Mayo’s Conor Murray has his path blocked by Armagh’s Sean Óg McGuinness during the Allianz National Hurling League tie at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park, Castlebar. Photo: David Farrell

Mayo hurlers off to winning start under new management

Now under new management, Mayo got their Allianz NHL Division 3A campaign off to a winning start with a 1-18 to 2-7 victory over Armagh at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park, Castlebar, writes John Melvin.

Leading at one stage by nine points, it looked a safe bet to back Mayo at half-time to win - although the odds would not have been great.

However, that had changed by the half-time whistle as Mayo saw that nine point-lead pared down to four with the concession of two goals.

But the pendulum swung back towards Mayo in the second half, a goal from Adrian Phillips on 58 minutes giving the home side more security and ultimately providing them with the impetus to record a win under the new management of Brian Finn and Ray Larkin.

Armagh weren't helped by the dismissal of two players, one on a second yellow card and one on a straight red.

David Kenny had a massive game as Mayo never panicked despite the pressure from a physically stronger Armagh side, and it was the ability of the home side to maintain their discipline which saw them hold out for a deserving win in the end.

Mayo were in control of this game for long periods of the first half and began on a positive note with a point inside 20 seconds from Liam Lavin. Mayo then used the strength of the gale behind them to their advantage, with a string of points following from Lavin again, John Heraty (two), Adrian Phillips and Oisin Greally, while Cormac Phillips picked off four excellent frees.

However, the pick of the first-half scores was a thing of beauty that any golfer would be proud of as Sean Kenny guided over a sideline cut which curled inside the post at the last moment.

In a flash Armagh responded with three points on the bounce, the opening one a brilliantly struck free from over 60 yards by Alex O’Boyle.

Then disaster struck for Mayo on 29 minutes when a probing ball into the danger zone was squeezed over the line by Niall Lennon for Armagh’s first goal.

It still left Mayo in command by 0-13 to 1-3, but just before half-time an Armagh player lay injured in the square and after consulting with both umpires, referee Caymon Flynn spread his arms wide indicating he was a awarding a penalty. Mayo goalkeeper Bobby Douglas only felt the breeze as the sliothar flew past him from a brilliant penalty taken penalty by O’Boyle.

It saw Mayo’s one time lead of nine points cut to four (0-13 to 2-3), and they would be facing into that gale as the sun began to appear for the second half.

But Mayo never panicked. While O'Boyle continued to find the range for Armagh and the lead was cut to two at one stage, Mayo's only goal of the game, created by substitute Joe Burke for Adrian Phillips, was to prove vital.

Armagh were still in the game but a second yellow card for team captain Tiarnán Nevin ended his day, and worse was to follow when substitute Shea Harvey was shown a straight red following a strike on Liam Lavin right in front of the referee.

This was just the start Mayo needed to claw their way out of this division. Next up is Monaghan away next week.

Mayo: B. Douglas; L. Connor, D. Hill, C. Murray; C. Hession D. Kenny, E. Collins; D. Huane (0-1), J. Heraty (0-2); L. Lavin (0-4), A. Phillips (1-2), S. Kenny (0-2, 1f); O. Greally (0-1), C. Phillips (0-5f), E. Delaney (0-1).

Subs used: J. Burke for Heraty, M. Connor for E. Delaney, E. Heraty for Huane, S. Crinnigan for Lavin.

Armagh: F. Woods; K. McKernan, T. Nevin, O. Curry; P. Lappin, B. Shortt, O. O’Hare; N. Lennon (1-0), F. Donnelly (0-1); C. Reneghan (0-1), P. Gaffney, A. Fox; S. O’Keefe, S. McGuiness, A. O’Boyle (1-5, 1-0p, 0-5f).

Subs used: D. Maguire for McGuinness, S. Harvey for Lennon, C. Duffy for Donnelly, P. McBride for O’Keefe.

Referee: C. Flynn (Armagh).