MAYO chances of holding onto their Division I National League status for next year were given a major boost in Omagh today when they carved out a one-point victory over Tyrone after a tough and hard fought encounter.
However, with Cavan drawing with Kerry, it means Mayo are still in involved in the relegation battle and will need to get at least a draw against Donegal in Elverys MacHale Park, Castlebar, next Sunday if they want to make certain they stay up.
While the win over Tyrone gives Mayo a great fighting chance of staying in Division 1, the victory was also very important in that it was a real confidence booster for the team following two very bad loses to Cavan at home, and Dublin away, in their last two league games.
After Mayo's dismal performance against Cavan last Sunday, not many gave them much of a chance against Tyrone.
However, they matched the Ulster side for most of the game and in the end beat them at their own defensive system of play.
Mayo just defended in droves and hit them on the break at pace. Indeed, it was one of Mayo's quick counter attacks that yielded the winning point in injury time when Kevin McLoughlin was on hand to put the finishing touches to a fast upfield Mayo movement.
In a game that was played in front of almost 8,000 spectators, and one where three black cards were handed out, two for Mayo ( Lee Keegan and Danny Kirby), there was never much between the sides, scoreboard wise during the 70 plus minutes of play.
In the opening half points were exchanged on a number of occasions before the Red Hands went two in front after 25 minutes.
However, the crucial score of the half, and indeed the game, arrived 60 seconds later when a sweeping Mayo movement upfield ended with Andy Moran setting up Tom Parsons to fire a low daisy cutter to the Tyrone net.
This Mayo goal helped them to a one-point lead at the interval, 1-6 to 0-8.
In what was a very tense second half, scores were very hard to come by as both defences were very much to the fore. Indeed, both teams only managed to score four points each in this half.
However, Mayo just battled away and, while Tyrone continued to miss several good opportunities, the crucial victory was always within Mayo's grasp.
When it came down to a nail bitting finish it was Mayo who had the final say with McLoughlin's late winner.
In the end, Mayo deserved to win. They fought very hard and, unlike the game against Cavan, they looked a more settled side and knew what they were at.
In a game that saw the return to action of both Chris Barrett and Aidan O'Shea, this victory should do a lot for Mayo's confidence going forward.
Next Sunday Mayo will face a Donegal team looking for a victory for different reasons.
A win for the northern side would guarantee them a league final meeting with Dublin, so they will be travelling to Castlebar with all guns blazing.
As already mentioned a draw will be good enough for Mayo against Donegal. Even a defeat still gives them a chance as Cavan would have to beat Roscommon to send Mayo down, if Kerry get anything out of their clash with Tyrone.
Should Cavan win and Mayo and Kerry (at home to Tyrone) lose, it would come down to scoring difference between the three.
If that turns out to be the case it is very likely that Cavan would lose out as they have the worst scoring difference of the three.
But it is all going to depend on the final round of group games where anything could happen.
Mayo: D. Clarke, B. Harrison, K. Higgins, C. Barrett, C. Boyle, L. Keegan, P. Durcan (0-2), T. Parsons (1-0), D. Kirby, F. Boland, C. O’Connor (0-5), S. Nally (0-1), K. McLoughlin (0-2), A. Moran, D. Drake.
Subs: S. Coen for Keegan ((BC), D. O’Connor for Boland, D. Vaughan for Kirby (BC), A. O’Shea for Moran, J. Doherty for Drake, C. O’Shea for Nally.
Tyrone: N. Morgan (0-1), P. Hampsey, R. McNamee, C. McCarron, R. McNabb, A. McCrory, T. McCann (0-1), C. Cavanagh, M. Donnelly, K. McGeary (0-2), N. Sludden (0-1), P. Harte, M. Bradley (0-3), S. Cavanagh (0-2), D. McCurry (0-2).
Subs: C. Meyler for Sludden (BC), C. McShane for McNamee, H. Loughran for McNabb, J. Munroe for McCrory.
Referee: C. Lane (Cork).