GAA Football

Mayo need to recall Cillian O'Connor to see off Armagh says Billy Joe Padden

Mayo need to throw in Cillian O'Connor to see off Armagh says Billy Joe Padden
Andy Watters

MAYO forward Cillian O’Connor will return for tomorrow night’s Qualifier showdown with Armagh, predicts Billy Joe Padden.

Belmullet native Padden played for both counties during his 12-year career and he says the injury-ravaged westerners will have to throw talismanic sharpshooter O’Connor, who hasn’t featured at all this year after undergoing knee surgery, back into the action at McHale Park.

Armagh have injury concerns over Andy Murnin and Niall Grimley but the Mayo camp was rocked this week after O’Connor’s younger brother Diarmuid broke a wrist in training while Seamus O’Shea and Donal Vaughan are both rated doubtful and Tom Parsons will definitely miss out. Cillian O’Connor returned to the squad but played no part in Saturday night’s round two win against Down in Newry but Padden says manager James Horan has to turn to him tomorrow night.

“Whether he’s right or not, they have to take a chance on him that he’s going to play a significant period of the game,” he said.

“He’s going to be very important for Mayo from a leadership point of view and from an experience and cleverness point of view. Then you add in the experience and cleverness of Andy Moran and Mayo will bank on that to create the scores for them.

“They’ll try and maybe take advantage of some of the inexperience that Armagh have in their defence. Armagh will have the edge on them in athletic terms but Mayo will be looking to use that cleverness to create those scoring opportunities.”

Mayo were National Football League champions but their Championship form has been patchy. Without O’Connor they registered 16 wides in a comfortable win over New York and the same again in a one-point loss to Roscommon in a tense Connacht semi-final.

Horan’s men recovered some momentum by travelling to Pairc Esler last Saturday and securing a five-point win. Padden, now living in south Armagh, was at that game and was impressed by the Mayo rearguard.

“I think the Mayo defence is coming into a bit of form,” he said.

“Aidan O’Shea is playing great football and if the Mayo defence can play well again and contain that Armagh forward line, I think Mayo will be able to create enough scores to win the game, just about.

“But that is contingent on the Mayo defence improving again. They were good against Down for the most part in one-on-one situations and if they can do that against these talented Armagh forwards then I think they’ll get the scores whether it be through Andy (Moran) getting a goal or Cillian coming on and kicking frees, or Conor Loftus or Fergal Boland kicking a few from out the field. I think Mayo will do enough to win the game.”

Armagh supporters will travel west in large numbers on Saturday and with confidence after the Orchardmen recovered from losing an Ulster semi-final replay to Cavan by beating Monaghan emphatically last Saturday.

“Armagh have been inconsistent and that’s understandable in a young team,” said Padden.

“But you know what you’re going to get out of Lee Keegan and he looks like he’s back to the player he was 18 months ago. You know what you’re going to get out of Colm Boyle and Brendan Harrison and Chris Barrett got back into good form against Down.

“They are four quality defenders and Paddy Durcan isn’t far off that level. They are quality defenders and if Aidan O’Shea can play as well again then it’s going to be hard for Armagh. But I don’t think there’ll be more than a kick of the ball in it and the Diarmuid O’Connor thing is a huge loss to Mayo.”

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