“It’s a mad house” Armagh’s Mackin family getting ready for back-to-back Ulster finals

Ciaran Mackin dedicates Armagh semi-final victory over Down to family friend Niall Sands

Ciaran Mackin celebrates as Armagh see off Down to reach the Ulster final. Pic Philip Walsh
Ciaran Mackin celebrates as Armagh see off Down to reach the Ulster final. Pic Philip Walsh

THE pain of last year’s Ulster final loss still lingers in the dressing room and Armagh will be out to “right the wrongs” when they face Donegal on May 12, says Ciaran Mackin.

Armagh couldn’t really have come any closer to capturing their first Anglo-Celt Cup since 2008 when they faced Derry 12 months ago. Having missed a chance to win it in normal time, they led in extra-time but ultimately lost out in a penalty shoot-out – the first of two last year.

Mackin says the determination to avenge that loss has driven Armagh back to another provincial decider and they had to fight all the way to get there against stubborn Down last weekend.

“It’s feels brilliant to win,” said Shane O’Neill’s clubman Mackin, who dedicated the win to family friend Niall Sands.

“It was hard-fought - we knew Down were coming with that. We got over the line and that’s the main thing, we’re back in the Ulster and that’s a nice feeling – there’s a lot of hurt from last year, a lot of the boys want to right the wrongs this time.

“You go out to win every game and we want to win the Ulster final. You want to win the big prizes, so we’ll get the heads down, work hard and try to get better. We’re striving for greatness and that’s what we have to continue to do.”

Armagh's Aimee Mackin believes Division Two is the most competitive in the Lidl National League as the Ulster senior champions prepare provincial derbies against Monaghan, Cavan and Tyrone
Aimee Mackin spearheaded the Armagh ladies to glory in the Division One final this year

After they had breezed past Fermanagh at the quarter-final stage, Armagh were hot favourites to beat a Down side that had struggled to get past Antrim in their Ulster opener. But with a couple of minutes left, the Mournemen held the lead and it took a grandstand finish and points from subs Oisin O’Neill, Aidan Nugent and Jason Duffy to see Armagh book their place in the final.

“We knew Down were going to come at us,” said centre half-back Mackin, who started the move that led to Duffy’s winner.

“After last year we knew they would be a different side and they were. They got promotion this year and they kept digging to the end but thankfully we came out on top – that last score (from Duffy) got us over the line.

“That’s a big thing that we talk about, the subs coming on and finishing the game – the likes of Duffy and Nugent, they played brilliant when they came on. You can’t ask for better than that, they’re the boys that finish the game for you.”

The next few weeks will be typically busy in the Mackin household in Camlough. Ciaran and brother Connaire will be in the thick of training for the men’s Ulster final and their sisters, Aimee and Blaithin, will also be facing Donegal in the ladies’ provincial decider on May 19.

“We’re in an Ulster final and the girls are in an Ulster final against Donegal as well - it’s a mad house,” said Mackin with a smile.

“I have to say a big, massive thanks to my mum and dad – I have to give a shout-out to them. Mum is continuously washing for us – I saw her washing stuff last night for the girls and us.

“She’s a big part in it all.”

After the one-point derby win over Down, Mackin’s thoughts turned to a loyal Armagh fan who wasn’t able to make the trip to Clones.

“Niall Sands, a good friend of my dad’s, is going through a hard time at the minute,” he said.

“He’s a big Armagh man from Camlough and I know he was watching the game at home. That was for you Niall Sands.”