposition.