'We have taken a shelling' - Mayo boss Stephen Rochford reveals pressure his team is under
Stephen Rochford says he has had to accept the criticism that comes with managing a Mayo side that has reached a seventh successive All-Ireland semi-final with a resounding win over Roscommon in the last of the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
Rochford, who came under fire for his substitution of Colm Boyle and retention of Lee Keegan in defence to shadow Enda Smith in the second half of the drawn game, said it was something that "comes with the territory".
"When you don't win games you take a shelling. A year-and-a-half into the job - it's not the first week we've taken it. It would be great if it was the last week we'd have to take it," he said.
"We don't have any agendas. We make decisions as we see them in the game. It's the same with substitutions, how we play, tactically what we're about. You take it when it's going. I don't have any major issue with it. I didn't lose sleep this week about that any way."
Mayo left Keegan out, after he was hospitalised last week with cellulitis in the foot, and dropped Ger Cafferkey but their replacements, Tom Parsons and Donal Vaughan, thrived as Mayo reset the dial and returned to explosive ways. The question now is whether Cafferkey will be restored for the task of marking Kieran Donaghy in the All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry in 12 days time.
Keegan could have come off the bench if required, the manager acknowledged, and Rochford said he had no issues about the team's physical well-being. "I have no concerns in relation to that. The carrot that dangles now in front of the group is a chance to play in an All-Ireland final. Christ above, what did you come back for in January if this isn't what it is about?"
Aidan O'Shea echoed his manager's sentiments saying the run of games, seven up to now including extra-time twice, was "wonderful" and had really brought them on.
Roscommon manager Kevin McStay admitted he thought the days of Mayo playing with such explosive and constant attacking power were gone as they swept to a 22-point victory.
McStay left off goalscorers Fintan Cregg and captain Ciaran Murtagh from the drawn game and it backfired as they lost such experience early on. By the time they came on, the game was gone. "It's hard to believe, but we came up on the bus from the hotel thinking 'this is going to be hugely competitive and we'll get it down to the wire and then see what the scoreboard says when we're walking off the field'," he said.
Mayo hit Roscommon for three goals in four minutes in the second quarter to ensure a repeat of their epic 2014 semi-final with Kerry.