Orchard county no match for Mayo hurlers

GAA: Nicky Rackard Cup Semi-Final; Mayo 2-23 Armagh 2-9

Keith Higgins stands over a free for Mayo against Armagh. Photo: Mayo GAA

Keith Higgins stands over a free for Mayo against Armagh. Photo: Mayo GAA

The sun glared down on Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada from the get go and by the time all was said and done Mayo were dreaming of even sunnier days in Croke Park after they booked a spot in the Nicky Rackard Cup final for the second year in a row.

A big second half performance from Derek Walsh’s men saw them outscore Armagh by 1-14 to 0-4, overturning a one point deficit at the half time break.

Keith Higgins who had a shaky enough first half, where he pulled three very getable chances wide on the spin, was Mayo’s main man on the scoreboard hitting 11 points - nine of which came in the second half.

Higgins opened the scoring in the game with a well taken free two minutes in and that was quickly followed by a close range Sean Regan effort. The quick wrists of Stevie McKearney got Armagh moving, but their shooting was very erratic in the opening exchanges, an affliction that also befell Mayo in the second quarter of the game and both sides ended up with ten wides each in the opening half.

Mayo rattled the back of the net five minutes in when Higgins found Cathal Freeman in behind the cover and the Tooreen man who was back in action after a recent injury lay-off made no mistake. Danny McGee drove over Aramgh’s second point a minute later and seconds after that he was chopped down and his side were awarded a penalty.

Simon Doherty made the trip up from between the sticks to take it and he made no mistake firing it low and powerfully to the back of the net to tie the game up.

Mayo landed the next two scores through points from Regan and Seán Kenny, Armagh responded with two of their own before Keith Higgins drew the action to a close with a pointed free just before the first water break.

Higgins then missed three in a row, including two frees well within his range before Adrian Phillips slipped over a lovely point for Mayo and Fionntán Donnelly and Kenny exchanged points to leave Mayo two up with the half almost up.

Right on the stroke of half time Armagh worked the ball quickly down the field and Paddy McBride found Donnelly in behind the cover and he put it past Bobby Douglas in the Mayo goal to send Armagh in leading 2-5 to 1-7 at the break.

Whatever message Derek Walsh delivered in the dressing room at half time worked a treat, because it was all Mayo in the second half.

Higgins hit three points on the spin inside the opening four minutes, before Armagh responded with points from Donnelly and Mark McClatchey - but it was only a brief reprieve as scores from Higgins, Phillips and Jason Coyne had Mayo 1-14 to 2-8 up at the second water break.

Mayo had broken Armagh’s resistance at this stage and the reeled off eight points in the row to go 1-22 to 2-8 up, before Armagh register their last score of the day just after normal time elapsed. There was still time for Mayo to round the game out by Adrian Phillips hitting 1-1 in injury time to bring his tally to 1-3 for the day.


Mayo: K Higgins (0-11,10f ), A Phillips (1-3 ), C Freeman (1-1 ), S Kenny (0-4, 2f ), S Regan (0-2 ), J Coyne (0-1 ) and B Morley (0-1 )

Armagh: F Donnelly (1-3, 0-2f ), S Doherty (1-0,1-0 pen ), P McBride (0-2 ), D Magee (0-2 ), M McClatchey (0-1 ) and S McKearney (0-1 )

Mayo: B Douglas; S Coyne, M Morley, C Daly; G Nolan, D Kenny, C Henry; K Kiely, S Kenny; C Phillips, C Freeman, B Hunt; K Higgins, A Phillips, S Regan. Subs: E Delaney for B Hunt (30 ), J Coyne for K Kiely (35 ), J Cassidy for C Phillips (45 ), B Morley for S Regan (51 ), M Phillips for K Higgins (69 )

Armagh: S Doherty, C Clifford, T Nevin, R Magee; P Lappin, O Keenan, D Fox; P McKearney, O'Curry; TO’Neill, P McBride, M McClatchey; S McKearney, F Donnelly, D Magee. Subs: P Kelly for R Magee (35 ), T O’Hare for S McKearney (42 ), F Oliver for M McClatchey (57 ), T O’Haire for S McKearney (64 )

Ref: K Jordan (Tipperary )


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