Armagh 0-11 Mayo 1-14: strong start, solid win

Our inability to start matches strongly has been a bugbear for us for some time but with a lead of 1-4 to no score on the board after just ten minutes, we certainly didn’t have that complaint tonight against Armagh up in the Cathedral city. That was the foundation for what in the end was a decisive six-point win but it took plenty of hard graft after that bright opening before we finally sealed the deal.

Armagh is a hell of a trip from the home county but it was an easy one for us up from the capital earlier this evening. We didn’t leave my place until about half five and we still managed to get seats in the stand of the nice, compact Athletic Grounds before the ball was thrown in at seven.

Once it was thrown in, we grabbed the game by the throat and three quick points by Alan Freeman, the first from play, put us in the ascendency right from the start. Then Andy Moran pounced on a loose ball after David Clarke’s booming ’50 didn’t make the distance and the Ballaghadereen man drove it first time to the net. An Enda Varley point from play then stretched our lead to seven with just ten minutes gone.

We should, of course, have pushed on from there and put the issue beyond doubt before the break but it was perhaps understandable that we’d pause at that stage to admire our handiwork for a bit. As well as that, the Armagh lads obviously would have felt that it was time to give their own supporters something to shout about having put up with enough funny-sounding roaring out of us in that frenetic opening period.

Two frees got them going and then a complete screw-up from a short kick-out by David Clarke – where we found ourselves under intense pressure inside our own 21-metre line – ended up with the Orchard County getting their first from play. Another free for them cut the gap to three.

A free from Conor Mortimer – who had been a virtual bystander during that opening fusillade –  got us going again and another free from him re-established some clear daylight between the sides. Two points by Aidan Forker, the first from a free, cut our lead back to three but Alan Freeman had the last say before the break, as he landed his fourth point of the night, from another placed ball.

Armagh really needed to come out after the break and hit us with everything they had.  As a few of the local lads explained to me, however, as I queued for tea under the stand – the rain, which had started to fall shortly before the break, now spilling down, illuminated by the lights – they were missing five of the Cross lads as well as Stevie Mac so it was questionable what exactly they had to hit us with. That said, they had come back from seven down in the second half against Cork in their opening league match last month and the eye-opening win down in Tralee marked them down as a side capable of doing damage to us so I was happy to agree with the locals that the match was far from over at that stage.

We quickly moved to make Armagh’s task all that harder with Mort notching the opening score of the half from a free. He responded to the barracking he’d got in the run-up by cupping his ear in the direction of the stand after he’d popped the score over. One of the locals sitting near us chuckled that Conor may not perhaps have been as quick to do so if the suspended Ciaran McKeever was on the field.

Mort followed that up with an excellent point from play from well out and then Enda Varley ended a flowing move with another well-taken point. Lee Keegan stormed forward and lamped over another confident score from play shortly after that.  At that stage, with an eight-point cushion, we were really cruising.

With five minutes left on the clock, though, our cruising had taken on more than a passing resemblance to that of the ill-fated Costa Concordia. Armagh were only three down now and were pouring forward repeatedly, coming perilously close as they did so to notching the goal that would surely have edged the contest for them.

Colm Boyle, who came on as a second half sub for Kevin Keane, was the man who made the vital intervention in a move that seemed destined to end in a goal for them. When Malachy Mackin hacked a close-in free badly wide soon after that the tide at last turned back in our favour and, our confidence visibly increasing once more, we sealed the win with a flurry of late scores.

So what happened to make us lose our grip on the game? I’m not wholly sure but the contest turned sharply in their favour around about the time Barry Moran was replaced by Seamus O’Shea in the middle. I don’t think Seamus can be blamed too much for the game’s turning but we definitely lost our hold around the middle from then until five minutes from the end, when Pat Harte’s late introduction finally settled us again.

Donal Vaughan had been booked in the first half and so was obviously somewhat constrained in terms of how hard he could go into the tackle in that period. Armagh perhaps sensed this as they drove through the middle repeatedly, taking the ball time and again into the danger zone. As well as this, Maurice Deegan – who was an annoying, pernickity presence all evening – was also doing the old GAA ref trick of giving the losing team the benefit of the doubt every time.

I’m not sure how long that scoreless period was for us but whatever about its duration it was one in which Armagh registered five points without reply, three from frees. That period culminated in the near-miss for a goal for them but somehow we managed to hold firm and then rouse ourselves to claim the spoils.

Alan Freeman – who had an excellent match, finishing with five points – claimed a brilliant catch from a long ball and when he was hauled down the Aghamore man simply picked himself up and fired over the resultant free. Enda Varley – who also had a bright evening – followed this up with a trademark screamer from thirty or so yards out which curled deliciously over. Shortly after he was barreling in one-on-one with the keeper from a defence-splitting pass by Richie Feeney and although I was screaming at him to bury it, I could see that the option he took – casually palming it over – was the more sensible one. It was also the closing score of what in the end was a very satisfactory night for us.

We had several strong performers tonight. The backs as a whole played well, in particular Keith Higgins, Richie Feeney and Lee Keegan. The latter, in particular, is visibly improving with every game and looks to have nailed down his place at wing back for later in the year. Ger Cafferkey, Kevin Keane and sub Colm Boyle all battled hard in the sector too and Donie Vaughan drove us forward repeatedly, though he found the going tough enough as Armagh drove right through his sector in that difficult second half period.

Barry Moran and Aidan O’Shea did well at midfield too as they made short work of all that pre-match babble about Vernon and Mackin being the best midfield in the country at the minute. Aidan put himself about in the middle all evening and really imposed himself on the game. The arrival of his big brother into the sector upset our rhythm in the second half but I think it’s fair to say that we knew before now that two O’Sheas at midfield isn’t ever going to be the best way we can use the Breaffy brothers’ talents.

Alan Freeman – what a great pair of hands he has – and Enda Varley were our two most dangerous forwards tonight while Andy Moran’s goal was obviously a big factor in our securing the win. Alan Dillon and Jason Doherty did plenty behind the scenes and while Conor had one of his quieter games, he still ended up with four points (three from frees) to his name.

Overall, it was a very satisfactory performance and a good win secured due to an extremely hard-working and committed performance. If we keep playing like this over the coming five weekends, we’re not going to be far off that place in the play-offs that James Horan has identified as his target for this year’s league campaign.

PS: Two big thank-yous are due – the first to The Brother for doing the driving, enabling me to complete the match report on the laptop on the journey back home and the second to Mayo Mick for his photos which accompany this report. Thanks to both.

MAYO: David Clarke; Kevin Keane, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Richie Feeney, Donal Vaughan, Lee Keegan (0-1); Aidan O’Shea, Barry Moran; Alan Freeman (0-5, four frees), Alan Dillon, Jason Doherty; Conor Mortimer (0-4, three frees), Andy Moran (1-0), Enda Varley (0-4). Subs: Seamus O’Shea for Barry Moran, Colm Boyle for Keane, Pat Harte for Andy Moran.

34 thoughts on “Armagh 0-11 Mayo 1-14: strong start, solid win

  1. Sounded like a good win tonight. MidWest seemed to think that Keane went off with a knee injury. That scuppered him last year against Roscommon so hopefully it’s not too serious as he seemed to have a good game.

    Varley and Freeman laid down markers tonight. They deserve to keep their places. Doherty might have been better off closer to goal.

    WJ is right that we seemed to go out of it when Barry Moran went off. He is at the top of his game at the minute.

    The defence seems stronger this year and we have yet to concede a goal in 2.5 league matches.

    Onwards and upwards.

  2. Grt win lads. Well done to all. Very happy to see a mean defence. Lets keep it going now.

  3. Remember that Armagh are missing a forward line of stevie Mcdonnell, ronan Clarke and Jamie Clarke. Good win but plenty to do. Varley with 4 points from play is earning his place. The big tests lie ahead with cork, Kerry and Dublin to come. Talk of a semi final place is a little much at this stage. Hopefully there will be another two points for us against down at home before we meet the big three.

  4. Unless I am mistaken this the team that beat Kerry. Great win, some new commers coming good, stepping up to the plate.

  5. So WJ , are the Dubs world beaters or are Armagh crap? This result though welcome puzzled me bearing in mind how poor we were v Dublin. The ball must have been driven in and bond of the mammy kissy stuff done to it in the half forward line. Good.

  6. Forget the last lines. Lost in translation by the ffing IPhone . Sorry folks…at least I hope that’s what comes up

  7. “Talk of a semi final place is a little much at this stage.”

    The top 4 in this division make the semi final & with two away wins under our belts we are more than capable of reaching that target now.

  8. – On the trip home we decided that henceforth, Maurice Deegan is to be renamed as Maurice “The Dice” Deegan, or simply “Dicey” Deegan. The reasoning being that to win a free from Deegan is more likely to have been down to chance than from the rules actually being applied. I would really love to have seen the foul count from this match.

    – To have beaten Armagh by 6 points in their own patch and not have played very consistently should be viewed as a very positive result.

    – Intriguingly, only 4 of the players who started the league match against Armagh last year were starting tonight.

    – As I commented before, short kicks should only be taken out if a defender is in 20 yards of space, not 2. This resulted in an Armagh point tonight.

    – Good solid defensive performance from everyone. Keane came out a performed well in the 2nd half after a nervy opening period.

    – Disappointed that Donie Vaughan put in a pair pretty savage high tackles tonight, and was lucky to come away with a yellow card. Freeman also was lucky to get away with some off-the-ball shenanigans.

    – We kicked 5 wides, 1 apiece from Andy Moran, Donie Vaughan and David Clarke, and 2 from Varley. Mayo had 8 scores from play, Armagh had 3 I believe. They also kicked at least 8 wides.

    – Mayo played cumatively well for about 20 minutes – a spell at the start of either half, and the last 5 minutes. In between, who knows what happened, but we lost midfield and couldn’t retain possession. Again, there were several aimless high balls into what must have been the world’s smallest full forward line of Moran, Varley and Mortimer.

    – I am more certain now of Keegan and Varley as starters. I still remain to be convinced that Dillon and Mortimer fit the bill in their current starters roles. I still would like to see Shane McHale, Colm Boyle (some more), Michael Conroy and Danny Kirby in the heat of battle. You would have to imagine around 6 of the back 7 are pretty much settled starters. I still think we need a big man at 14.

    – Well done Mayo, you gave us a happy drive home. 100% record so far, a great opportunity against Down next week to set us up for the big gun shootout.

  9. I didn’t say that we Werent capable! After two games it’s a bit early to be talking about semi finals. There are five to go! We have made a decent start and hopefully we will pick up two more Pts against Down at home next weekend. If u disagree mayomagic then grand! Our most difficult opponents lie in wait. Talk of semi finals is premature and all thoughts should be fixed on the Down game only next weekend, IMO.

  10. The. Big proem we’ll have is keeping our form for six weeks in a row. It will be a big test for the management team and we have to rotate a bit to keep players fresh.

  11. wel done mayo,good win up ther , hav to agree wi john casey[midwest] did,t think they,d win n armagh bu like patriot said lets not get carried away alot work to b done wit tha team yet n still wou,t b my championship team.some tough teams come,n up n will sort tha men from tha boys start,n n donegal…

  12. Really enjoyed the game.As i said yesterday its the way we start game tat leaves us struggling in the pass and i think we done to armagh last night wat was being inflicted on us 4 years. We had a 9 point turn around from last years result .We fell asleep a bit in the second period and armagh had a good purple patch but for once we had a cusion on the score board. Think alot of players put in a honest shift and a few were finding it tough out there .Mark my words we will have alot harder games in the coming weeks but they played a better style of football last night and hope tat they continue to do so.

  13. You can only beat what’s put In front of you. Great result. Beating any Armagh team at any level has proved beyond us in the past so let’s enjoy this one. Why was barry taken off…not performing or injured or was it cos he was carrying a yella? Varley continues To impress and hopefully the positive performance from Alan freeman will see him leave recent sub standard performances behind him for good.

  14. Two of the subs we used were not even listed on the bench prior to the match. Anyone know whats going on here ?
    Good to get another two points on the road even though Armagh were well short of their first 15.
    Two more points would take us away from relegation and four would put us in the semi’s. So onwards & upwards with us hopefully taking two more next weekend.

  15. Barry Moran wasnt that prominent particularly in the second half. I wasn’t too surprised he was replaced and at that stage we were starting to lose the midfield area. Personally I would have put him into ff and brought Alan Freeman to midfield and see what happpened for a few minutes before him going off.
    All that said a good win away from home to a tough opposition albeit short some key players.

  16. It must be the only football league in the world that two of it’s national stations neither cover or mention the leaders

  17. another point: one would swear at the match last night with the baying for blood of the Armagh support that the poor Mayo lads were either “Squaddies” or “Paras”

  18. listened on MWR and then got the report from my cousin who was at the game , seems aidan did very well but we are no further to finding him a partner at mid, also some of the forwards are holding up rather than moving the ball at speed and it was the moving at speed that led to most of our scores, hopefully james is moving to getting them to lose this bad habit , it was very noticable in the dubs game…

  19. Citog – I can’t understand the logic of that statement re the tenor of the Armagh support. I was at the match and I didn’t think there was anything overly partisan about the home support. They certainly weren’t baying for blood and to say that they were doing so in the way that you did is both completely wrong and I would imagine from an Armagh point of view would be seen as deeply offensive.

  20. Aidan was very good alright Roger, both in gaining possession and putting himself about the place and generally making his presence felt. Barry Moran was okay but not as strong as in recent matches, though as I said in the report it was when he went off and SOS (who is too similar to Aidan in style) came on that things really went against us in midfield. The forwards were a bit more direct on Saturday night, especially compared to the Dublin game, but you’re right that we’re still not moving the ball forward quickly enough and there’s too much of a tendency to check back before letting it in.

  21. I wonder will James bite the bullet and drive on from here with Dillon and Mort as impact subs. They are not part of the future but due to their long service probably are holding back a player or two who might be part of the coming year. When Cillian O Connor comes back will he replace Doherty or will it be one of the senior two boys/

  22. Good win, heading up to Armagh and winning is always a tough proposition. Glad to see no-one is getting to carried away, another win now and we’ll be in with a reasonable chance of the semis, it will also guarantee us Div 1 football again next year although it might be tight yet as there are no firm patterns emerging and everyone seems to be beating everyone else this year if that makes sense.

  23. Sorry Willie Joe but you must not have heard the “off” “off” chants and the booing during our frees. If the truth be offensive then regretfully I must stick with it

  24. i often wonder what it would be like to have to sit back and listen to us …. we can be fairly “emotional” ourselves id say….

  25. Compared to other home crowds, there was a fair amount of “rabble, rabble”, you could call it. Even the neutral who was sitting beside me commented on it.

    Although on the frees, the 2 lads were taking forever on them.

  26. Some Armagh supporters were very abusive to the referee and to the opposition (Mayo). the booing at our free taking was in-excusable but then the place to counteract that is on the scoreboard and we did that. O’Shea was outstanding and I thought Barry Moran should have been left on??

    the pitch is three yards narrower than Castlebar and 3 yards longer. Morgan Park is a fine set up.

  27. good performance, impressed by the fight in Aidan O’Shea and Freeman did well. FF line relatively quiet but not great ball went in so survived on scraps. Keegan a big plus again and will be pushing come the summer. Big loss for Armagh with Vernon going off early. Did anyone see was the Linesperson a man or woman in the first half on the main stand side. Very confusing…Ref terrible throughout. Willie Joe did I spot you after the game in Castlebellingham services?

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