THE Armagh and Down players may have had a high familiarity with each other prior to Saturday night’s clash at the Morgan Athletic Grounds but for one man, their Ulster championship tie was an immensely novel experience.
Belmullet native Billy Joe Padden’s background is rooted in Connacht football having featured in the Mayo ranks over the past decade. Yet he adapted seamlessly to the northern game, clipping over three points as Paddy O’Rourke’s side crushed Down’s provincial ambitions.
“You know, I didn’t feel any extra pressure,” revealed Padden.
“I was nervous beforehand but I’m nervous before any championship game. I think you need nerves and it’s good to have them. It makes yourealise how important the game is. But once you get the first ball in your hands they tend to fade away. The lads have been great since I came in.
“I’m just here trying to do any bit I can for Armagh and see where it takes us. My mother, my brother and all were up in the stand, which was great.”
Padden feels his football has benefited from not having toundergo the punishing treks from his work base in Newry to Mayo fortraining every week.
“I think it helped physically. You have more energy coming intotraining. You need that because you have to train the way you’re going to play. I’ve noticed a fair difference in the way I’ve been able to train since I’ve been here because of that lack of driving. I haven’t really had any injury problems, touch wood, so I think that’s been beneficial to me that I’m not in the car.
“You get a bit more rest as well when you’re not spending so much time in the car. When you’re getting on in years every bit of rest helps.”
Armagh entered the game free ofexpectations with all the pressure on Down to replicate the heroics that saw them reach the All-Ireland final last September. After a low-key league campaign, Padden felt the Orchard men were perfectly placed to stage a championship ambush.
“A lot of what the media was saying in the week coming up to it, everyone was saying Down were favourites judging on what they did in the championship last year and what we did in the league this year.
“A lot of our league performances were very sluggish. But things have improved dramatically over the last three or four weeks with the way the training has changed. There was no pressure on us and we were just able to go out and show what we have.
“We were talking in training and we were very confident. We felt we had a chance and maybe it was set up for us. But we’re just delighted to get the win. Our focus now is on Derry as they look like a very good side so it’s going to be another tough battle.”
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