The Irish News Ulster GAA All-Star Awards were held on Friday 30th September in the Ulster Hall, Belfast. Armagh picked up five All-Stars and Player of the Year.
Congratulations to all award winners.
The role of the goalkeeper continues to evolve year on year and Armagh’s Ethan Rafferty brought it to a different level this season. The Grange man gave a new dimension to the term ‘sweeper keeper’ with his forays up the field and his two points against Tyrone are the standout moments of the campaign. Rafferty didn’t have the best of starts to his time between the sticks against Donegal but grew into the role impressively and made massive contributions against Tyrone, Donegal (qualifiers) and Galway.
Jarlath Óg Burns
His move to wing half-back worked wonders for Armagh this season and he brought brilliant power and pace to their counterattacks. Scored in all but one of Armagh’s Championship encounters, which included three points against Donegal in Clones to knock the Tir Chonaill men out of the running as the Orchard gained revenge for their Ulster championship defeat. The Silverbridge man has been a big part of Armagh’s development over the last number of years and continues to grow into a real leader.
Surprisingly didn’t start for Armagh in the first round of the Championship against Donegal and the game was gone by the time he was sprung from the bench. Campbell earned a starting berth the next day out and was arguably Armagh’s most influential player for the remainder of the championship. Gave a man of the match performance against Tyrone and put in a mountain of work against Galway. While he missed his spot kick during the penalty shootout, that didn’t diminish the brilliant year ‘Soupy’ had.
A real stalwart in the Armagh team, Grugan is one of the most skillful footballers in the province. His vision and kick-passing ability is a huge asset to Kieran McGeeney’s side. The Ballymacnab playmaker finished his goal with aplomb inside the opening ten seconds against Donegal in Clones and bagged another major against Galway in Croke Park during extra time. Grugan is a real leader in the team and also had a huge influence on Armagh’s successful Division One campaign.
The star man in the orange and white, it’s no coincidence that when O’Neill is on form, Armagh usually perform. Showcased his talents against Dublin in the first round of the League during his Croke Park debut and gave another outstanding performance against Donegal in the qualifiers. O’Neill inspired Armagh’s comeback against Galway, making a huge catch to set up a goal and landed that outrageous free kick to bring the game to extra time. The bigger the occasion, the more the Crossmaglen man seems to grow.
Irish News Ulster GAA All-Star Player of the Year
Rian O’Neill was also named as the Irish News Ulster Allstar Footballer of the Year.
He came out top in the public vote after a fine summer in which he excelled in the qualifier win over Donegal and then produced one of its outstanding moments with the late normal-time equaliser against Galway. He lit up Croke Park with his 50-metre free from near the sideline that earned Armagh extra-time in a thrilling All-Ireland quarter-final.