Throughout last season, Aidan Forker was undoubtedly the standout performer in the orange and white.
The Maghery man displayed his versatility, switching from a goal-getting full forward at club level to a man-marking full back for Kieran McGeeney’s side.
Forker faced and matched some of the best forwards in the country, keeping tabs on the likes of Daniel Flynn and Michael Murphy.
Speaking to Jimmy Smyth on Armagh GAA’s awesome virtually awards show, Forker spoke of his willingness to do what he could for the team.
“I’ve said it before, I’m very keen to be in the team all the time and I’m happy to be wherever Kieran wants me to be and do a job there”.
“I think I’m at an advantage in terms of, I’ve played forward my whole life and I know what I don’t like as a forward and so I try to be that defender for whoever I’m up against.
I see it as a positive and an opportunity to put one on a forward and thankfully it was going quite well”.
“I think I can bring more to the role hopefully next year if I’m in there or whatever Kieran has in store for me, but I’m enjoying it”.
Armagh will of course be competing in the top division when action returns in 2021 and the side are looking forward to competing with the best.
“We sat down a number of years ago and wanted to bring Armagh back to the top table and we’re there now. Probably a bit slower than we would have liked but success isn’t linear.
I’m not saying that we’ve successful and we haven’t been, but we’re there and we know we have to be in around those crops of teams to compete and learn and be in with a chance of winning championships”.
“That’s where our focus lies and based on my conversation with the boys, we haven’t been together yet this year but there’s a real appetite and boys are push hard on their own.
I’m looking forward to it. Looking forward to the learnings and looking forward to the work and the battles”.
Forker is one of the few on the current squad that has tasted Division One football before, while several members of the squad will be getting their first opportunity this season.
“It was my first year on the panel (the last time Armagh played in Division One) and I loved it. I’ve lots of great memories of going down to Tralee and playing Galway and teams like that out here (Athletic Grounds).
That’s what we want for, hopefully fans coming back in soon. You get a lot of experience, I’m excited for the younger boys especially, but I’m excited too as a more experienced player, that we’re back there and it’s been a long time coming”.
“I think we all have our own experiences, and we can all bring something to the table it’s not just a case of anyone who’s played in Division One before.
I think the games changed massively from then even, so I don’t think it’s like for like as such. The games evolved and changed somewhat in the last decade so it’s a new challenge for us all”.
Patrolling the sideline along with manager Kieran McGeeney will be two new men, Ciaran McKeever and Kieran Donaghy.
Forker has had conversations with both of the newbies and is excited about training under them on the field of play.
“I’m so excited. We got the news probably whenever everyone else got the news on Twitter. Obviously, Kieran and the rest of the management team have been working very hard to try and get a freshness and I think that’s important.
Even to date I’ve had a few conversations with Kieran Donaghy and obviously I know Ciaran McKeever very well, but the big thing that stands out for them from chatting to them maybe on the odd zoom call, is their passion and their enthusiasm for coaching”.
“I think that’s massive, and you can really feel it. I’m really looking forward to getting out on the pitch and working with them because if that’s the impact they can make on me over the phone or on a video call, I’m excited to see what they can bring when we get them on the pitch.
Obviously, their reputation goes before them, so I’m delighted. I can’t wait to get working with them to be honest and I think everyone else is the same”.
While we’re unsure of when football will return, better days are ahead, and the Player of the Year is looking forward to getting back as much as anyone.
“It’s difficult to set goals and have ideas of where you want your body to be when you don’t have a timeline. I think it’s a matter of tipping away and keeping yourself injury free and getting back into it and leaving a wee bit in the tank where you can push hard when the time comes”.
“We’re going to have a four-week lead-in time so it’s difficult on your own at times, but we’ve survived and I’m looking forward to getting back into that team set-up. I’ve missed that a lot. You don’t realise how important it is to you when you’re training and running hard alongside other people”.
“We want to compete, minimum. Depending on how the leagues going to be setup, we want to just win what’s in front of us and take it one game at a time.
We hopefully have a bit of a chip on our shoulder based on the Donegal game, which was the last game that we played, and we felt we didn’t do ourselves many favours in terms of that second quarter.
We’ll take it one at a time, we’ll get into the first four-week block and make sure we’re physically ready and tactically ready to go and compete at that level”.