Things really couldn't have gone any better, could they?
Mayo sit proudly on top of division one just ahead of Kerry on scoring difference. Last Saturday's win all but guaranteed our division one status for 2020 - bar a serious run of unfortunate results. Mayo survived on five points in 2018 and the previous year Roscommon and Cavan only accumulated six points between them as both were relegated, hence the reasoning why I feel six will surely be enough to survive.
Last weekend's win against Cavan wasn't as flattering as the previous week against Tyrone, but it was certainly a victory built on composure, game management and most notably experience. Mayo's 1-13 to 0-11 point victory took a while coming but it leaves us now on six points, with a scoring difference of +15, which is seven ahead of Kerry, who are also on six points after their epic encounter with All-Ireland champions Dublin in Tralee.
Mayo started slowly against Cavan as they did in their previous two encounters against Roscommon and Tyrone, the Breffni men racing into 0-4 to 0-1 lead after nine minutes - with Mayo's opening score coming from Andy Moran, who took full advantage of the new offensive mark rule. It was the evergreen Andy who fisted over Mayo’s second score in the 12th minute, after a fine kick pass from Lee keegan.
An inspirational point from the day's captain, Aidan O'Shea, with the outside of his left boot after another offensive mark in the 24th minute, got the large crowd off their feet. There is no doubt Mayo's goal came at a good time and was fortuitous to say the least. As a player who had a career as an inside forward in a Mayo jersey to lining out between the sticks for my club, Charlestown, I have to empathise with Cavan net minder, Raymond Galligan, who got bundled into the net by Evan Regan - albeit after Regan made contact with the ball as he fisted a miss-hit Matthew Ruane shot to the net. Of course Regan had a right to go for it, but I was of the opinion a keeper cannot be touched inside his own six-yard box and Galligan most definitely was.
Still lots to work on
There would be a number of concerns from the contest that James Horan will certainly want to iron out for more testing games in the future, apart from the slow start. Cavan wing back Conor Redhill kicked over two unchallenged scores in the first 35 minutes, which will have no doubt alarmed Horan as to why he wasn't tracked.
David Clarke’s kick-out strategy didn't exactly go to plan either and certainly needs a bit of fine-tuning, as Cavan dominated from the Mayo restarts in the first half. Little things sometimes make the difference in games and Stephen Coen kicking a line ball backwards inside his own half will have irked Horan because of a lack in concentration, resulting in Mayo losing possession of the ball.
The new rule clearly states a line ball must be kicked forward unless you are taking it in from inside your opponent's 21 meter line. Compare that to the guile of Diarmuid O'Connor, who had a line ball just outside the Cavan 21 yard line in the 39th minute, as he cleverly tried to step inside the flag on the 21 to give him an option of kicking it backwards or forwards. Referee Anthony Nolan didn't fall for O'Connor's cleverness. but you've got to admire him for his cuteness at trying to expand his options, his brain is obviously constantly working as well as his limbs.
Big performances from key men
Mayo had a few outstanding performers on the day. Lee Keegan seems to be getting back to his old best while Aidan O'Shea drove his team forward to very telling effect, which was great to see, but the main man was Ger Cafferkey, who was outstanding at full back all day long and I'm absolutely delighted for him. Apart from a pick off the ground from a dubious Clarke kick out, Cafferkey's game was flawless.
For those of you who remember, Cafferkey had been named on the team to start against Galway in last year's championship on May 13, but upon the team being announced on the PA system just prior to throw in, Chris Barrett's name was announced in place of Cafferkey - which received a rousing applause from some sections of the Mayo faithful - which was in bad taste and disrespectful to a player who gives so much to the cause.
I was shocked at the time and didn't think we had supporters who would do that to one of our own. Ger Cafferkey is a role model and the perfect example of someone who breathes Mayo football. I encourage you to watch him doing a warm-up before his next game. It's actually priceless. He shuffles from side to side across his 21 yard line simulating that he is actually playing the game as he defends shadows as if his life depended on it, preparing for whatever eventuality the game might throw at him. He was deservedly nominated for the GAA.ie player of the week, hopefully it's the springboard for a brilliant year for him.
I can't let this week's column go without mentioning the phenomenal achievement of young Shane Haran from our neighbouring club, Curry, in Sligo. In what is literally the Irish version of Cool Runnings, last weekend Shane won the 55m sprint at the Millrose games in New York to officially become the fastest eight-year-old in the World. What an achievement and well done Shane. We won't hold it against him that his mother Liz hails from the Kingdom.