GAA Football

Billy Joe Padden: Mayo v Armagh a win win for him

Billy Joe Padden in action for Mayo against Donegal in the 2007 National Football League final at Croke Park
Andy Watters

RAISED in Mayo, based in Armagh, Billy Joe Padden played for both counties and diplomatically describes tomorrow night’s mouth-watering round three Qualifier battle in Castlebar as “a win-win” scenario for him.

The Belmullet native followed in the footsteps of his legendary Allstar father Willie Joe by playing his football in the green and red of Mayo for a decade – lining out in the 2006 All-Ireland final – before a move north instigated a switch to the Carrickcruppen club and two seasons in the orange and white of Armagh.

He retired from the inter-county scene in 2013 and as half of the Armagh U21 management team alongside Stevie McDonnell, he brought through a clutch of the players who will line-out at MacHale Park tonight.

Jemar Hall, Aidan Nugent, Niall Grimley, Joe McIlroy, Ethan Rafferty, Aaron McKay were all part of his team and he played alongside Blaine Hughes at club level.

“I wouldn’t be so vain to say that I’m in anyway responsible for their good form,” he says.

“Jarly Og Burns and Rian O’Neill were younger than that group and the thing about them for me is their skill level is so high.

“You look at the kicking ability that both of them, particularly Rian, have and it’s exceptional. Then Jemar and Aidan Nugent are really putting in a shift and both of them can kick with both feet – both of them can score. All across their forward line they have talented footballers who are working hard and that’s always better than a worker who doesn’t have the skill.

“That’s the reason why they have been so potent up front.”

He won’t be in Casltebar tomorrow night because he’s working for Sky Sports at the Kildare versus Tyrone game. He feels that the tight confines of MacHale Park could suit the Armagh forwards.

“I don’t think it really gives Mayo any advantage because Armagh have good forwards and midfielders who can shoot from distance and MacHale Park will suit them,” he said.

“Mayo would prefer to play on bigger pitches – they’ve proved to be very good in Croke Park where the surface is fast and there's loads of space for all that running ability they have in their half-back line.

“Maybe playing away from home will take a bit of pressure off Armagh and they have nothing to lose going into the game. The mindset of the Mayo players will be that they have to turn around their home form at home stage and some of the more experienced Mayo players will be looking for a turnaround in fortunes at MacHale Park and I think they’ll see the start of that as being against Armagh.

“They’ll know that it’s pointless going into a Super 8s campaign if you can’t rely on your home form.”

Mayo’s form has fallen away comparatively since their National League triumph and Padden puts that down to their run of injury problems.

“They lost Seamie O’Shea and Donal Vaughan to injury and whether they’ll be ready for the weekend I don’t know, Diarmuid O’Connor broke his wrist in training, Cillian (O’Connor) hasn’t been available, Tom Parsons hasn’t been able to come back so it’s really, really difficult.

“That strength we saw early in the season has really been whittled away just by bad luck. I don’t think they’re looking past Armagh, I don’t think they looked past Down and I think they will still have enough to win the game at home but it’s going to be difficult for them to get through a Super 8s campaign relying on the same 15 or 16 fellas.”

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