Armagh hurlers experienced heartache at the weekend, when they missed out on the Nicky Rackard final for the second year in a row, as Mayo ran out four point winners in Croke Park on Saturday.
The westerners got off to the best possible start with a goal on two minutes from Darren McTigue after the initial shot was blocked. Armagh’s opening point was a beautifully struck effort from Davy Carvill, but Kenny Feeney got his first point of the day. A couple of scores from Ryan Gaffney and Cahal Carvill looked to have settled an Armagh side who were also guilty of a number of wides. Three Mayo scores through Joseph McManus, Kenny Feeney and Seán Regan put them ahead 1-4 to 0-3 after 20 minutes, before Armagh finally got a grip on the game. Two good scores from Declan Coulter, either side of a converted Ryan Gaffney 65 and a lovely score from Davy Carvill drew the sides level after a half hour and when a long ball in was fielded by Eoin McGuinness and switched to Conor Corvan, Armagh hit the front for the first time. Mayo’s top scorer Kenny Feeney, however, saw out the half with two more points, but an effort from Declan Coulter ensured the teams went in level at half time. Despite being outhurled in the opening 20 minutes, as well as a high wide count, Armagh were relatively pleased to be in the game.
Leath ama: Ard Mhacha 0-9 Maigh Eo 1-6
The second half got off to a roaring start as Mayo football All-star Keith Higgins went on a super solo run, but a great block from Ciaran Clifford put an end to any thoughts of an early goal for the westerners. The sliotar was worked immediately up the field and as Declan Coulter took on a number of defenders, the ball was fed to Eoin McGuinness and there was only one possible outcome as the umpire reached for the green flag and Armagh raced ahead. Unfortunately for Armagh, the momentum gained from the early goal was soon quashed as successive scores from Shane Boland, Kenny Feeney and Fergal Boland had the sides level again. Scores from Declan Coulter and Ryan Gaffney pushed Armagh ahead again, but controversy was to follow, as not content with committing a foul on Coulter, a Mayo defender introduced the handle of his hurl to the Armagh man’s private area. Incredibly, no action was taken after the nasty incident and the free from Gaffney fell to the left. Kenny Feeney went on to convert two from the dead ball. The momentum had swung to the westerners and a great score from Fergal Boland was followed up with a Kenny Feeney three pointer to put Mayo three ahead with eight minutes to go. Armagh fought back, however, with scores from Conor Corvan, Declan Coulter and Eoin McGuinness to level and with Mayo’s Feeney and Ryan Gaffney trading scores, the sides were level with less than five minutes to go. However, Mayo showed great hunger in the final few minutes and four good scores from Seán Regan, two from Feeney and a super insurance point from Corey Scahill left the westerners celebrating a famous victory in headquarters.
Scór deiridh: Ard Mhacha 1-15 Maigh Eo 2-16
While this is a second consecutive disappointment for the senior hurlers at the final stage, Armagh gave their all over the seventy minutes. The slow start, high wide count and superior finish by the Mayo men proved the Orchard’s downfall, but they can hold their heads high after a battling performance in Croke Park. Congratulations to Mayo. Armagh will now enter the Ulster championship, where they face Down on Sunday 19 June. Derry will play Antrim, who are likely to be awarded a replay after the wrong score was recorded in the Christy Ring final and the cup was incorrectly presented to Meath.
Ard Mhacha: Simon Doherty, Ciaran Clifford, Artie McGuinness, Connor Devlin, John Corvan, Nathan Curry, Cormac Toner, Kieran McKernan, Stephen Renaghan, Ryan Gaffney 0-4 (0-3 f, 0-1 65), Cahal Carvill 0-1, David Carvill 0-2, Declan Coulter 0-5, Eoin McGuinness 1-1, Conor Corvan 0-2
Subs used: James King for S Renaghan, Peter McKearney for J Corvan, Odhrán Curry for D Coulter
Maigh Eo: D O’Brien, B Hunt, G McManus, E Collins, C Freeman, K Higgins, A Lyons, D Kenny, C Charlton, J McManus 0-1, K Feeeny 1-9 (0-6 f), S Regan 0-2, S Boland 0-1, P O’Flynn, D McTigue 1-0
Subs used: P Connell for Lyons, F Boland 0-2 for McTigue, C Scahill 0-1 for O’Flynn, K McDermott for Hunt, G Nolan for S Boland
Réiteoir: Johnny Murphy, Limerick
Photos by John Merry