Stephen Rochford is a man of his convictions - Five talking points from Mayo's win over Kerry
Mayo are through to their fourth All Ireland final in six years - here are five talking points from their win over Kerry.
Stephen Rochford is a man of his convictions…
It’s hard to remember a positional switch that prompted as much debate as Aidan O’Shea’s move to full back for the drawn game. And while plenty defended the decision, others pilloried Mayo's management and Rochford in particular after Kieran Donaghy’s influential display.
It was a brave call for Rochford to make, particularly in light of his fateful decision to replace goalkeeper David Clarke for last year’s replay. But he stood by his convictions and deployed O’Shea there again as Mayo secured a convincing and deserved victory. Rochford will likely never admit it but there must be great personal satisfaction for him in that win.
Where do they get it? On more than a couple of occasions this year they looked like they were waiting to be put out of their misery and on this performance, it’s a wonder how the likes of Derry and Cork in particular and to a lesser extent Clare managed to cause them so much hassle. However, in their tenth championship game of the summer, they looked revitalised. They were further ahead of Kerry than their five point win suggested and they now bounce into another All-Ireland final.
Stephen Rochford found himself at the eye of the storm this week after his decision to deploy Aidan O’Shea at full back last week and Eamonn Fitzmaurice will have similar questions to answer after sending his side out using Paul Murphy as a sweeper.
Kerry legend Jack O’Shea stated in the build up that he could never see the Kingdom setting up with an extra defender but that’s what they did here and it simply didn't suit them. Kerry were much better in the second half when they went with a more orthodox set up. Based on the game, it likely wouldn't have been enough but there will be plenty of introspection in Kerry this winter.
This time last year after Kerry bowed out to Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final, Kieran Donaghy lingered on the pitch with his daughter for a while and looked like a man who had played in Croke Park for the last time. He played some great football this year and there was enough in his performances to suggest that there could be another season in him but it remains to be seen if he will be around next season.
His last act here was to pick up a red card in the dying embers of the game and it would be a pity if that was the foot note to a brilliant career. Others like Donnchadh Walsh and Anthony Maher might also consider whether they’ll come back for another shot.
Can Mayo finally reach the promised land?
The attitude has never been in doubt nor has their ability to compete with the big teams. But putting it altogether for 70 plus minutes on the biggest day has been beyond them. And while they have plenty of miles on the clock, there’s an argument for saying that performance ranks up there with anything else this side had produced given the stage and the opposition.
Hope and optimism has been Mayo’s chief export over the last few season but there’s plenty of reason for it on this display.