GAA Football

Andy Mallon refusing to rule out returning for Armagh

Andy Mallon made his Armagh debut in 2003, when the county were the reigning All-Ireland champions
Andy Watters

WORK and family commitments are pushing football down the pecking order, but Andy Mallon could be back in action for his beloved Armagh next season.

The veteran Orchard county defender - who burst onto the inter-county scene back in 2003 - has a young family and admits travelling north from his Dublin home for training three times-a-week is taking its toll.

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney is an outspoken fan of all-action corner-back Mallon and has encouraged him to take his time before making any decision on his future: “I was talking to ‘Geezer’ after the Laois game and he said: ‘I don’t even want to talk to you til Christmas, go and take some time and think things over’,” Mallon said.

“I’m still thinking about it at the minute, I haven’t come to any decision. The pros are always the same and they’re never going to change - I love playing for Armagh, I love wearing the jersey. I wanted to do it my whole life and, since I have been doing it, I’ve loved every minute of it.

“The cons are that I’m living in Dublin now, I’ve a family and I’ve a lot more commitments now. It’s tough with work and that’s what pulls me in the other direction. I’d be up in Armagh training Tuesday, Thursday and either Saturday or Sunday and I do weights sessions in Dublin, so it is a lot of travelling up and down the road, I’ve been doing it now four years.”

On training nights, Mallon gets home to Swords around midnight and has to be at work for 7.30 the following morning. With injured Crossmaglen defender James Morgan likely to miss the league, Armagh can ill afford to lose him and the former Pearse Óg clubman says manager McGeeney does what he can to make things easy.

“He knows there’s a balance in life - everything can’t be geared around football although, sometimes, you think it is,” said Mallon.

“There’s a big picture and you have to get the balance right, you have to have different things in your life, not just football. Geezer is very good that way and, if there was a time that I couldn’t go up to training, I’d just pick up the phone and he’s very understanding.”

Mallon feels fit enough to soldier on in the orange jersey and still enjoys playing inter-county football, even though the game has changed radically since he made his debut as a 19-year-old 13-years-ago.

“When I started, you went out and you had a man to mark and, if he stood in the same spot all day, you stood in the same spot and marked him,” he said.

“But it has evolved and it really is an endurance game - every player on the team has to chip in with their runs and the ground they’re covering to help the whole thing go forward. I enjoy it massively now, it’s intriguing the way you have to adapt and even training has changed.”

Meanwhile, despite relegation and Championship disappointment last season, Mallon insists Armagh aren’t “that far away”: “Anything that could go wrong did go wrong last year,” he said.

“That night against Cavan in the league [3-18 to 0-10 loss] really punished us, it was an awful, awful night. They got a few goals and the boys’ heads dropped and that was it. We beat Derry, we beat Fermanagh and they both stayed up and we drew with Tyrone, who went on to win Division Two.

“They were three good results and I think we probably deserved to stay up, but the Cavan result worked against us. We lost a lot of players with injury and, if we can get some of them boys back and get peoples’ heads right, I don’t think we’ll be that far away.”

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