All-Ireland MFC final: Armagh leave it late

September 20, 2009

Armagh's Peter Carragher and Robbie Tasker celebrate victory over Mayo in the 2009 ESB All-Ireland MFC final.
Armagh 0-10 Mayo 0-7 Armagh are the 2009 ESB All-Ireland minor football champions after seeing off Mayo with a late show at Croke Park, ending a 60-year wait for national success in the grade. On a glorious afternoon in Dublin, both teams could only manage to serve up a lacklustre encounter of football, which was decided in the final five minutes as Paul McShane's team timed their finish to utter perfection. Nothing could separate the two teams in the first-half, as they went in deadlocked on 0-4 apiece, but Mayo were made to rue an early goal chance which was well-saved by Armagh 'keeper Stephen O'Reilly. In the second-half, the would-be winners stepped up the pace on their opponents but kicked too many chances wide to pull clear and even fell behind with little over five minutes left to go. However, four unanswered points in the closing stages saw their forwards come up trumps in the end, while also heaping further misery on Ray Dempsey's Mayo, who have now lost their second final in as many years. Mayo had made a shaky start, kicking three balls wide in the opening two minutes - including a simple looking 25 metre free in front of goal which was struck to the right of the post by marksman Aidan Walsh - before centre-back Shane McDermott had an early chance at goal well smothered by Stephen O'Reilly in the Armagh goal. Down the other end, Rory Grugan had Armagh off the mark five minutes in with a well-struck 40 metre free off his left boot, and Eugene McVerry doubled the Orchard County's lead a minute later by racing out in front of his marker, grabbing possession and turning to shoot over the bar. The Westerners responded when Brian Ruttledge was pushed to the floor 20 metres from goal, from where the wing forward pointed the resultant free. A huge point from midfielder Danny Kirby drew Mayo level on the ten-minute mark, but the Ulster side hit back when Grugan sent Andrew Murnin through to raise a white flag. A low-scoring first-half could be explained by both sides hitting aimless passes inside, suiting each defence to gobble up possession and take it from there on numerous occasions. A minute shy of the quarter hour mark Mayo had another chance at goal when Cillian O'Connor cut in from the right corner, but was out-muscled by Niall Rowland. O'Connor would get his score for the half soon after though, once Alex Corduff fetched a high ball sent into the square and laid off to his fellow corner-forward, who blasted over from close range. Armagh saw a half goal chance of their own go to waste in the 17th minute when Gavin McParland rushed through but his momentum saw the attacker drop the ball at the vial moment when bearing down on Michael Schlingermann's goal. The game had gone scoreless for the best part of ten minutes, with poor passing on both teams' part to blame, but when Murnin's slick run through on goal was cut short by Shane McDermott, McVerry's accurate right boot had Armagh back in front by converting the resultant free. Paul McShane's young men looked the more likely team at this stage, but a brilliant point from Fergal Durkan two minutes from the break ended a 13-minute scoring drought for Mayo and meant that the two teams would be going in at the half-time interval level on 0-4 each. Brian Ruttledge put Mayo into their first lead of this encounter 30 seconds into the restart, after Danny Kirby raced forward from the throw-in and darted a pass to Cillian O'Connor, who saw his effort blocked, but when the ball spilled to Ruttledge he made no mistake in splitting the posts. Armagh stepped it up a gear after that but didn't make it count on the scoreboard until the very late stages, kicking seven wides in the opening 15 minutes of the second-half. Livewire Robbie Tasker struck over a superb point after dummying his way past two Mayo defenders to squeeze over his shot. Soon after McVerry had Armagh back into the lead with a high and accurate effort, but he and his fellow attackers were guilty of some bad inaccuracy over the next ten minutes that should have saw the northerners out of sight in a low-scoring affair. Mayo drew the game level for the fifth time as the faultless Ciaran Charlton steamed forward out of defence and lashed over from the distance. In the 40th minute, Charlton saved his team from the concession of a goal after McParland had broke through the centre and aimed a pass to Tasker, who had an open goal, but the Mayo wing back intervened at the right time to intercept the pass and clear the danger. If there had been a team to hit the net at this stage they would have surely been All-Ireland champions, as only once did more than three points separate these sides, and that was a minute before the full-time whistle. Ten minutes from time the unusually quite Aidan Walsh struck Mayo 0-7 to 0-6 in front via a central 35-metre free from the ground, after Mayo had tried tirelessly to find a way around Armagh's rearguard, but were made settle for a placed effort once Shane McDermott's sudden burst through was impeded by two Armagh backs. Kirby fetched the ensuing kick-out and fed Ruttledge inside, who should have done better from 25 metres but instead struck a chance at a first two-point lead badly wide. A minute later and Ray Dempsey's charges were to be made rue a missed chance at goal. Only on five minutes as a replacement for Darren Coen, Jack McDonnell was threaded through on goal, after drifting in from the left, but his thunderous shot was turned around the post off the legs of Stephen O'Reilly. Walsh narrowly missed the '45' afterwards. Armagh made Mayo pay the ultimate price, while timing their own finish to perfection. The young Orchard men ran at their opponents like they hadn't done for the previous 55 minutes of this tedious encounter and hit Mayo for four points in the closing five minutes which decided the contest. 'Star forward' Eugene McVerry was withdrawn and replaced by Thomas McAlinden, while Tasker led the line brilliantly, with a worthy equalising point. A minute later and McAlinden was put through on goal, but Mayo net-minder Schlingermann was equal to the substitute's effort. However, it did not faze the tall forward, as he curled over a beauty off his left boot in the following attack to send Armagh into the lead with two minutes to go. Mayo looked to mount a response, but the momentum was firmly with the young men in orange, as midfielder Peter Carragher drilled over a salient two-point lead, which was backed up by none other than Tasker in injury-time to hand Armagh their first Tom Markham Cup since 1949. Armagh - S O'Reilly, K Downey, R Finnegan, K Nugent, D McKenna, N Rowland, J Morgan, P Carragher (0-1), J Donnelly, R Grugan (0-1, 1f), A Murnin (0-1), C King, R Tasker (0-3), E McVerry (0-3, 2f), G McParland. Subs - T McAlinden (0-1) for McVerry (37) C McCafferty for Finnegan (52). Mayo - M Schlingermann, M Walsh, K Rogers, D Gavin, C Charlton (0-1), S McDermott, C Crowe; D Kirby (0-1), A Farrell, B Ruttledge (0-2, 1f), D Coen, F Durkan (0-1), A Corduff, A Walsh (0-1, 1f), C O'Connor (0-1). Subs - J Carney for Farrell (40), J McDonnell for Coen (43). Ref - Eddie Kinsella (Laois)

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