"His younger brother will tell you he's not even the best player in the house" 1 year ago

"His younger brother will tell you he's not even the best player in the house"

Aaron Kernan is conscious not to build Rian O'Neill up too much.

But at the same time he knows well that his club-mate is able for the hype. In Crossmaglen, they've been waiting for O'Neill to come through for a while. In Armagh, they've been counting down the days.

And with good reason too.

O'Neill burned it up in Cross' county title winning campaign over the winter and brought that form into the League. O'Neill lives for the big day, as Kernan says though and D-day was always going to be the Ulster first round against Down in Pรกirc Esler.

Again, the 20-year-old showed maturity and leadership beyond his years. He wasn't just looking for the ball, he was begging his teammates for it when Armagh were up against it and when it might have been easier for a debutante to take a back-seat.

He ended his day with 0-8 (four from play) and was the difference between winning and losing.

Kernan discussed his potential and his 'good genes' on Monday's GAA Hour Football Show.

"Rian O'Neill comes from a family of pedigree. His dad played for Armagh, played for Louth and Leinster. His mum is Oisin McConville's sister..."

"There's four of them in the family and they just live and breathe Gaelic football but Rian O'Neill is the business.ย 

"I've seen him since he was under 8 upwards and there's nothing he can't do. Right or left foot, handling, temperament and you say he's aggressive for a forward...Whenever he hits, it hurts.

"But the one thing... he's the first player on the field at training and he's the last player off the field every night. You don't need to say a thing to him.

"Literally, like, he's 20 now. I'm the club captain this past two years and he's our vice captain. But he doesn't talk. He doesn't talk in the changing rooms, says very little on the field but there's just an aggression to get ball, to shoot, to win in him that is infectious.

"We have a good crop of young boys coming through in our club but he is the pied piper of them..."


Rian isn't the only youngster coming through in Crossmaglen though.

"The only thing is, if you talk to his younger brother who was on the under-14 team, he'll tell you he's not even the best player in the house!ย 

"There's a good fleet of them coming through, which is terrific for Cross and for Armagh. Aaron is 14 - he'll end up being an inside forward, Darragh is under-16 and Oisin is a year older than Rian, he's on the senior panel and he'll be back available..."

It's in the O'Neills' blood, and the same goes for midfielder Jarlath ร“g Burns. He was exceptional for the Orchard against Down on Sunday.

"He has an absolute ferocious leap. He's a bit like his father in that he loves catching ball," says Kernan.

A brilliant Sigerson Cup campaign with St Mary's, and he's taking off with Armagh now too. McGeeney has a pair of gems on his hands.

You can listen to the Rian O'Neill discussion and the GAA Hour podcast here.