Blaithin Mackin helps steer Armagh into All-Ireland semi-finals

Kerry await in the last four after convincing victory over Mayo

Aoife McCoy
Aoife McCoy blasts home Armagh's second goal in the win over Mayo. Picture: John Merry (J_Merry)

TG4 All-Ireland Ladies’ SFC quarter-final

Armagh 2-11 Mayo 0-11

ARMAGH set up an All-Ireland semi-final clash with Kerry after seeing off Mayo at the BOX-IT Athletic Grounds on Sunday evening.

It’s the Orchard county’s first time in the last four since 2020 and the victory was never really in doubt as they led from start to finish.

By half-time, their lead was 1-6 to 0-3, player-of-the-match Blaithin Mackin scoring a cracking 10th-minute goal. From then on it was all about maintaining that lead for Gregory McGonigle’s side.

Aoife McCoy’s 39th-minute goal, another example of a sweeping move right up the middle of the pitch that yielded so much for Armagh, extended the lead out to nine and three late points for the visitors merely put a modicum of respectability on the scoreboard.

Stalwart Caroline O’Hanlon returned to the starting line-up for Armagh, but they were without another stalwart in Kelly Mallon, while Louise Kenny, who went off injured in the Ulster final, made her return from injury, coming on in the second half.

McGonigle made the usual changes to his starting line-up, with Mackin coming in as well as Eve Lavery. Both had outstanding games and it is that strength in depth that could be crucial at the business end of the season.

WIth players of the calibre of McCoy, Lauren McConville and Niamh Henderson driving forward, and a solid defence led by captain Clodagh McCambridge, and Dearbhla Coleman also impressive, Armagh will be a hard team to beat from here.

McCoy opened the scoring for the winners in the fifth minute, her point coming from a turnover won by Grace Ferguson, and a minute later Lavery doubled the home side’s lead from a free.

Lucy Wallace got Mayo up and running in the eighth minute but then Mackin struck for her side’s first goal. She was involved in the build-up further out the field but continued her run. Niamh Henderson played her through with the final pass and there was only one thing on Mackin’s mind as she buried the ball past Laura Brennan into the back of the net.

Mackin then added a free before Aoife Geraghty and Henderson exchanged points to give the Ulster champions a 1-4 to 0-2 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Mayo were guilty of several wides before Geraghty got her second, but Armagh finished with back-to-back points, including one from a free, courtesy of Lavery to give them that six-point half-time cushion.

McConville extended Armagh’s lead immediately on the resumption, with Annie Gough replying for Mayo, but once again they struggled to convert chances with Armagh also getting in for crucial turnovers.

The killer blow, from an interception, arrived in the 39th minute when McConville charged up the field, found Henderson, who in turn found McCoy, who fired past Brennan to put them 2-7 to 0-4 ahead.

Henderson stretched the lead out to 10 points but Mayo, to their credit, rallied with three unanswered points, two from Cafferky either side of a Maria Cannon free.

Armagh though did the same, Mackin with a brace either side of one from substitute Niamh Reel to make it 2-11 to 0-8 with five minutes remaining.

Mayo finished out the game with another trio of points from Cafferky, Aoife Staunton and a Cannon free but this was Armagh’s day and they will now face Kerry on Saturday, July 20.

Blaithin Mackin, who finished with 1-3, was delighted to get over the quarter-final hurdle that has been blocking Armagh for the last few years, adding that home advantage made a huge difference.

“We came today looking for a performance on our home ground we got that. There is still room for improvement but we are delighted to get over the line, this is one that we really went after this year,” she said.

“We are very lucky in Armagh, you saw with the boys as well, the crowd gets behind you and it was massive having it in the Athletic Grounds so we were glad to top the group and have it here because that definitely got us over the line.”

It will be a busy few weeks for the Mackin household with her brother Connaire in All-Ireland semi-final action with the men, also against Kerry this weekend. It’s a bitter-sweet team with sister Aimee and other brother Ciaran out but Mackin hopes that her and Connaire can do it for their siblings.

“It’s a massive achievement. The boys have been the same as us the last few years getting to the quarter-final and not getting over the line and this year is very different, we have both got over that quarter-final and now we both have to just go for it. With Aimee and Ciaran both out it’s even bigger for us to try and go win it for both of them.”

Armagh A Carr; G Ferguson, C McCambridge (c), R Mulligan; C Towe, L McConville (0-1), D Coleman; N Coleman, C O’Hanlon; E Druse, A McCoy (1-1), E Lavery (0-3, 0-2 frees); M McCambridge, N Henderson (0-2), B Mackin (1-3, 0-2 frees)

Subs S Quigley for M McCambridge (47), N Reel (0-1) for Lavery (49), L Kenny for Druse (56)

Mayo L Brennan; S Lally (c), N O’Malley, K Sullivan; É Ronayne, C Durkan, D Caldwell; A Geraghty (0-2), E Murray; L Wallace (0-1), A Gough (0-1), S Cafferky; S Walsh, M Cannon (0-3 frees), L Cafferky (0-3)

Subs A Staunton (0-1) for Murray (half-time), F McLaughlin for Sullivan (39), F McHale for Gough (45), C Needham for Durkan (49), M Reilly for S Cafferky (54)

Referee Brendan Rice (Down)