JOHN EVANS was a bit like the lady who protested too much when his side reached the final yesterday, reminding us three times afterwards that it was "still only January 18."
The Roscommon manager rushed to dampen down expectations but their fans couldn't help getting excited after this early-season defeat of the old enemy, given that it was their first victory over them in Castlebar in 29 years.
That amazing statistic - that the Rossies hadn't beaten Mayo in MacHale Park since the championship in 1986 - was widely discussed beforehand, and ending that jinx was a great fillip, not matter what the date.
Evans was right to emphasise how early in the year it was, but you certainly wouldn't have thought that if you'd popped in to see tempers flaring on at least five occasions.
All the schemozzles were largely of the hand-bag variety and, to continue that vernacular, probably the most worrying thing for Mayo was that they not only lost the game but most of the rows.
Despite a lot of second-half fractiousness, referee Eamon O'Grady only handed out seven yellows (three to Mayo) and gave out two apiece after the 'all-in' tussle that originally sparked it off.
Even in the dying minutes, when Mark Ronaldson, despite hearing the whistle, persisted in getting a goal shot off (and wide), he found himself bustled into the back of the net like a rag-doll, which was an apt metaphor for Mayo's day.
Right from the start, it was clear that the Rossies were much more up for it.
Mayo started seven of the side that had beaten them in Dr Hyde last summer but their full-back line alone showed the difference, with all three best known as half-backs.
Chris Barrett was given the unenviable job of marking classy left-footer Diarmuid Murtagh, and the U-21 star, who played Hastings Cup on Saturday, showed once again why he's so highly rated with his 1-4 haul.
Roscommon burst into an unanswered three point lead from throw-in and missed two good goal chances before Murtagh, whose brothers Brian and Ciaran also started, got their first of the season in the 19th minute.
The visitors' early six-point lead was back to just three by half-time (1-6 to 0-6).
But it was already noticeable that Mayo were completely dependant on frees from Jason Doherty and Kevin McLoughlin to stay in touch.
Just two of Mayo's total came from play - their final-quarter goal was a penalty earned by Barry Moran and scored by Alan Freeman, and Kenneth O'Malley also made a great save in either half to spare their blushes.
They face Kerry in their league opener in a fortnight but joint manager Pat Holmes didn't sound too perturbed afterwards, pointing out that they had a lot of big names missing and they had only beaten two college teams beforehand.
The Gavin Duffy saga took another ironic twist.
His inter-county transfer has apparently been completed but the former oval ball star, who was expected to finally debut yesterday, was not available because he was 'work-tied' with Connacht rugby.
Colm Boyle made a gaffe to gift Mark Nally Roscommon's second goal in the third quarter, whereupon they ran their bench.
But their defence looked porous throughout, especially when Roscommon ran at them, and the visitors went eight points up at one point.
Evans insisted his side were just looking to improve after losing to NUIG last time out but Ciaran Cafferkey, Niall Daly, Diarmuid and Ciaran Murtagh and Mark Nally all certainly impressed.
Scorers - Roscommon: D Murtagh 1-4 (0-2fs), C Murtagh 0-3 (2fs), M Nally 1-0, C Cafferkey, E Smith 0-2 each, D Smith 0-1. Mayo: K McLoughlin 0-6 (5fs), J Doherty 0-4 (3fs), A Freeman 1-0 (pen).
Roscommon - M Whyte; S McDermott, N Carty, N Collins; B Murtagh, N Daly, C Cafferkey; I Kilbride, M Healy; M Nally, D Smith, E Smith; D Murtagh, S Kilbride, C Murtagh. Subs - R Stack for B Murtagh (52), R Daly for Stack (black card, 57), F Kelly for I Kilbride (60).
Mayo - K O'Malley; C Barrett, D Vaughan, L Keegan; C Boyle, S Coen, D Drake; S O'Shea, B Moran; K McLoughlin, M Lyons, D O'Connor; E Varley, J Doherty, D Coen. Subs - A Freeman for Lyons (41), K Rogers for Drake (49), C Crowe for D Coen (50), M Ronaldson for Boyle (51), J Gibbons for Moran (53).
ReF - E O'Grady (Leitrim).