Despite working their way back into this game when they looked to be dead and buried midway through the first half Mayo were unable to pick up their second win of the National Football League in McHale Park on Sunday afternoon. James Horan's side had the gap back to a solitary point when Andy Moran kicked a point with ten minutes left on the clock but they couldn't push on from there to steal the win or even a draw against the Ulster men. While there were some questionable calls by the referee Syl Doyle over the seventy minutes, no more so than his decision to play only three minutes injury time in the second half when Armagh had begun to waste time from early in the second half, Mayo can't have any real complaints with the result at the end. Armagh took their chances when they got them while Mayo didn't. The lack of a long range free taker in the side was never made as clear as this game with no fewer than four different players having a go at kicking 45's for Mayo over the seventy minutes and not one of them able to find the target. Mayo dominated possession for long periods of the game but they couldn't convert them into scores as Armagh hung on to claim the two points. With Dublin and Cork next up for Mayo, before they wrap up the league campaign with a trip away to Monaghan, the fight for survival in division one looks like it will go right down to the wire,
Armagh hit Mayo with a thunderbolt right from the off. Charlie Vernon won the throw in, launched it in long towards Gareth Swift who laid the ball off to Malachy Mackin. The wing forward slipped a pass into Brian Mallon who dispatched it to the net, with barley 20 seconds gone on the clock. Armagh were off and running. Andy Moran did kick a point for Mayo shortly after to bring the gap back to two by that was quickly pushed back out to three by a Steven McDonnell free. Aidan Campbell got Mayo's second point of the game from a free, a minute after Aidan Kilcoyne had half a chance of getting in for a goal when a Jason Gibbons shot held up by the wind dropped short. Mayo who were getting beaten well in the midfield battle at this stage were still doing well in the possession stakes, but they failed to convert that into scoring chances. Steven McDonnell put Armagh 1-2 to 0-2 ahead after 15 minutes and a minute later the Ulster men plundered their second goal of the half. A well worked move down the right ended up in the hands of Paul Duffy who lashed the ball to the back of the net with great finish. That goal was quickly followed by another McDonnell point from a free as the Mayo challenge looked to be sinking fast and without a trace.Aidan Campbell kept Mayo somewhat in touch with another pointed free. Andy Moran had two chances to kick points in the next couple of minutes but he skewed both of his efforts wide of the mark. With 27 minutes on the clock Kieran Tonar kicked a point to leave Armagh leading by 2-4 to 0-3. McDonnell clipped on another point a couple of minutes later, but before the break came Mayo worked themselves back into the contest. Aidan Campbell had a shot for a goal blocked down, with five minutes left in the half. But with time almost up Jason Doherty who had been a peripheral figure up to this point showed his poachers instinct. Kevin McLoughlin kicked a diagonal ball into the Burrishoole man who took on Billy Joe Padden and then applied a deft finish from a tight angle to find the back of the net. Armagh did have the last word on the half when the impressive as always Steven McDonnell landed a point just on the whistle.
Doherty picked up where he left off at the start of the second half and scored a point within seconds of the restart and to get Mayo and the crowd going. Aidan Campbell was then added another point from a free as Mayo started to make inroads into the Armagh lead. Doherty very nearly got a second goal, when he got a fist on a long ball in from Kevin McLoughlin but it was saved by Philip McEvoy in the Armagh goal. The Ulster men moved the ball up the field straight away and Charlie Vernon kicked a point to calm his sides nerves and the Mayo fight back. Steven McDonnell kept up his scoring return with a fine effort a few minutes later as the game moved into its crucial juncture. First Alan Dillon then Andy Moran followed by Aidan Kilcoyne all kicked points to leave the score 2-8 to 1-8 in Armagh's favour with 20 minutes left. Mayo kept applying the pressure and they were rewarded with a point from Dillon from a free to cut the gap to two before Moran's point had it back to the bare minimum with ten minutes left on the clock. But for Mayo that was their last score of the day. Armagh, slowed the game down to a crawling pace when they could and they were able to tack on two more points from Ciaran McKeever and from sub John Murtagh before the end of the game.
All roads lead to Croke Park and Dublin the form team of the league so far next Sunday.
Mayo: K O'Malley; T Cunniffe, C Hallinan, C Barrett; P Gardiner, G Cafferkey, R O'Connor; T Parsons, J Gibbons; A Campbell (0-3,3f ), A Dillon (0-2,2f ), K McLoughlin, A Kilcoyne (0-1 ), A Moran (0-3,1f ), J Doherty (1-1 ). Subs: R Feeney, R McGarrity, E Varley, A O'Shea
Armagh: P McEvoy; A Mallon, B Donaghy, F Moriarty; K Dyas, C McKeever (0-1 ), P Duffy (1-0 ); K Toner (0-1 ), C Vernon (0-1 ); G Swift, BJ Padden, M Mackin; M O'Rourke, B Mallon (1-0 ), S McDonnell (0-6,4f ). Subs: J Lavery, J Murtagh (0-1,1f ), R Grugan, C Watters.
Ref: S Doyle (Wexford )