GAA Football

Armagh legend Andy Mallon calls time on his inter-county career

Andy Mallon made his debut for Armagh in the NFL against Donegal in 2003
Andy Watters

ANDY Mallon’s long and distinguished career with Armagh has come to an end.

The Irish News understands that the veteran defender, who soldiered on for 13 seasons with the Orchardmen after making his debut in 2003, has finally called time on his inter-county days.

Mallon (33), who works as an electrician, is now based in Dublin with his young family and it is understood that work and family commitments are central to his decision to hang up his boots.

The former Pearse Og clubman broke into a star-studded Armagh side that had won the county’s first All-Ireland title the year previously in a National Football League Division One fixture against Donegal in Ballybofey on February 16, 2003. The youngster from Armagh City lined out alongside Sam Maguire winners like Justin McNulty, Paul McGrane, Aidan O’Rourke and the McEntee brothers John and Tony under the expert eye of manager Joe Kernan.

“He came in like a young whippet,” said Kernan.

“He was oozing with talent and as time went by Andy became one of our leaders – he was Mr Dependable. You could play him in two or three positions and he always seemed to have a great appetite for the game.

“He was a lovely lad along with that, not one of those lads you had to push, there was never a problem with him. He just went out and played the game whether you wanted him at right half-back, or corner-back or wherever, there was never a question.

“Like all players who come to the end of their career, it’s sad to see him finish but Andy had a fantastic career and he has the medals to prove it.

“We went close to giving him the full quota with an All-Ireland medal but unfortunately we weren’t good enough, or luck wasn’t with us on the day.”

Mallon’s first Championship match ended in a shock defeat to Monaghan in an Ulster quarter-final in 2003 but the Orchardmen rallied through the Qualifiers and saw off Dublin on their way to back-to-back All-Ireland finals.

Bitter rivals Tyrone won on the day but Mallon went on to win an All-Ireland U21 title the following year, Ulster titles followed in 2005, ’05, ’06 and ’08 and NFL titles in 2005 and 2010 (Division Two). He was an Allstar in 2005.

Mallon hadn’t been part of the panel for the 2002 Sam Maguire triumph and Kernan explained why he had introduced the “young whippet” into his side.

“Successful teams need freshening up all the time,” he said.

“You want boys coming in with hunger and Andy was one of those boys – young, fresh, determined and you knew that he would have a long future because of the attitude that he had.

“Barring the odd injury here or there he was very dependable. I brought him in because, one, I wanted to freshen it up and, two, because he was the future.”

Mallon certainly proved Kernan’s judgement to be correct. His departure provides the opportunity for an ambition youngster to stake a claim for a place in an Armagh defence that is short of experienced personnel.

Injuries denied manager Kieran McGeeney the talents of Mark Shields, Brendan Donaghy, Kevin Dyas, Joe McElroy and goalkeeper Paddy Morrison during the League leaving Charlie Vernon, James Morgan and Paul Hughes among the few seasoned operators at the back.

GAA Football

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