So near, yet so far again

All Ireland Minor Football Championship Final

Armagh 0-10&nbps;&nbps;&nbps;&nbps;&nbps;Mayo 0-7

It just wasn’t to be for Mayo once again in Croke Park on All Ireland final day, as Armagh ground out a deserved three point victory over Mayo, thanks to a run of four unanswered points in the final six minutes. While Mayo could be faulted for not being clinical enough in front of goal, their effort on the field could not be faulted. Everyman from one to 15 gave their all for the sixty minutes, but it just wasn’t enough on the day as Armagh found that extra gear in the decisive final couple of minutes.

The game was not a spectacular free flowing affair as both sides cancelled each other out for long periods of the game, each knowing that the concession of a goal would have left a gap on the scoreboard that they weren’t likely to roll back in before the end.

And Mayo did have goal chances, one very good chance in each half. With the game scoreless after four minutes, Shane McDermott charged upfield from his centre half back berth and got on the end of a flowing move down the right hand side of the field. Keith Rogers launched the ball down to Darren Coen, who fed the ball to Alex Corduff who in turn slipped it into the hands the charging McDermott. He got the ball almost to close to goal you could say, by the time he got his shot off he had been closed down by an Armagh defender and their goal keeper Stephen O’Reilly who made himself big to save the shot.

The second Mayo goal chance if converted probably would have wrapped the game up for Ray Dempsey’s men, Cillian O’Connor won the ball well, and hand passed it off to Fergal Durkan. The Castlebar Mitchels man spotted substitute Jack McDonnell breaking inside him and got the pass off to him just in time, but Swinford mans effort was brilliantly saved by O’Reilly in the Armagh goal. Mayo were leading the game by 0-7 to 0-6 at that stage.

Armagh also had a couple of goal chances the best of them coming five minutes from the end with the game level, substitute Thomas McAlinden was clean through with only Michael Schlingermann to beat, but the Kiltimagh shot stopper stood firm and pulled off a brilliant save.

From here on in Armagh took control as Mayo began to falter and look tired from the effort they had put in on the field. McAlinden fired over a fine point with four minutes to go, then midfielder Peter Carragher dropped one just over the bar from distance on sixty minutes before Mayo’s fate was sealed buy a Robbie Tasker effort just before full time.

The effort put in by the Mayo players off the ball couldn’t be faulted all day especially in the first half, where the defense were fantastic, winning ball and closing down a much vaunted Armagh attack with a steely determination. Keith Rogers and Michael Walsh were outstanding in the full back line while Caolán Crowe covered acres of ground from the half back line, with Danny Kirby doing very well in midfield. Mayo should have been in the lead from as early as the first minute, when Aidan Walsh uncharacteristically missed a free from 14 yards out just to the right of the post. It was the start of an indifferent day for the Mayo captain as things just didn’t seem to go right for him, not matter how much he tried, he wasn’t helped by picking up what looked like a dislocated finger in the 12th minute of the game either.

Armagh opened the scoring in he fifth minute through a free from Rory Grugan from the Cusack Stand side, this was quickly followed up by a effort from Eugene McVerry who got out ahead of Rogers for once to win the ball first time and shot over the bar on the turn. Mayo got on the board three minutes later through a free from Brian Ruttledge, and this was followed up by a Danny Kirby point from distance after Cillian O’Connor won the ball close into goal and Mayo worked the ball back out to a shooting position. The Ballintubber man traded scores with Andew Murrin as both sides started to get to grips with the occasion. Armagh went back into the lead with with eight minutes left in the half through a McVerry placed ball, after Shane McDermott fouled Andrew Murrin who was breaking for goal, the Burrishoole defender picked up a book for his efforts also. Mayo leveled up the score before the break when Fergal Durkan pointed after Mayo had played keep ball 40 meters out from the Armagh goal as they tried to shape a shooting chance.

The second half started brightly as both sides seemed to have made the decision to go for the throat in the dressing room at half time. There were four points scored in the opening five minutes, with Brian Ruttledge clipping over after 30 seconds for Mayo, this was followed by a brace of scores from Armagh through McVerry and Robbie Tasker. The scoring cycle was completed by Ciarán Charlton pointing for Mayo to leave the game all tied up at six a piece. Armagh had taken a bit of a stranglehold on the game at this stage and should have put themselves at least three our four points clear, they were coming at Mayo in waves but managed to miss the target six times during the middle third of the game. Mayo to their credit did hang in there and put themselves back into the lead through a Aidan Walsh free from 21 meters out, but with McDonald’s missed goal chance and a free from distance and a 45’ that Walsh took a cut at both missing the target, Mayo were out of luck as Armagh powered home in the final few minutes to send the Tom Markham cup back to the Orchard county for the first time in 60 years.

Mayo: Michael Schlingermann; Michael Walsh, Keith Rogers, David Gavin; Ciarán Charlton (0-1 ), Shane McDermott, Caolán Crowe; Danny Kirby (0-1 ), Andrew Farrell; Brian Ruttledge (0-2,1f ), Darren Coen, Fergal Durkan (0-1 ); Alex Corduff, Aidan Walsh (0-1,1f ), Cillian O’Connor (0-1 ). Subs: John Carney for Andrew Farrell (31’ blood sub, full sub 39’ ), Jack McDonnell for Darren Coen (43’ )

Armagh: Stephen O’Reilly; Kealan Downey, Ronan Finnegan, Kevin Nugent; Declan McKenna, Niall Rowland, James Morgan; Peter Carragher (0-1 ), James Donnelly; Rory Grugan (0-1 ), Andrew Murnin (0-1 ), Conor King; Robbie Tasker (0-3 ), Eugene McVerry (0-3,1f ), Gavin McPartland. Subs: Dean Nugent for Ronan Finnegan (53’ ), Thomas McAlinden (0-1 ) for Eugene McVerry (54’ )

Ref:Eddie Kinsella (Laois )

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