Ben Crealey made his championship debut for Armagh against Tyrone in the 2017 All-Ireland quarter final.
No one needs reminding of how that game went. While last Friday’s Time2Play challenge match was much closer, Tyrone still held the upper hand at the final whistle.
Friday was also Crealey’s first outing in the Athletic Grounds for Armagh since 2018. The big midfielder scored a point that night in a 1-15 to 0-14 league win over Derry.
“It is just nice to get out again to the Athletic Grounds because it’s been a few years since I’ve had the jersey on. It’s just nice to get out working hard with the boys so I enjoyed it”.
“It’s good (preseason training), plenty of running, plenty of tackling, just trying to get through it in one piece and then ready for the McKenna Cup in the New Year, just working hard”.
Armagh face Cavan then Tyrone in the three team group stages of the McKenna Cup. They then open their league account against Dublin.
“It’s big tests, every games a big test and Ulster games are always tough. It’ll set us up well for the league against Dublin so looking forward to the McKenna Cup”.
“It’s the one game you want. Just even watching Dublin the last four or five years you’re always thinking ‘I’d love a go at them’ and to get it and to be in Croke Park for the first game of the year, it’s where you want to be”.
“Go into Croke Park, work hard and see where you’re at and then take it from there for the rest of the year. I think the whole dressing rooms looking forward to it, it’s a good benchmark to start with”.
The Maghery man is one of five from the 2020 county champions to be in Kieran McGeeney’s squad. Crealey is joined by Aidan Forker, Brian Fox, Ciaran Higgins and Brendan Haveron.
“It was Aidan (Forker) and now all of a sudden there’s four or five of us. It’s good to get a couple of the boys in the dressing room”.
“I’m glad to be back, it’s been a good winter so far and hopefully, all eyes on the McKenna Cup now in a couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to it”.
While the QUB student enjoyed a good outing against Tyrone last weekend, he knows the competition for places is fierce.
Oisin and Rian O’Neill, Niall Grimley, Jarly Og Burns, Ross McQuillan, Stephen Sheridan and Tiernan Kelly are all viable options for centerfield. Clubmate Ciaran Higgins can also play in the middle of the park.
“That’s the beauty when you’re playing with a good team. There’s competition for places all the time”.
“You just put your shoulder to the wheel and see where you are in the New Year and hopefully get a run out in Croke Park and then on and on in the league, hopefully get game time. It’s just nice that we’re in a quality set up that there is competition for places all-round the pitch”.