at McHale Park
Cavan claimed their biggest scalp in many years when they came away from McHale Park, Castlebar with a tremendous two-point victory over the locals this afternoon.
The victory was fully-merited, too; Cavan were disciplined, smart in their use of the ball and, crucially, when the opportunity arose to close out the result, they seized it.
In the dying seconds, they kicked crucial points from Dara McVeety and sub Joe Dillon to seal the win, Cavan’s first in the top flight in 13 years.
The visitors were well within touching distance at the end of what was a slow-burner of a first half.
Points from Tom Parsons and Andy Moran – after a short Cavan kick-out went wrong – eased the home side into a two-point lead and although Gearoid McKiernan replied with a long-range free, two sweet efforts from Fergal Boland and Danny Kirby stretched Mayo’s advantage.
Cavan’s play was error-ridden at this stage. They scored again through another McKiernan free but Mayo were finding it easier to punch holes in the Cavan rearguard.
The Blues, playing into the teeth of a strong wind, kicked eight wides in the opening 35 minutes and looked to be in trouble when they fell 0-9 to 0-4 behind five minutes before half-time, with McVeety kicking two from play for Cavan.
But Mattie McGleenan’s men finished the half strongly, with McKiernan kicking a massive point from the wing and then getting on the end of a sweeping move – with McVeety again heavily involved – to crash to the net with the final play of the half.
Danny Kirby kicked the opener in the second half but Cavan, wind-assisted now, were playing with more confidence and, in particular, defending very well, where they hunted in packs and looked to break out at pace.
Points from Rory Dunne and McKiernan – who skinned Colm Boyle round the outside and curled over with the right – edged them in front.
Suddenly, Mayo were coughing up goal chances and from one McVeety turnover, Tomás Corr sot inches over.
Back came Mayo through Andy Moran but, at the other end, Martin Reilly won a race for a 50-50 ball and hooked over to make it 1-10 to 0-11.
Then came the home side’s time to shine. Driven on by Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan, they landed three in succession – two of them monster long-range scores from the Westport man – to reclaim the lead.
Corr and sub Shane Nally traded scores and when McKiernan sent over a free from the hands from all of 55 metres with 10 minutes to go, Cavan – who went into the game as 4/1 outsiders - were level and sensed victory.
In the frenetic closing stages, the away side held their nerve. First, what looked a perfectly legal goal for McVeety was ruled out but the Crosserlough man went on to fire over a terrific point from play.
And when Joe Dillon fielded brilliantly and pointed with the left boot, Cavan were home and hosed.
Next up is a home clash with Kerry – and with basement boys Roscommon awaiting after that, survival hopes are now very much alive again.
More to follow.