The Championship

Stephen Rochford proud of Mayo's efforts

  Mayo boss Stephen Rochford
Sean O'Neill

SATURDAY morning and Stephen Rochford was the man who had revitalised Mayo’s fortunes and put the steel in them. Saturday evening and he was the man who had dropped the Allstar goalkeeper for an All-Ireland final.

Such is management. Had Hennelly produced the strong kicking display that his manager had hoped, it would have been hailed as a masterstroke. It didn’t work, and so the analysis fell the other way. That decision to drop David Clarke and replace him with Rob Hennelly was designed to give Mayo a stronger platform off their own kick-outs.

“We did our analysis on Dublin. They had pushed with a formation in the first game, pushing four guys inside,” he said.

“They were trying to cut off our short kick-out and, as the game developed in the drawn game, they were getting more comfort or more reward and it was probably something they were going to try and maximise further.

“Robbie’s kick-out gave us a bit more length, a bit more option and that was the reason behind it.”

Understandably, he looked completely dejected as he entered his press conference after the game. At pains to alleviate Maurice Deegan of any blame, Rochford took his defeat with the same grace Eamonn Fitzmaurice displayed when his Kerry side lost to this great Dublin team in the semi-final.

His first words were telling, though his face gave away plenty more of the pain.

“Extremely proud of all the Mayo players. I thought they left every sinew of energy out there.

“Obviously, that’s matched with a huge amount of disappointment but when you come out of a battle like that and come second and to lose by the smallest margin makes it hurt a little bit more.

“When you look at a one-point defeat you look at every single play, every single decision, every single moment in it and question what could have been. That’s just the way it is.”

Jim Gavin entered and his first thought was to praise Mayo, saying that they hadn’t been given enough credit for their performance in the drawn game.

It was a while before he entered, having joined the party in the changing room for a brief moment. And when he did, while he remained on message, even he couldn’t play down the achievement of winning back-to-back All-Irelands.

On top of that, Saturday made it 29 games unbeaten, and the whole of 2016’s League and Championship campaigns. With his military background, Gavin strikes you as hard to impress, but even he couldn’t deny it.

“I think to go all season without losing a game is a reflection of their application and intensity and intent. That wasn’t even discussed, going back to back. The players were just trying to be their best.

“All they want to do is represent their clubs and county best they can. I’m very proud of the spirit they showed.”

Dublin were vastly improved from the drawn game. Not of the least importance was their start. Four points in the opening six minutes represented their focus. 

They’d spent the same spell the previous week trying to force a goal every time they stepped inside Mayo’s 45.

They kicked just four wides and held on to the lead that Diarmuid Connolly had given him from the penalty spot in the game’s defining moment.

“A lot of things went right the last day and a lot of things went wrong today. That’s sport. You’ll never get perfection,” said Gavin.

“I think we had three wides in the game, that’s pretty impressive, particularly with the intensity they brought. It was a marked improvement on the last day.”

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