Donaghy pleased as Armagh manage to maintain momentum

Orchard County mentor relieved after late comeback against Mayo sealed a valuable point in front of a big home crowd

It was close to seven on Sunday evening when Kieran Donaghy, kit bag over his shoulder and bottle of water to hand, exited the Armagh Athletic Grounds, sat into his car and pointed it in the direction of Tralee.

Lots to mull over on the long spin home – not least the wild shifts in momentum which saw Armagh pull four points clear of Mayo close to half-time, fall five points behind with three minutes of normal time remaining, and still salvage a draw thanks to Rian O’Neill’s free deep into added time.

Everyone is saying there’s little if nothing between the eight teams in Division One of the Allianz Football League, and Sunday’s showdown proved that again – Mayo drawing for the second time after coming back to level with Galway in Castlebar the previous week..

“He has to be given huge credit because the way the breeze was blowing across it was a slightly trickier kick than it looked,” Donaghy said of O’Neill’s equaliser.


“It was very important too because, even though it was a draw, the game had gone so far away from us, it’s worth more than a draw, if you get me.

“He shows great leadership, whether [scoring or] competing in the middle third for kick-outs to try and get us possession.”

Donaghy also had high praise Conor Turbitt, who marked his return to the starting team, a late replacement for Aidan Nugent, with three points from play. His speed is one of his biggest assets, which explains why they call him “Turbo”.

“Turbo was huge to get back because he’s tall but he’s quick and he’s athletic and he has a really good eye for goal and he’s very sharp.

“I thought Andrew Murnin was very good as well inside. You need competition, you need fighting for places and you need a bit of an edge there at training. The squad is strong, fellas are really pushing each other in training.

“And it was a home game and we had an unbelievable support – 15,000 people. There’s good momentum in the county at the moment and we want to keep that going. Losing might have been a bit deflating for us after a good result away [versus Monaghan] last week.”

Armagh still have a lot of players to return, their next showdown in two weeks’ time against Division One frontrunners Roscommon; Niall Rowland, Cian McConville, Oisín O’Neill, Ben Crealey and Ciaran Higgins are among the injured group and Stephen Sheridan, Conor O’Neill and Nugent aren’t back yet

“Our injury list is probably similar to most teams at this stage of the year,” said Donaghy.

“Kieran [McGeeney] has been echoing since I came up here three years ago that we need to strengthen that core group of 30 guys who are going to go at it in training games to get us ready for days like this.

“We have a few guys to come back – we’ve Oisín O’Neill to come back, Greg McCabe will be back now and it’s just a case of getting as many fellas back as you can for the championship.

“When we get to the big games, and in particular the knock-out games, you want to have a full bunch to pick from. Everyone is dealing with this at this time of year – you saw Kerry last week, they only had four starters from the year before, so most teams are in this boat at this time of year.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics