All-Ireland SFC Round 3 Qualifier
MAYO 2-13 ARMAGH 1-15
By Daragh Small at MacHale Park, Castlebar
Mayo are still alive in this year’s All-Ireland SFC, after a narrow 2-13 to 1-15 victory over Armagh at MacHale Park in Castlebar.
Armagh’s fifth championship game this year was a bridge too far while their more experienced opponents moved one step closer to the Super 8s.
Mayo were knocked out at this stage last year but two late frees from the returning Cillian O’Connor were crucial, and they advanced to Round 4 of the qualifiers.
Kevin McLoughlin scored a second half goal, after Rian O’Neill and Fionn McDonagh traded first half strikes.
Andy Moran and the injured Lee Keegan left the field before half-time but Mayo recovered to take a narrow 1-6 to 1-5 lead into the break.
The hosts played with the breeze at their backs in the first half after stand-in captain Patrick Durcan won the toss, but they were rocked by the concession of an early goal.
Mayo went in front with a pointed free from Conor Loftus in the fourth minute, but Armagh clicked into gear and hit an unanswered 1-1.
O’Neill was the star of their victory in Clones last weekend, and he added a third goal in seven days when he was set up following a brilliant move involving Jamie Clarke and Aidan Nugent.
But Mayo had all the experience and stayed in the fight. Aidan O’Shea’s long range free was fielded by Moran and he passed to McDonagh who blasted Mayo’s goal in the seventh minute.
It was the perfect response from the home side and although O’Neill and Rory Grugan hit back, Loftus and McDonagh hit back with two points of their own.
The sides were level for the third time, at 1-3 to 1-3, in the 16th minute and then Clarke and Darren Coen traded points.
A brilliant run from Mark Shields led to Stefan Campbell’s point but Mayo finished the half stronger after they lost the two former Footballers of the Year.
Jason Doherty scored an important point in the 35th minute and then Durcan rounded off the first half scoring.
Clarke scored on the double just after half-time to retake the lead for Armagh. Kevin McLoughlin cancelled that out, but Clarke scored again.
But Darren Coen caught fire for Mayo and hit two points back-to-back before O’Connor’s introduction in the 48th minute and he scored two late frees.
Kevin McLoughlin scored Mayo’s second goal after he was set up by Boyle in the 52nd minute and when Darren Coen scored his fourth point Mayo were 2-11 to 1-9 in front.
But Armagh fought back again, and Campbell scored three more points for a grandstand finish, but O’Connor’s exploits were enough to seal the win as Niall Grimley sent a last-ditch free wide.
Scorers for Mayo: Fionn McDonagh 1-1, Kevin McLoughlin 1-1, Darren Coen 0-4, Conor Loftus 0-2 (0-2f), Cillian O’Connor 0-2 (0-2f), Patrick Durcan 0-1, Jason Doherty 0-1, Donal Vaughan 0-1.
Scorers for Armagh: Jamie Clarke 0-5 (0-2f), Rian O’Neill 1-2 (0-2f), Stefan Campbell 0-4, Rory Grugan 0-3, Niall Grimley 0-1.
MAYO: David Clarke; Keith Higgins, Brendan Harrison, Chris Barrett; Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle, Patrick Durcan; Aidan O’Shea, Mikey Murray; Ciarán Treacy, Jason Doherty, Fionn McDonagh; Conor Loftus, Andy Moran, Darren Coen. Subs: Kevin McLoughlin for Moran (32), Stephen Coen for Keegan (34, inj), Donal Vaughan for Murray (38), Cillian O’Connor for Loftus (48), Fergal Boland for Doherty (54 inj), Evan Regan for Treacy (72).
ARMAGH: Blaine Hughes; Mark Shields, Paddy Burns, Aaron McKay; Paul Hughes, Aidan Forker, Brendan Donaghy; Jarlath Óg Burns, Niall Grimley; Stefan Campbell, Aidan Nugent, Jemar Hall; Jamie Clarke, Rian O’Neill, Rory Grugan. Subs: Ethan Rafferty for Nugent (54), Greg McCabe for McKay (57), Ben Crealey for Óg Burns (72).
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).