The compelling story of this season’s National League took another dramatic twist in Castlebar yesterday when the Cavan footballers ended a 13-year wait for a win in the top division.
There were emotional scenes at MacHale Park when the final whistle sounded as the Breffni Blues, 4/1 outsiders to beat Mayo beforehand, celebrated with their loyal fans in the crowd of 8,565.
The shell-shocked home supporters had been stunned into silence by Cavan’s terrific second-half display, and Mattie McGleenan’s team now have “a fighting chance” of surviving in Division 1 despite their slow start to the campaign.
There was no doubt who the star of the show was yesterday as Mullahoran midfielder Gearóid McKiernan delivered a barnstorming display, shooting 1-5 for good measure.
His goal just before half-time rocked Mayo back on their heels while his final point levelled the game with ten minutes to go.
The excellent Dara McVeety and lively substitute Joe Dillon went on to land the crucial scores in the 66th and 70th minutes that sealed a deserved success.
“They were absolutely fantastic,” smiled McGleenan afterwards.
“We needed extra players to stand up and perform today and, in fairness, that’s what happened, that’s why we won.
“We had a team performance. We’ve had individuals playing well like last week, six or seven of them for 10 or 15 minutes.
“We needed everybody to turn up today.
“And that’s the pleasing thing; that Cavan turned up today in their entirety and that gives us a great bounce going into the Kerry game next week.”
Mayo’s third defeat in five games means they now must beat both Tyrone and Donegal in the coming weeks to secure their Division 1 status for 2018.
“We’re disappointed with today,” admitted Mayo manager Stephen Rochford afterwards.
“In the first-half we did well, we got a reasonable response, but we can’t be giving away soft goals. We kicked eight points from play against a stubborn defence that Cavan play.
“Then we conceded what we would feel was a soft goal, we were very disappointed with that.
“Obviously that gave them the momentum playing with the elements in the second- half, and we were put on the back foot quite a bit in the second-half.”
Mayo never recovered their composure after the concession of that well-worked McKiernan strike two minutes into first-half stoppage time.
The Westerners hadn’t hit too many high notes but were leading 0-9 to 0-4 as half-time approached thanks to a brace of scores each from Andy Moran, Danny Kirby and Conor O’Shea.
Then the marauding McKiernan took centre stage, firing over a point before hitting the net after a long delivery from Killian Clarke caught Mayo’s defence napping.
Cavan hit the ground running at the start of the second-half too and four quickfire points eased them ahead for the first time.
Mayo rallied impressively with three unanswered scores from the outstanding Danny Kirby and Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan (2) to go back in front.
‘Mossy’ Corr and Mayo sub Shane Nally traded scores to leave the favourites clinging to a narrow lead swinging into the home straight.
Remarkably though they failed to score again in the final 20 minutes as Cavan finished with a flourish to blow this division wide open.
Scorers for Cavan:
G McKiernan (1-5, 3 frees); D McVeety (0-3), T Corr (0-2); R Dunne,
M Reilly, C Madden, J Dillon (0-1 each)
Scorers for Mayo:
D Kirby (0-4); A Moran (0-3); L Keegan, C O’Shea (0-2 each); T Parsons, F Boland, K McLoughlin, S Nally (0-1 each)
R Galligan; K Brady, R Dunne, F Reilly; G Smith, K Clarke, C Moynagh; G McKiernan, T Corr; M Reilly, D McVeety, N Clerkin; N Murray, C Madden, S Johnston.
C Mackey for Johnston (44); S Murray for N Murray (50); C Brady for Clerkin (61); L Buchanan for Corr (70); J Dillon for Madden (62).
D Clarke; B Harrison, K Higgins, P Durcan; C Boyle, L Keegan, D Vaughan; T Parsons, D Kirby; F Boland, C O’Connor, C O’Shea; K McLoughlin, A Moran, C Loftus.
S Coen for Vaughan (52); S Nally (0-1) for Boland (55); E Regan for Loftus (60); N Douglas for O’Shea (66); J Gibbons for Parsons (70).
A Nolan (Wicklow).
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