Match-winner Darren Hughes says Monaghan travelled to Castlebar confident of beating Mayo in their Allianz Football League Division 1 opener on Saturday night.

He got the vital goal in a two-point 1-11 to 0-12 win at MacHale Park – a result that sees them get their top flight campaign off to a positive start.

Staying in Division 1 will be a priority for Monaghan at this stage of the season, though Hughes says Malachy O’Rourke’s team had no worries about facing last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists.

“We targeted this from the start,” he explained, speaking to RTÉ Sport. “We were probably back training a little earlier than Mayo and they were missing a few elder statesmen, so we were confident we could get the points.”

Monaghan started both halves strongly. They led by 0-05 to 0-01 before Mayo rallied with the last five points of the first half to go in at the break leading 0-06 to 0-05.

The Farney County got out of the blocks quickly again after the change of ends and when Hughes got his goal they looked set to kick on for victory.

But Mayo had other ideas, Cillian O’Connor leading the charge and it set up an edgy and sometimes ill-tempered finale.

“We knew we had to start fast to get Mayo on the back foot,” said Hughes. “We did that and then they came back at us and got five in-a-row so we were happy half-time came along and gave us time to regroup.”

Recalling his goal, he said: “It was a counter-attack and I happened to be there. Thankfully Conor (McManus) played it through and we’re glad we got it because Cillian O’Conor kept picking off the points and they really came at us in the final few minutes.

“Conceding frees is an area we have to improve on, but Mayo are a quality side and they’re very resilient.

“It’s never easy in Division 1, you can’t take anything for granted, so we have to get ready for Cavan next week.”

Mayo-Monaghan was the first Division 1 game of the season, with the rest of the programme down for decision today.

Monaghan are happy to already have their first win under their belts and it will set them up well for next week’s Ulster derby with Cavan, when they will have home advantage.

It doesn’t get any easier for Mayo – they have to travel to face Kerry.