Dominant Armagh claim place in Division 2B decider
Division 2B: Armagh 1-17 Mayo 1-10
ARMAGH booked their place in the NHL Division 2B Final against fierce rivals Down after putting a confident Mayo side to the sword at the Athletic Grounds yesterday.
The sense of occasion made Armagh’s play a little jittery compared to last week’s swashbuckling win over Meath and Mayo, who were surprisingly beaten by Wicklow last week, failed to impress.
But with all that said, Armagh completely dominated the game throughout and were worthy winners with Declan Coulter’s goal on 62 minutes just reward for their efforts.
Armagh knew a win or a draw would be enough to seal a place in the final and Orchard manager Sylvester McConnell admitted it affected the mentality of his players, but he was delighted with the win.
“We missed a few scores and boys were tense as we knew what was at stake,” said McConnell.
“Mayo are a very good team and they play at a very high tempo and we knew that. They have a couple of lovely, skilful hurlers and they played to a high tempo but we were staying with it.
“Fair enough, we weren’t taking our scores but sometimes that happens when there is something at stake and the game is all about the result.
“We weren’t beaten in any positions, they didn’t beat us in any lines and some of the lads were getting concerned that we weren’t putting enough on the scoreboard – but that happens.
“It was all about the result and we got that in the end.”
Armagh should have been out of sight at the break. The home side owned the opening half but struck an alarming nine wides, which kept Mayo in contention.
The early signs were worrying for Armagh as they hit three wides within the opening four minutes but did eventually get off the mark through Conor Corvan after great approach work from Declan Coulter, David Carvill and Eoin McGuinness.
Armagh moved the ball at speed and John Corvan and Stephen Renaghan controlled midfield but loose passing among the forwards proved costly, although two points in as many minutes from Coulter and Ryan Gaffney (free) put McConnell’s men firmly on the front foot.
David Carvill tagged on another point before Mayo grabbed their first score on 17 minutes with Kenny Feeney converting a 65.
Mayo did forage into attack with the speedy Gary Nolan making mazy runs but Armagh’s defence remained steady with Artie McGuinness and Ciaran Clifford making notable blocks and the busy Conor Devlin keeping Shane Boland scoreless.
At the other end, Armagh had stretched their wide tally to seven before Ciaran Charlton notched Mayo’s second point and Ciaran Charlton grabbed a third point for the westerners.
As the break approached Conor Corvan had a chance of goal but his blistering shot went over the crossbar. Eoin McGuinness also had a chance to rattle the net but Mayo ’keeper Donal O’Brien made a great block on the line.
So, despite trailing 0-3 to 0-7 Mayo were the happier side at half-time as Armagh should have been further in front.
Armagh’s movement improved in the second half and the silky passing and deft touches that fell wayward in the opening half were paying off in the second period.
David Carvill extended Armagh’s lead but Mayo responded and cut the gap to only two points after Feeney, Nolan and Cathal Freeman scored.
However, Armagh clicked into the gear in the second half as Kieran McKernan floated a beautiful long-range effort between the sticks, and then Gaffney tagged on another point before McGuinness was denied a goal for the second time.
The Orchard side were making all the right moves but scores were hard to come until the last quarter where Coulter, Feeney and Eoin McGuinness pointed and then came Coulter’s late goal which he struck from close–range after an intelligent delivery from Conor Corvan to put Armagh a 1-14 to 0-9 in front.
Unlike the Armagh footballers last week who also led by eight points against Galway, the hurlers managed to hold on to victory, with Conor Corvan adding his third point. But, like the footballers, Armagh did concede a late goal thanks to Mayo substitute Padraig O’Flynn, but Armagh had done enough to win the game.
Mayo face Tyrone in the opening round of the Nicky Rackard Cup next month and they will need to improve if they are to progress, while Armagh can be confident going into Saturday’s Division 2B final against Down.
Armagh lost their only game of the league against Down at the start of the campaign and McConnell is confident his side won’t be far away next weekend.
“They proved again this year that that step is possible, so we are one game away from going up a league, which no-one in the press would have said we would do at the start of the year,” he said.
“But we knew that we weren’t far away.”
Armagh: S Doherty; C Clifford, A McGuinness, C Devlin; K McKernan (0-1), S Gaffney, C Toner; J Corvan, S Renaghan; D Carvill (0-2), R Gaffney (0-7 frees), C Carvill; D Coulter (1-3), E McGuinness (0-1), C Corvan (0-3).
Subs: P McKearney for C Corvan (67),
P Hughes for S Gaffney (68), D McKenna for R Gaffney (68), S Keenan for E McGuinness (70).
Mayo: D O’Brien; B Hunt, P Connell, E Collins; N Casey, G McManus, C Freeman (0-1); A Lyons, J Cotter; K McDermott, C Charlton (0-1), G Nolan (0-1); S Boland, K Feeney (0-6, 0-3 frees, 0-2 65), S Regan.
Subs: S Mulroy for McDermott (31), C Scahill (0-1) for Charlton (47), P O’Flynn (1-0) for McManus (58), D McTigue for Nolan (59),
Referee: G McGrath (Wexford).