Saturday 1 October 2016

Stephen Rochford reveals just why Mayo can finally get their hands on Sam

Published 13/09/2016 | 02:30

Mayo will contest the All Ireland final against Dublin
Mayo will contest the All Ireland final against Dublin
Mayo manager Stephen Rochford Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

For Mayo manager Stephen Rochford, it's about the destination rather than the journey.

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From the start, his aim was to get to the All-Ireland final. And what route they took was largely incidental to them, even if it meant coughing up their long-held Connacht title in a provincial semi-final defeat to Galway.

Despite the public utterances, it has effectively been Sam or bust since the start.

They are here now. And with the exception of long-term absentees Ger Cafferkey and Jason Gibbons, they go into the game with a clean bill of health.

For Rochford, little else matters.

"When you go into an All-Ireland final in any position, whether it be club or county, it takes a fair journey to get there," he said.

"That can be the level of commitment, the sessions that are being put in, the different challenges games bring.

"The message I'll be giving to the lads is that they've been here a number of times over the last number of years, and let us not have any regrets.

"We've put ourselves in a position to win the All-Ireland. That has been the aim all year, building ourselves to that through the National League, redesigning our journey through the Championship having been defeated.

"We are still ultimately at the final hurdle. It will take a massive effort to jump it."

What approach Mayo will take remains to be seen. Kevin McLoughlin has played as a sweeper this year and it has yielded only minimal rewards.

But having watched last year's pair of semi-final clashes, Rochford hinted that there will be a primacy on not conceding goals.

"For a certain period in the first game Dublin looked like they would be able to move away and then Colm (Boyle) came on to the end of a ball and Mayo got a penalty," he said.

"Maybe at the end Dublin were hanging on in injury time, but for a fabulous block-down. . .

"In the replay it was probably a reversal in that Mayo looked to be in control of the game or had a good stake in it for long periods.

"They were just looking to kick on, but Dublin hit them for two goals. That is the level of quality that they can bring. If Dublin score goals against you it is going to be a long day."

Rochford's admiration for Dublin is clear but it falls well short of fear, even if they produced a performance against Kerry that is at least as good as anything else this team have produced, given their absentees and how they dug themselves out of a five-point deficit.

"A team that is undefeated in 26 or 27 games between league and championship in two seasons, that level of consistency was evident again in how they came back from the five-point deficit," he said.

"It was more evidence of the quality they have and the threats that they have in most corners of the field.

"Certainly we understand the challenge that Dublin are going to bring is a different type of challenge than what the opposition has previously brought.

"They have a lot of diamonds in that crown, the challenge is going to be a monster one. But it is one that this group has risen to previously and marginally been the wrong side of it.

"We feel that the desire, willingness, and the hunger that is in there is coming to the top at the right time."

Irish Independent

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