Sunday saw the opening game of this years Ó Fiaich Cup throw in between Armagh and Derry in Crossmaglen. In what was an exciting game, it allowed both Managers an opportunity to give game time to a lot of their new and younger squad members. Both Managers feeling that the competition and game was highly beneficial and Armagh the happier camp winning on a scoreline of 2-19 to 3-13 to reach Sunday week’s Final in Crossmaglen.
“It gives everybody an idea of where they are,” said McGeeney.
“We’re trying to get ready for the McKenna Cup after Christmas. We didn’t really have any football until this point – a lot of fellas are doing their gym work and that sort of stuff so, for them, it’s good to get out playing games.
“It gets them used to playing with each other and we have a lot of new faces in this year, so it was good to see them and the older faces who are coming back from injury.”
Crossmaglen’s emerging star Oisín O’Neill was outstanding for Armagh yesterday, particularly in the second-half, when he won ball after ball around midfield and showcased his passing and score-taking ability.
McGeeney agreed that O’Neill had impressed him and added: “Oisín Mac Íomhair, who I’ve been trying to push this last couple of years, did well too and Conor White tried very hard in the first half as well.
“Ben Crealey, Ciaran Higgins… Paul Hughes was very good until he went off. It’s definitely good to see a few new faces and we have a couple more there looking to push up, so that’s good.”
Meanwhile, Barton was able to run the rule over some talented Derry footballers who put together some impressive spells against a more seasoned Orchard outfit: “We came here with a very young panel and a very light panel and so it proved in the first 10 minutes in particular,” he said.
“They had a baptism of fire in the sense that Armagh are a physically well conditioned team and I think a few of them had a wake-up call but we footballed our way back into it.
“Danny Tallon I thought was brilliant in the first half, unfortunately we had to play him a bit deeper in the second half but we had a plethora of guys on there from the academy squad or the U21s and that’s their first exposure to senior football.
“Putting 3-13 on the board still isn’t bad and I’d definitely have taken that before we arrived although we don’t like getting beaten. We lost our shape with all the substitutions but that’s what this competition and this time of year are all about – giving people football. We have a bit to do physically and probably psychologically as well but we are where we are and we’re okay, we’re working at it.
Barton is excited by the ability coming through in Derry, but is well aware that the county’s young players need time to find their feet at senior level: “I don’t doubt the ability of Derry footballers and you saw that in the first half and in the collective that is Slaughtneil,” he said.
“We footballed our way back into the game and we have a huge number of talented footballers – they just need exposure to this level. Some of the younger guys were saying there that they just couldn’t believe the step up and I think it’s great that those guys are there.
“It’s something we haven’t done in the past to bring players through.”
Scorers from Sundays game:
Oisin O’Neill 0-5 (0-2 Frees)
Oisin MacIomhair 0-4
Aidan Forker 1-1
Joe McElroy 1-0
Pearse Casey 0-2
Ethan Rafferty 0-2 (1 45, 1 Free)
Rory Grugan 0-2 (0-1 Free)