GAA Football

Armagh need to take the chance Mayo give them: Kernan

Armagh haven't met Mayo in the championship since the 1950 All-Ireland semi-final. Picture by Philip Walsh

MAYO will give Armagh a chance to beat them on Saturday night – and the Orchard must “have an absolute cut off it” if it arises, believes Aaron Kernan.

The sides will meet in a championship game on Saturday night for only the second time in their history, with the westerners having won the first when they comfortably beat the then-Ulster champions in the 1950 All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park.

That was in the first of Mayo’s back-to-back All-Ireland winning years, but they’ve been waiting ever since for Sam Maguire to come back to them.

Victory over Down last weekend got them back on the road but it’s in the qualifiers that they have been vulnerable in recent years, with Kildare ending their 2018 campaign at this stage.

Kernan, who was in Clones to see Armagh blitz Monaghan in a brilliant display, believes that Mayo’s tendency not to hammer teams will give Kieran McGeeney’s side a real chance.

“Mayo don’t hammer teams. They will leave Armagh into it.

“That would be my fear with Armagh. If we have them on the ropes, we need to go for broke and try to put them away, because they’re a big, strong, physical, athletic team with huge experience.

”I don’t think you can afford to be leaving them hanging on in a game. You really need to go for it.

“The Down players this week are talking about how they feel it was a missed opportunity, how they had scores they didn’t take and ultimately they ended up getting punished.

“If Armagh get a sniff, they need to brave and go for it. There’s absolutely no sense whatsoever in holding back.

“If it comes down to trying to eke out a win, Mayo’s experience and physicality and conditioning would be superior to what Armagh’s is at the moment.

“I’d like to see them having an absolute cut off it, because we have the boys up front that can do the damage.”

While conceding that he thinks Mayo will squeeze across the line, Crossmaglen’s classy former long-serving wing-back believes Armagh can also feed off the home side's “nervousness” in front of their own passionate crowd in MacHale Park.

Mayo have won three of their five home games this year, but lost to Roscommon in the Connacht championship and have been largely unreliable on their own patch in recent years.

“Prior to the Roscommon game, Mayo were everybody’s second pick to win the All-Ireland,” said Kernan.

“They lost a game that they could easily have won, and everyone would have said they eked it out, the sign of a great team, blah, blah, blah.

“They missed a simple free kick and the next thing ‘this team’s done’. I don’t see that being the case.

“They’re slow burners all the time in the qualifiers, but they are extremely hard to beat.

“One positive is that I think they’d have enjoyed coming to the Athletic Grounds a bit more. There seems to be always a nervousness with them in Castlebar.

“That’s another reason why Armagh need to go for it and make sure they hold nothing back.”

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