"If he can channel it in the right way, he'll go right to the top of the game" - the brilliance of Rian O'Neill 1 month ago

"If he can channel it in the right way, he'll go right to the top of the game" - the brilliance of Rian O'Neill

Rian O'Neill didn't even bat an eye-lid.

Sean Kelly was pushing Armagh's best player in the chest - nothing major, every back does it - but most forwards push back and, for all the aggression that's inside of him, you'd have expected O'Neill to do just that.


But he didn't even look at him. He stayed doing what he was doing - which was strolling around Croke Park with his eyes on the ball, and his mind on the game. There were about sixty five minutes gone at this stage and, as the pressure ramped up, and with Croke Park beginning to shake with the nerves, you could see from high up in the Hogan Stand that the Crossmaglen man was in the zone.

Ciaran Mackin came on in the closing stages of that game and that man, you'd have to say, is an absolute greyhound. He looked like Usain Bolt at times as he galloped down the field on a support run but he rarely ended up with the ball, and he's a very different player to Rian O'Neill.

O'Neill doesn't do that sort of thing. He walks between the full forward line and the half forward line and the only reason good enough to make him move is if the pass is on.

He moves fast then, timing it to perfection and it's that bit of cuteness that makes him the player that Armagh always look to, and it's why, on top of all the skills, the toughness and the freakish athletic ability - O'Neill is up there with the best players in the country.


He has that bit of inner confidence that all the great players have and, as he watched on from the stand, GAA Hour host Darran O'Sullivan couldn't help but notice how he compliments it, with all-out aggression.

"He has that spikiness about him too, that he could flake you as quick as lightning as well," says the Kerryman, "but I was watching him a good bit yesterday. There's a bit of a Wayne Rooney about him, in that raw aggression that he has, but I just think, over the next couple of years, if he can channel that in the right way, he'll go right to the top of the game because Jesus, he has absolutely everything."


And while that aggression is one of his biggest strengths, there are times as well, it has to be said,  when it could become a weakness too. O'Neill had a couple of clashes with Paul Conroy during the game and after scoring that monster free, there's no doubt that, with emotions running high, the way he sprinted across the pitch and shook his finger in front of Conroy's face played some part in the row that followed.

Rian O'Neill was one of the first players to congratulate Matthew Tierney for kicking the winning penalty.

Let's not forget, an off-the-ball incident almost did rule him out of the Ulster championship game against Donegal this year but none-the-less, O'Neill has it all and he has some future ahead of him.


"I know we talked about his free," added the Kerryman, "but even watching him throughout the game, similar to Shane Walsh - he has all the talent in the world - but he just has the look of a superstar. Even the way he carries himself, he has everything."

"He kicked a point in the first half where he had no right whatsoever to win the ball," added Galway man Finian Hanley.

"He got out in front of Molloy and beat two men and then whipped it over the bar. He's aggressive, he doesn't let anything get in his way and if he can harbour everything that he has, there are no limits.

"That catch at the finish, at that point in the game, Sean Kelly was well positioned like, but it was just pure class from O'Neill, it was like an Aussie Rules catch. They wanted him kicking it in but they wanted him inside at the same time."

That's how good he is.