After the dash and verve we showed last Sunday in Omagh, tonight’s 1-13 to 0-11 win over Cavan was far more workmanlike. It was a victory we secured thanks to another hard-working and committed display, with the result never really in doubt after we goaled shortly before half-time.
The playing conditions tonight were light-years away from the tempest that had raged round the place two weeks ago for the Roscommon game. A light wind rose only occasionally, blowing into the bacon factory end when it did, and aside from some misty rain that fell as the teams did their pre-match warm-ups the night was dry too, though the sod underfoot was heavy and a touch greasy.
We lined out as selected, Cavan making two changes before the off, with Stephen Murray in for corner-back Conor Moynagh while Cian Mackey started at wing-forward in place of Pierce Smith.
They got the night’s first score. We committed a technical foul around the middle – a free kick we took didn’t travel the required 13 metres – and they broke quickly, McVeety shooting over.
We responded quickly, though, with Jason Doherty pumping one in to Andy who claimed the forward mark and pointed from the free shot.
Cavan then bagged the next three scores, all from frees. Jack Brady got the first and third of these, while their ‘keeper Raymond Galligan trotted up for the second, a fifty-yarder that he rammed over.
Slight pulses of alarm were sounding now as we struggled to get into this game. The root cause for much of our difficulties could be traced back to David Clarke’s rather one-dimensional kick-outs, boomed out skywards towards midfield, giving our lads no better than a 50:50 chance of claiming possession. It was a problem that, to be honest, persisted for much of the game.
Added to this, the runs being made by their centre-back Ciaran Brady and centre-forward Dara McVeety – two influential players for them – weren’t being tracked. This was creating all kinds of difficulties for us.
But then on fifteen minutes we began to right ourselves. A nice, slick downfield move ended with Andy playing the percentages and fisting over. Then Fionn McDonagh took possession on the burst, made ground and fired over off his left. As we continued to press Colm Moran was dragged down and Jason Doherty converted the free to tie the game up.
They went back in front soon after, however, with wing-back Niall Murphy coming inside at pace and collecting the pop pass before swinging over a glorious effort from distance. It was, though, the final time they’d lead tonight.
A bit of a scramble close to their posts almost resulted in a goal for us. Stephen Coen took a shot, which Galligan parried brilliantly but the ref called the play back for a foul in the build-up. Evan Regan popped over the resultant close-in free.
We took the lead with a really intelligent score. They’d dropped fourteen players back behind the ball and we patiently probed for an opening, moving the ball over and back across the middle third. Then Aidan showed for it in space, cleanly catching the ball pumped into him to claim the forward mark. He drove it over off the outside of the boot to put us one up.
A Jason Doherty free, after a foul on Andy that, to be honest, looked more like an accidental collision, edged us two ahead. A mix-up in our backline enabled them to grab one back but we then struck at the other end for a goal that put clear daylight between the sides at the break.
Matthew Ruane’s ball in was, in truth, probably an effort at a point that dropped short, Evan Regan piled in after it and the ball ended in the net. Instinctively, my feeling was that Evan had impeded the ‘keeper but the officials were happy, the goal stood and although they pulled one back soon after we went in three clear.
Last Sunday up in Omagh we built quickly on our half-time advantage to secure a winning lead. Tonight, though, we took a good while after the break to get going and, for fifteen minutes or so, it looked like we risked giving them a route back into this contest.
We did, though, get the first score after the break. Andy was fouled having collected a super ball in from Stephen Coen and the free was then moved up – for dissent? – from where Evan banged it over.
Further chances appeared for us. Stephen Coen drove another great ball in, there was a scramble for possession and Lee Keegan eventually hacked at it and put it wide. Then Andy drove low and badly wide across the face of the goal.
We made our first change at this point, Brian Reape coming on for Colm Moran. The switch made sense – the Westport player was finding it hard to get motoring on the heavy surface and Brian’s size and heft looked a better fit for the conditions.
Lee Keegan raided forward soon after and smashed over a lovely one with the outside of his boot. Five up now and it looked we were easing away from them.
But that was when we shrank back into ourselves a bit and almost invited them onto us. A converted free and then a nice effort from distance by McVeety cut the gap to just three points with fifteen minutes still to play.
We’d made two further changes by then. Matty Ruane, who can be happy enough with a solid debut appearance in midfield, gave way for Donal Vaughan while Kevin McLoughlin came on in place of Fionn McDonagh.
Donie got our next score. He barreled forward rather inelegantly but kept going, eventually steadying himself and leathering it over to settle us down and increase our lead back to four points.
Then Brian Reape got possession out on the right and shot on the turn from around 30 yards. That restored our five-point advantage and, with little more than ten minutes left there was really no way back for there for the visitors.
In the remaining time – which included four minutes of added time – we traded two scores each. Ours came from a Jason Doherty free and a nice one from play by Diarmuid O’Connor. They lost Stephen Murray to a second yellow and late on we lost Evan Regan to injury. We were comfortable five-points winners at the finish.
Overall, it was a solid performance. At the back, Ger Cafferkey put in a storming performance at full-back, with Stephen Coen also prominent. The half-back line was solid as was midfield, where Diarmuid O’Connor ran all night and Matty Ruane got on plenty of ball. Aidan O’Shea worked incredibly hard all night, putting in another impressive display around the middle third. Fionn McDonagh was prominent again and inside Andy was always a good outlet. Evan Regan can be happy with his tally of 1-2.
So we’re top of the table after three rounds and the lads now head to the capital in a fortnight’s time knowing that a win there will end Dublin’s interest in this year’s League. It would also edge us closer to a possible top two finish.
Tonight’s win means we’re allowed to start tossing round such permutations in our minds, which is a nice change from having to think about the points we need to stave off relegation. Our good start to the year is gathering pace.
Mayo: David Clarke; Stephen Coen, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Lee Keegan (0-1), Michale Plunkett, Paddy Durcan; Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1), Matthew Ruane; Fionn McDonagh (0-1), Aidan O’Shea (0-1), Jason Doherty (0-3, frees); Evan Regan (1-2, two frees), Andy Moran (0-2), Colm Moran. Subs: Brian Reape (0-1) for Colm Moran, Donal Vaughan (0-1) for Ruane, Kevin McLoughlin for McDonagh, James McCormack for Coen, Ciaran Treacy for Andy Moran.
Who was our Man of the Match against Cavan? Pick your top three performers
- Ger Cafferkey (35%, 488 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (27%, 382 Votes)
- Diarmuid O'Connor (6%, 80 Votes)
- Andy Moran (4%, 61 Votes)
- Michael Plunkett (4%, 52 Votes)
- Evan Regan (3%, 48 Votes)
- Keith Higgins (3%, 46 Votes)
- Jason Doherty (3%, 45 Votes)
- Lee Keegan (3%, 44 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (2%, 34 Votes)
- Matthew Ruane (2%, 28 Votes)
- Paddy Durcan (2%, 27 Votes)
- Fionn McDonagh (2%, 26 Votes)
- David Clarke (1%, 13 Votes)
- Brian Reape (1%, 11 Votes)
- Ciaran Treacy (0%, 7 Votes)
- James McCormack (0%, 6 Votes)
- Donal Vaughan (0%, 5 Votes)
- Kevin McLoughlin (0%, 5 Votes)
- Colm Moran (0%, 3 Votes)
Total Voters: 857