Resilient Mayo hit last five scores to end Armagh unbeaten run in Dr Hyde Park nail-biter

Mayo's Matthew Ruane is tackled by Stefan Campbell during the Allianz Football League Division One match at Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon<br />Picture: Sportsfile&nbsp;
Mayo's Matthew Ruane is tackled by Stefan Campbell during the Allianz Football League Division One match at Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon
Picture: Sportsfile 
Mayo's Matthew Ruane is tackled by Stefan Campbell during the Allianz Football League Division One match at Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon
Picture: Sportsfile 

Allianz National Football League Division One: Mayo 0-15 Armagh 1-10

THREE points up with time running out, it seemed victory was there for the taking but Armagh lost their way down the stretch and missed out on taking the notable scalp of Mayo at windswept Dr Hyde Park yesterday.

In the final reckoning of an action-packed game, the Westerners displayed the resolve and determination that has seen them bounce back from disappointment after disappointment and they kicked the last five points to clinch the points and consign the Orchardmen to their first loss of this campaign.

Playing against the wind in the first half, Armagh got off to a dream start when Ciaran Mackin’s speculative effort drifted over Rory Byrne’s head and into the back of his net after just 10 seconds.

Ryan O’Donoghue replied with a free but Armagh had the bit between their teeth and Stefan Campbell and Jason Duffy both registered points as they continued their early dominance.

At the other end, Diarmuid O’Connor’s shot fell into the safe hands of Ethan Rafferty – making his first start in goal after previous incarnations at midfield and full-forward – and the Grange clubman worked the ball through to Campbell. Rory Grugan came off the touchline with an angled run to take his pass and smashed his shot over the bar to leave Armagh five ahead.

Mayo hit back with another O’Donoghue free and then piled the pressure on Rafferty’s kick-outs. Three in-a-row fell into Mayo hands and O’Donoghue had a sniff of goal before O’Neill met him with a meaty shoulder.

The Belmullet forward recovered quickly however, turning marker Paddy Burns and slotting over his third point after Mayo, who had settled by this stage, had forced a turnover in their own half.

Matthew Ruane and O’Connor tagged on scores and, with the wind at their backs, Mayo were much more direct than Armagh and kicked the ball up into space for their willing forwards.

Their shooting was poor however and three chances went abegging before O’Neill extended Armagh’s lead to two points.

Another O’Donoghue free followed but Armagh, who were reduced to 14 men when Ciaran Mackin was black-carded for an off-the-ball bodycheck on Kevin McLoughlin, had the final say of the half when O’Neill kicked a monster free into the wind to leave his side two points up (1-5 to 0-6) at the interval.

The gap was quickly bridged in the second half. First Aiden Orme held off Aidan Forker to claim a mark. He left a point in it and then O’Connor, full of running as ever, kicked the equaliser.

But Armagh were giving as good as they got.

Michael Plunkett dallied when a goal was on and the Orchardmen scrambled the ball clear, working the ball up to Aidan Nugent who was brought down and Grugan’s free gave Armagh back their lead.

Ciaran Mackin returned to the fray as McLoughlin kicked wide for Mayo. Rafferty’s huge kickout landed in enemy territory and Conor Turbitt, just on as a sub, turned his marker and scored with his first touch.

Once again O’Donoghue pegged Armagh back but O’Neill replied with his third superb point of the game and, with the Orchard defence looking comfortable, it seemed Armagh just needed to hold their nerve to win.

They couldn’t put Mayo away though and that came back to haunt them. Campbell hit two wides (the second off a post) and O’Donoghue and Jack Carney combined to send McLoughlin clear.

His finish left just a point in it but Armagh hit back immediately through Nugent and when the ball broke from Campbell’s full-blooded tackle on his own goalline, goalkeeper Rafferty drove Armagh forward.

He ran to the Mayo 45 before he found Nugent who scored his second point to leave Armagh three up and looking good for a valuable win.

But the sprint finish came from Mayo who found reserves of energy and composure that Armagh could not match.

O’Donoghue hit two frees and substitute Paddy Durcan equalised before Jordan Flynn tapped over another after a turnover breakaway that sent Mayo in front for the first time.

Nervy Armagh pressed for an equaliser but Mayo’s experience kept them out and Durcan’s second point sealed victory for his side and sent Armagh home pondering what might have been.

Mayo: R Byrne; L Keegan, R Brickenden, M Plunkett; O Mullin, S Coen, S Callinan; J Flynn (0-1), M Ruane (0-1); F McDonagh, D O’Connor (0-2), C Loftus; A Orme (0-1 mark), F Irwin, R O’Donoghue (0-7, 0-6 frees)

Subs: K McLoughlin (0-1) for Irwin (20), P Durcan (0-2) for Brickenden (32), P O’Hora for Callinan (HT), A O’Shea for Loftus (HT), J Carney for McDonagh (57), F Boland for McLoughlin (72)

Yellow card: Callinan (35)

Armagh: E Rafferty; P Burns, A Forker, A McKay; Connaire Mackin, N Rowland, J Og Burns; Ciaran Mackin (1-0), B Crealey; S Campbell (0-1), R Grugan (0-2, 0-1 free), T Kelly; J Duffy (0-1), R O’Neill (0-, 0-2 frees), A Nugent (0-2)

Subs: C Turbitt (0-1) for Duffy (40), J Morgan for McKay (52), S Sheridan for Crealey (55), O O’Neill for Rowland (65), C O’Neill for Forker (72)

Yellow cards: Rafferty (33), R O’Neill (60), P Burns (65)

Black card: Ciaran Mackin (35)

Referee: D Coldrick (Meath)