T2 fears will deliver cut-throat league, says Cross star

Armagh attacker Oisin O’Neill reckons the new Tier 2 championship will ensure that next year’s Division 2 league campaign is more competitive than ever.

T2 fears will deliver cut-throat league, says Cross star

Armagh attacker Oisin O’Neill reckons the new Tier 2 championship will ensure that next year’s Division 2 league campaign is more competitive than ever. Armagh and the seven other Division 2 counties will begin that campaign knowing that a bottom two finish will almost certainly mean Tier 2 football for them in the summer.

The two teams relegated from Division 2 will be classed as Division 3 teams for the purposes of the new Tier 2 competition which will comprise counties from Division 3 and 4 that haven’t reached a provincial final.

Acknowledging that 2002 All-Ireland winners Armagh could potentially end up playing Tier 2 football, O’Neill said: “Yeah, it is a possibility and it’s going to put extra pressure and extra significance on the league this season.

“I think every team that’s in Division 2 is going to want to first of all maintain their position there, so they are not at risk of going into the second tier. That’s a challenge and it’s something that we look forward to.”

O’Neill said Armagh will begin the campaign with optimism of finishing at the other end of the table and securing promotion to Division 1.

“We feel that in Armagh we have created a group now that should be challenging towards the Super 8s,” said the Crossmaglen attacker.

We feel that we want to get promoted and that’s going to be our big goal as the pre-season starts and then leading into the National League. We are hoping to set our sights on getting promotion to Division 1 and build on that then in the Championship.

O’Neill, 22, was billed as a serious talent when he debuted for Armagh in 2017 though hip and ankle injuries — the former brought on by overuse as he played for club, college, and county in early 2018 — have stunted his progress.

It was his younger brother, Rian, who impressed most this year, shooting 3-21 in the Championship and earning a nomination for Young Player of the Year, though Oisin proved he’s back to his best with 1-5 for Cross in last weekend’s county final win.

Their dubious reward is a November 2 AIB Ulster club quarter-final clash with Monaghan champions Clontibret who are managed by Crossmaglen great John McEntee.

“John McEntee was joint manager with Oisin McConville in 2015 when they gave me my first chance of playing senior football so I will always be grateful to them for giving me the opportunity and for making some of my dreams come true,” said O’Neill.

“Look, John is a legend in our club. He was an All-Ireland winning captain at 20 years of age. How many men can say they’ve done that? The thing about John is that he has a job to do but we know he is a Crossmaglen man, through and through.

“He was supporting us at the county final. He does a lot of work behind the scenes with our underage.”

McEntee and his Cross colleagues grew up playing on their local field in the shadow of the adjacent British Army base. The south-Armagh town was heavily affected by the Troubles and O’Neill said he’s delighted that a no-deal Brexit scenario, potentially resulting in the reinstallation of a hard border, hasn’t materialised.

“Even last week, there were protests around the 20 or so spots near Crossmaglen where the border would meet us, from families living along there, people from the club,” he said. “So many people from Crossmaglen would work in the south, players from our team especially, they’d work in Dublin, and it was strange to think how their lives might have been changed. Thankfully now an agreement has been reached.”

Crossmaglen’s Oisin O’Neill was speaking at the launch of the AIB camogie and club Championships

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