'Sport can be cruel' admits Mayo manager Stephen Rochford after one-point loss to three in-a-row Dubs in All-Ireland final
All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final: Dublin 1-17 Mayo 1-16
IF there hadn’t already been tears, they were on their way and there was no shame in that.
Mayo manager Stephen Rochford said “sport can be cruel” as he struggled to come to terms with yesterday’s 1-17 to 1-16 loss. Somehow he had found an extra gear in Mayo that wasn’t there last year, but still it wasn’t enough to land the All-Ireland.
Dublin hung in there in the first half and edged ahead at the death thanks to Dean Rock’s nerveless late winner which sealed three in-a-row for the modern greats.
Their status as the best team in the country is beyond question, while Mayo are easily second and arguably the best never to have won a Sam Maguire.
“You lose consecutive All-Ireland finals by a point and you just tap your cap to Dublin,” said Rochford generously.
“Today is about them and it’s a phenomenal achievement to win three in-a-row. Sincere congratulations to Jim [Gavin] and Stephen [Cluxton] but it just wasn’t to be. We rattled the post with a free-kick in injury-time and Dean Rock, maybe from a slightly easier angle, nailed it and that’s the margins. Sport can be cruel.”
Rochford sportingly added “We’ve come second in an All-Ireland final to a better team on the day” and he refused to blame fatigue for Mayo’s loss. Yesterday was his side’s 10th game of a long season, but the Mayo boss said that had played no part in the result.
“We played over 80 minutes and we are chasing down Dublin who are masters at keeping possession and we were an inch or two away. I certainly don’t believe there was tiredness there,” he said.
“After we scored the goal Dublin came back and kicked two times. We weren’t able to build the margin we would have liked but there was nothing in relation to fitness or mental fatigue.”
Jim Gavin was understandably delighted. He had every right to be, but he did his very best to conceal the joy of three in-a-row behind a deadpan exterior.
The Dublin manager said there was “a bounce of the ball” between the sides. But once again the bounce went his team’s way.
“Composure has been a hallmark of these guys,” said Gavin.
“They work so hard on their game, they are very disciplined in what they do and the sacrifices they make to play Gaelic Games are phenomenal.
“It was a very tight first half and when they went two points ahead they had the crowd behind them and there was a perception that they had the momentum, but in the last quarter we out-scored them four points to one.
“That shows how present the Dublin players were in the game and to turn that around is satisfying.”
Gavin expressed his sympathy for the Mayo players who have been the only team in the country to test his side this season.
“We were there ourselves this year when we lost a national final [the League] by a point,” he said.
“It is tough, both teams can be very proud of the performances they put in. Yet again there was a bounce of the ball between ourselves and Mayo, we’re just happy that the bounce was on our side.”
The Dublin manager refuted the suggestion that his team’s physical tactics towards the end of the game had contributed to their win.
“It was like that from the start, it was a very physical game and there was a lot on the line,” he said.
“Both teams went hard at it and I wouldn’t expect anything less from my team.
“There is a lot at stake, there was tackling at both ends and that’s just what happens when you have to physically well-matched teams going hard at it.”