Horan's talent trawl to deliver third Mayo win
AFTER the messy unravelling of the Stephen Rochford era, no one was quite sure if Mayo's epic quest was destined for a definitive cul-de-sac or merely a twist in the long and winding road to Sam.
At least James Horan's reappointment offered hope that the good times weren't gone for good.
Yet no one really expected this: their best league start in seven years and the prospect of making it three wins from three against a pointless Cavan. If that transpires they will return to Croke Park in rude health, later this month, for an intriguing spring litmus test against their Sky Blue nemesis.
The last time Mayo won their first two top-flight outings, 2012, was also the last year they vanquished the Dubs - both in league and championship.
So far into 2019, so promising. Such were the horrific, wind-blighted conditions, it was impossible to make any judgements about Mayo's comeback victory over Roscommon.
Last Sunday was different because they played an admittedly abject Tyrone off their own Healy Park, showing huge energy levels, a lust for work and a smooth integration of youth and experience.
At different ends of the pitch - and sometimes the same end - Keith Higgins and Andy Moran continued to defy the ageing process. Aidan O'Shea's massive shift was epitomised by an exquisite dispossession of Mattie Donnelly, ultimately leading to a goal chance for Brian Reape that was saved.
After Reape's goalscoring heroics against Ros, other rookies took on the baton, notably Michael Plunkett in defence, Ciarán Treacy (0-2) and especially Fionn McDonagh (1-3) up front.
Yet, as proof of Horan's policy to trawl all options, Reape and Treacy are two of five omissions in his announced line-up with Matthew Ruane and Colm Moran the latest 'newbies'.
Cavan have expended a lot of energy for zero return. They lost by two in Galway amid a flurry of black cards and then, from four up, faltered against the wind and a resurgent Kerry to lose by three. Division 1 always appeared a tough ask for Mickey Graham's promoted hopefuls. It could get even tougher tonight.
ODDS: Mayo 1/6 Draw 12/1 Cavan 5/1