McGeeney: O’Neill return a boost for Orchard

Rian O’Neill earned his first minutes of 2024 on Sunday, coming in as a second half substitute against Donegal.

O’Neill had been an unused substitute against Kildare in round three the McKenna Cup semi-final against Derry.

But Sunday was the first time on the field of play and the Crossmaglen man is a welcome addition to Kieran McGeeney’s set up.

His late score looked to have secured a victory for the home side, but Donegal responded to earn a draw.

“It’s great,” said Orchard manager Kieran McGeeney on the return of Rian O’Neill to the Orchard line-up.

“But you watch the disappointment on the face of TK (Tiernan Kelly), Ciaran Higgins and Barry (McCambridge) (the unused subs), you can only play with so many forwards.

“It’s great to have him there. He knows that he still has to get fitter; he has only been training for a while.

“But still and all, he scored a point that probably only two or three other players in the country could score.

“So, that’s what you have when he’s on his game. But we have to give him a wee bit more time as well.”

Rian O’Neill earned his first minutes of 2024 on Sunday, coming in as a second half substitute against Donegal.
Photo Credit: Richiespics

Share of the spoils

Following a couple of handy wins over Meath and Kildare, Donegal posed Armagh a real test in round four.

Both sides had opportunities to win it but, in the end, a share of the spoils was perhaps the fairest result.

“To me, it’s more about our consistency: are we in the game until the end?” added the 2002 All-Ireland winning captain.

“I suppose for us last year, that was the disappointing thing. The only team who beat us by more than a point last year was Tyrone.

Rian O’Neill earned his first minutes of 2024 on Sunday, coming in as a second half substitute against Donegal.
Photo Credit: John Merry

“We were always in the games, so we knew that we weren’t doing a whole pile wrong. But we were on the wrong side of the one point (too often).

“So, we were looking at how to improve coming down the home stretch. Again today, coming down the home stretch, we were a wee bit better.

“We had a fist pass from 10 metres out, when we know that we should be putting those over. But I suppose Donegal will feel that they should be putting penalties away.”