‘It’s do or die’: Mackin says Armagh’s clash with Mayo not a dead rubber

Defeat on Saturday means side could face Galway in quarters and Dublin in semis

  John West Féile ambassador and Armagh’s Aimee Mackin in attendance at the launch of John West Féile at Croke Park, Dublin.   Photograph: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

John West Féile ambassador and Armagh’s Aimee Mackin in attendance at the launch of John West Féile at Croke Park, Dublin. Photograph: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

 

There are times when Aimee Mackin returns home after winning with Armagh and parks her pride at the front door, like last Saturday evening.

A week after her defence-splitting spinner pass against Monaghan went viral on social media, the reigning player of the year this time led the destruction of Cavan with 0-10.

The win secured Armagh’s All-Ireland quarter-final place though neither Mackin, nor sister and Armagh colleague Blaithin, were crowing about it when they arrived home to Camlough.

Brothers Connaire and Ciaran are part of Kieran McGeeney’s men’s panel and Connaire lined out in Saturday’s dramatic Ulster semi-final defeat to Monaghan.

It made for an afternoon of conflicting emotions for the Mackin parents whose sons were inconsolable after losing in Newry, just as their daughters were beginning their game 80km away in Clones.

“We would have loved to be at the Armagh men’s game,” said Mackin at the launch of the John West Feile na nOg competitions 2021. “We’d have supported them as well but the way the fixtures fell it was too hard to get to both. Mum and Dad had to decide which one they were going to.

“They went to Pairc Esler in the end, they were going to try to drive up to our game but it was too late.”

GAA mad’

Back at home, after years of wins, losses, draws, hard luck stories and even tears, Mackin says the siblings have a simple enough way of dealing with it all.

“We just split ourselves into the two livingrooms, we’ll go in one, the boys can go in the other and we’ll not discuss any more,” she smiled. “Ah no, the boys to be fair are great and our house is sort of GAA mad so after every game we come home and we’re sort of analysing it. Yeah, it’s disappointing for the boys but it doesn’t get us down because we know they get excited for our games too.”

The Armagh ladies will travel to Ballinamore in Leitrim on Saturday to play Mayo. It’s the final game in their group and while the prize for the winners is what appears to be an easier quarter- and semi-final draw, a loss wouldn’t be fatal. Both Armagh and Mayo have already qualified for the knockout stages whereas, in the men’s game, one slip up and you’re out.

“Yeah, I think probably it is harsh enough on them but they can’t change anything, it is what it is,” shrugged Mackin.

A talented soccer player who represented Northern Ireland as a teenager, Mackin is one of the most recognisable faces in Gaelic games now. Her outside of the boot diagonal pass to the chest of Caroline O’Hanlon against Monaghan was the moment of the Championship so far. Some suggested online that it was actually a point attempt.

“No, no, it was a pass,” assured Mackin. “If I had taken a shot from there and it didn’t go over I’d be getting an earful from the manager. I just saw Caroline in there one v one and I think when Carolin is one v one, if you put a high ball in she is very rarely not going to get it. It was a good run by her to see the space and it just opened up nicely.”

You could argue that this Saturday’s game with Mayo is a dead rubber. Or you could look on it as their most important game yet given that if they lose, they will face 2019 All-Ireland runners-up Galway in the quarter-finals and, potentially, five-in-a-row chasing Dublin in the semi-finals.

Mackin says she hasn’t considered the permutations too much.

“Us and Mayo are the same, we’re approaching it as if it’s a normal Championship game as if it’s do or die,” she said. “We don’t look at it as a dead rubber game. Every game is important. We want to try to get a good performance to try to get a win. Mayo will be likewise.

“We know they’ll not slacken off just because we’re both through. It’s the most important game for us because it’s the one that’s next.”

Mackin was joined at the Feile launch by Denise Gaule, the Kilkenny All-Star and reigning camogie Player of the Year.

Like her football counterpart, Gaule struck 0-10 last weekend as Kilkenny began their defence of the All-Ireland with a win over Clare.

Accolades

Although unlike Mackin, Gaule was quoted earlier this year suggesting that she may not have deserved the All-Star and the accolades that came her way after 2020.

“I kind of meant it more so in the way that our backs probably won us a lot of the games last year,” said Gaule, whose goal from a penalty edged out Galway in last December’s All-Ireland decider. “Maybe forwards get a bit more credit and I was more so thinking along the likes of Claire Phelan who was outstanding in the semi-final and final, and maybe they deserved it a bit more.”

What’s certain is that Kilkenny are a tough nut to crack under Brian Dowling, collecting All-Ireland and league honours since he took over for 2020. Before that, they were camogie’s nearly team.

“We had a few close calls in the league this year with Limerick and Tipperary in particular, we should have been beaten in those two matches,” said Gaule, giving an example of their unbreakable spirit. “I think when Brian came in he just really gave us belief.”

The 2021 John West Feile na nOg football, camogie and hurling competitions will take place on August 21 and August 28. Under-15 teams will compete for the opportunity to play at Croke Park and Semple Stadium.

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