Christy Phillips' Mayo senior hurling side picked up their first points of the league with a solid seven point win over Armagh in McHale Park on Saturday evening. Reduced to 14 men with 14 minutes left on the clock when captain Derek McDonnell was sent to the sideline, Mayo had built up enough of lead to hold off the Orchard men's late rally.
Both sides matched each other score for score over the opening six minutes of the game, with Kenny Feeney landing the the opening two scores for Mayo, to match Fiachra Bradey's starting salvo of points for the visitors. Feeney's first point was a monster of point from a free from inside his own half, a feat he repeated twice more in the opening 19 minutes. Feeney's reliability from placed balls has been a feature of Mayo's three games so far and was on top form once again on Saturday evening. But it was young full forward Sean Regan who really caught the eye, he bagged himself a goal in each half and along with six points over the course of the game. Regan's first goal was a great finish, picking the ball up to the left of the goal 21 meters out he flashed a shot across the goal to the right hand corner of the net leaving Simon Doherty in the Armagh goal no chance, putting Mayo 1-4 to 0-3 ahead after 12 minutes. Mayo pushed on and built that lead up to 1-8 to 0-4 just before the half hour mark, when the scored their second goal. A Mayo effort for a point dropped short and Doherty in the Armagh goal batted it away, but the sliothar fell into the path of Stephen Hoban who pulled hard on the ball on the deck lashing it to the back of the net. Mayo were cruising at this stage and it looked like it was going to only be a question of how many they'd win by.
But the game was turned on its head in the space of 60 seconds. Declan Coulter drove a point effort from a free goalwards, but the ball dropped short and took a deflection off a Mayo hand and ended up nestling in the back of Donal O'Brien's net. From the puck out of that goal, Armagh won the ball back and Kieran McKernan played in full forward Conor Corvan who was able to hold off his marker and cut in from the stand side of the field and drive the ball to the back of the goal at the Bacon Factory end of the ground. Suddenly from being ten points ahead Mayo were only four points ahead. They were also dealt another blow with full back Aiden Connolly was forced out of the game injured after 32 minutes. Regan calmed Mayo nerves a bit when he hit the final score of the half, to sent Mayo in leading by 2-9 to 2-4 at the turn around.
Just after the restart, the man of the hour grabbed his second and Mayo's third goal in a somewhat fortuitous fashion. Darren McTigue played a high ball into Stephen Hoban, the Ballyhaunis man challenged in the air for it, but wasn't able to win it cleanly and the ball broke into the path of Regan who kicked the sliothar over the line and to put his side back in a commanding lead. Just after the 45 minute mark, Mayo more or less wrapped up their win with their fourth goal, which came from the penalty spot. Andrew Butler picked up the ball in behind the Armagh rearguard and was picked up the rebound from a Regan effort, before he was hauled to the ground. Referee Christopher Browne spread out his arms to signal the penalty to the home side. Up from his goal came Donal O'Brien and the Ballyhaunis goalkeeper let fly with a powerful effort which rippled the net on impact,leaving Mayo in the lead by 4-12 to 2-7.
McDonnell was sent to the line six minutes later and it gave Armagh a glimmer of hope, but Mayo were able to hold out for the most part, by fouling smartly and not letting their visitors create two many goal chances. Armagh did chip away at the lead scoring 1-5 over the closing stages, with Conor Corvan hitting their third major of the evening. But Mayo were able to add on four points of their own and keep their noses in front and record a welcome victory. Next up for Phillip's men is the visit of last years Christy Ring Cup winners London next weekend, in what promises to be a far more sterner examination.
Mayo: D O'Brien (1-0, 1 pen) A Connolly, B Hunt; C Finn, P O'Flynn, D Horan; D McDonnell (0-1), K Feeney (0-7, 5f); N O'Malley, S Markham, A Butler (0-1); S Hoban (1-1), S Regan (2-6 3f), D McTigue. Subs: L Cribbin for C Finn (15, blood sub) C Finn for L Cribbin (20, blood sub returns), L Cribbin for A Connolly (29), D Kenny for N O'Malley (69)
Armagh: S Doherty; C Devlin, C Clifford, B Breen; N Green, N Curry (0-2), P Hughes; J Corvan, K McKernan (0-1); M Lennon, F Bradley (0-2), D Carvill; C Carvill, C Coran (2-1), D Coulter (1-6, 6f). Subs: T Donnolly for P Hughes (55)