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Allianz FL D1: Mayo finish strong to reel in Armagh

Pádraig O'Hora's introduction was a key factor in Mayo turning around a three-point deficit against Armagh today.

Pádraig O'Hora's introduction was a key factor in Mayo turning around a three-point deficit against Armagh today.

Allianz Football League Division One

MAYO 0-15        ARMAGH 1-10

Kevin Egan at Dr. Hyde Park

The unique, visceral energy that is the endless Mayo drive to finally reach to peak of the gaelic football mountain came to Dr. Hyde Park in Roscommon this afternoon, and was almost palpable in the closing stages of an enthralling contest, which featured James Horan’s side rattling off five points in succession to edge out an Armagh whose reputation lost nothing as they fell to their first defeat of the year.

A huge crowd descended on the venue for this game, the second of three “home” games for the Connacht champions that have been spread around the province due to renovation works on Hastings MacHale Park, and not even ten seconds had expired when a match was thrown onto the tinder, Ciarán Mackin floating a lobbed shot from 25 metres over the head of Rory Byrne and into the top corner of the Mayo net for the game’s opening score.

Armagh proved that was no fluke as they followed up with three of the next four points, all from play, testing Mayo to the full with their use of every inch of the pitch. It was a common sight to see two or three Armagh players on the right-hand sideline as the team attacked down the left, or vice versa, as stretching the Connacht county seemed to be crucial to Kieran McGeeney’s game plan.

With most of the Mayo forward line misfiring, it took a string of excellent points from Ryan O’Donoghue to tighten up things on the scoreboard, but with a strong wind at their backs, they would have felt that they needed to take a lead into the half-time break. Eventually there were signs of life from the rest of the team, Matthew Ruane kicking the score to make it 1-3 to 0-4 before Diarmuid O’Connor drew a huge roar from the crowd when he swung the ball over the bar from the right wing in the 18th minute.

Somewhat inexplicably, the scoring dried up for the remainder of the half, despite the fact that game continued to unfold at a high tempo, with plenty of pace and support for the team in possession. It wasn’t until the half hour mark that Rian O’Neill raised the next flag of the with a wonderful right-footed effort on the run, and the Crossmaglen Rangers man then traded long range frees with Ryan O’Donoghue to leave two points in it at half-time.

A black card for Ciarán Mackin in first half stoppage time gave Mayo an extra boost and they duly drew level through points from Aidan Orme and O’Connor within three minutes of the restart. By now James Horan had already used four of his substitutions and as one might imagine with players of the calibre of Aidan O’Shea, Padraig O’Hora, Paddy Durcan and Kevin McLoughlin, there was a noted improvement on the field.

However now they had to play into the wind, and Armagh’s scoring range was increased even further, as evidenced by one huge effort from O’Neill that sailed over from 55 metres out.

Two successive points from Aidan Nugent made it 1-10 to 0-10 going into the last ten minutes, and while Mayo were enjoying plenty of possession, it was hard to see where the scores were going to come from to retrieve that deficit.

That was when the energy of the crowd started to become a factor, allied to the sudden introduction of a series of errors to Armagh’s play. After the game Kieran McGeeney cited his own team’s habit of giving the ball away as the key factor in why the game turned around, and every time the ball transferred from an orange jersey to a man in red, the roars of the 11,000 strong crowd grew even louder.

Ryan O’Donoghue got the ball rolling with a free, adding another after Jack Carney hoovered up the ball from a poor Armagh kickout. Paddy Durcan fired over the leveller, then Aidan Orme intercepted a stray pass to set up Jordan Flynn for the lead score. Padraig O’Hora and Rory Byrne secured further turnovers as Armagh ran out of ideas, arguably the first time in this year’s Allianz League campaign that they lost their way so spectacularly.

One last breakaway in the fifth minute of stoppage time ended with Ruane setting up Durcan for a winning point, not to mention setting the stage nicely for a top of the table clash in Tralee in a fortnight.

Scorers for Mayo: Ryan O’Donoghue 0-7 (0-6f), Diarmuid O’Connor 0-2, Paddy Durcan 0-2, Jordan Flynn 0-1, Matthew Ruane 0-1, Aidan Orme 0-1m, Kevin McLoughlin 0-1.

Scorers for Armagh: Ciarán Mackin 1-0, Rian O’Neill 0-3 (0-2f), Rory Grugan 0-2 (0-1f), Aidan Nugent 0-2, Stefan Campbell 0-1, Jason Duffy 0-1, Conor Turbitt 0-1.

Mayo: Rory Byrne; Lee Keegan, Rory Brickenden, Michael Plunkett; Oisín Mullin, Stephen Coen, Sam Callinan; Jordan Flynn, Matthew Ruane; Fionn McDonagh, Diarmuid O’Connor, Conor Loftus; Aidan Orme, Frank Irwin, Ryan O’Donoghue

Subs: Kevin McLoughlin for Irwin (20), Paddy Durcan for Brickenden (25), Padraig O’Hora for Callinan, Aidan O’Shea for Loftus (half-time), Jack Carney for McDonagh (60), Fergal Boland for McLoughlin (70+2).

Armagh: Ethan Rafferty; Paddy Burns, Aidan Forker, Aaron McKay; Niall Rowland, Connaire Mackin, Jarly Óg Burns; Ciarán Mackin, Ben Crealey; Stefan Campbell, Rory Grugan, Tiernan Kelly; Jason Duffy, Rian O’Neill, Aidan Nugent.  

Subs used: Conor Turbitt for Duffy (43), James Morgan for McKay (49), Stephen Sheridan for Crealey (54), Oisín O’Neill for Rowland (64), Conor O’Neill for Forker (70+2).

Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)