Mayo edge Armagh in thriller
MAYO senior footballers advanced to the final round of the All-Ireland championship qualifiers following their hard earned and narrow victory over Armagh in Elverys MacHale Park, Castlebar, tonight.
Throughout the 70 plus minutes this was tense and very exciting. But in the end it was Mayo's greater experience that saw them prevail by 2-13 to 1-15.
However, the victory came at a cost as Mayo lost a number of players through injury. Already without Matthew Ruane and Diarmuid O'Connor, it looks like Lee Keegan, Brendan Harrison and Jason Doherty will be very doubtful for next weekend's final qualifier.
On the plus side for Mayo, both Donal Vaughan and Cillian O'Connor came on as second-half substitutes and added greatly to the victory.
Despite Conor Loftus putting them in front in the third minute with a point, Mayo found themselves three behind two minutes later after Armagh full-forward Rian O'Neill scored a great goal.
However, Mayo regrouped and within two minutes they scored a goal of their own when Fionn McDonagh hit a stinging low drive to the back of the net.
For the remainder of the half points were exchanged on numerous occasions before a sixth Mayo point from captain for the day, Patrick Durcan, sent them in at the interval one in front, 1-6 to 1-5.
On the resumption, the lead changed hands on a number of occasions before Mayo got a second crucial goal in the 51st minute after Kevin McLoughlin, receiving an inch perfect pass from man of the match Colm Boyle, brilliantly chipped the Armagh 'keeper. When Darren Coen extended the Mayo lead to five points it looked as if they were on course for a comfortable win.
However, Armagh had different ideas and after scoring four unanswered points they had closed the gap to the minimum with seven minutes remaining. Two pointed frees by Cillian O'Connor had Mayo three in front as the game went into injury time. But, Armagh refused to die and again got within one of Mayo with less than a minute remaining.
That was as close as they were to come and it was Mayo who held on for a well deserved victory.
Mayo: D. Clarke, C. Barrett, B. Harrison, K. Higgins, L. Keegan, C. Boyle, P. Durcan (0-1), M. Murray, A. O’Shea, F. McDonagh (1-1), C. Loftus (0-2), J. Doherty (0-1), D. Coen (0-4), A. Moran, C. Treacy.
Subs used: K. McLoughlin (1-1), S. Coen, D. Vaughan(0-1), C. O'Connor (0-2), F. Boland, E. Regan.
Armagh: B. Hughes, P. Burns, A. McKay, P. Hughes, A. Forker, B. Donaghy, M. Shields, J. Og Burns, N. Grimley (0-1), J. Hall, A. Nugent, S. Campbell (0-4), J. Clarke (0-5), R. O'Neill (1-2), R. Grugan (0-3).
Subs used: E. Rafferty, G. McCabe, B. Crealey.
Referee: M. Deegan (Laois).