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Eoin McGuinness has always been a player that wears his heart on his sleeve, whether that be in the jersey of his club Newry Shamrocks or county Armagh.

The Newry GAA Club is steeped in history but recently their members have been writing a new chapter in hurling for Armagh and Down.

“That’s the thing, Newry Shamrocks has always been a club that has had members from Armagh and Down, my own family is all Armagh.

Eoin McGuinness. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Astride of two counties! - Eoin McGuinness plays county hurling for Armagh and club for Newry Shamrocks. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

“We live in Killeavy, and we are all Armagh following people but from within the club there has been great Down men throughout the years. The late John Murphy and DJ Kane, we have legends like that at the club. There are great Armagh and Down people in the Shamrocks, and they would support you no matter what colours you have on.

“Ronan Sheehan and Sean Gallagher have run an Academy at the Shamrocks and what they have done is phenomenal. We started with maybe 12 children from under 13 and down and now we have over 60 playing hurling. It is getting bigger every year and the more the merrier and that says a lot about the good coaching we have.”

Strong, bullish and athletic, his craftwork with the hurl is something to admire too and at 34 years young McGuinness is hungry for more.

Armagh hurlers have big back-to-back games against Tyrone later this month, with and outside chance of clinching the Division 3A league title at stake for the first game, but the start of the journey to Croke Park and the Nicky Rackard Cup is on the line for the second game.

Anyone who has witnessed Eoin, or indeed his brother Artie play hurling will know they don’t believe in half measures and the Newry man is keen on getting two wins against the Red Hands rivals.

“Our ambition from the start of the season was to win league and championship. Obviously, other results would have to go our way to be in with a shout to win the league because we got beat by Sligo, which was bitterly disappointing,” said McGuinness.

“I feel it was a game we left behind and we can only beat what is in front of us. So, we need to win our remaining game and target this championship and give it everything.

“It is all or nothing, we don’t know how the other games will go, so we will have to give it the full welly. We don’t know, Sligo could slip up and that could be our chance if we beat Tyrone. It is a do or die game in the championship and we have to go hell for leather again.”

McGuinness made his debut for Armagh in 2013 against Finglas, this year the team is going through transition, with a lot of young talent coming in to replace several seasoned campaigners. But the Newry man, who has scored 1-04 so far this campaign, has no heed of hanging his stick up and he has been impressed with the spread of clubs in the Armagh team.

Eoin McGuinness. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Eoin McGuinness at the geographical divide between Counties Armagh and Down. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

“I am happy enough with the way I am playing, I suppose I could always be fitter and quicker, but the Armagh County Board has provided everything for us, so I just try to not miss training and do it on the pitch. I still have a lot to play for and plenty of years left in me yet,” Eoin said.

“There is a lot of changes. A lot of boys in their early 30s retired but there is a lot of new blood coming in, with the likes of Stephen McGurney from Derrynoose and a couple of Cuchulainn’s lads, Caolan McReynolds, Tiernan O’Hare from Camlough so there is good talent coming through, the future is bright.

“When you have a player from every club then it gives hurling more exposure to everyone in the county and when we come together the tribalism disappears. You are more part of a team.”

McGuinness has won the Division 2B title and Nicky Rackard Cup in 2016 with Armagh but he has suffered heartache in more finals that he cares to remember, and he is determined to get his hands on some silverware, especially when he is playing with his brother.

“Obviously playing with Artie is an added level of pride. We both made our senior debuts when we were 13 and we are playing together for at least 25 years.

“We have two different styles of playing hurling and when you have your brother playing at the other side of the field it gives you a bit of a confidence booster. You can go in a wee bit harder because you know you have got backup,” laughed Eoin.

“Every time pull on the Armagh jersey is special to me because from my great grandparents down to me, they are Armagh to the core, and I feel great pride to represent Newry when I pull on the Shamrocks jersey.”

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