Tuesday 23 January 2018

Stephen Rochford reveals why he dropped likely All Star goalkeeper David Clarke

Frank Roche

Frank Roche

Stephen Rochford has described a scene of "absolute and utter dejection" in the Mayo dressing-room after this evening's crushing defeat to Dublin.

"On a scale of?" the Mayo boss mused when asked about the devastation in his squad after their one-point replay defeat.

Read more: 'The decision will haunt him for a very long time': Questions for Stephen Rochford after goalkeeping change backfires spectacularly

"Do you know, the majority of that group have been in four All-Ireland finals – now three defeats out of that four. 

"They're very crestfallen. Devastated. I mean, you don't put the last nine-ten months of your life into an inter-county scene in the way it is at the moment, and take anything out of this year but absolute and utter dejection. 

"But they've been doing that for a number of years, and we continue to fall short. I'm sure that will be the central point to a lot of column inches over the next couple of weeks, but I couldn't be prouder of them.

Read more: Jim Gavin had to turn to one of his forgotten men to secure back-to-back All-Ireland titles

"We had a free maybe to draw the game and we could be still all outside looking at extra-time. But it's not to be, and we'll see what the future brings then as regards how we move on and regroup."

Asked to explain the hugely controversial decision to drop potential All Star 'keeper David Clarke for Rob Hennelly – a move that backfired spectacularly – Rochford explained: "We did our analysis on Dublin. They had pushed with a formation in the first game, pushing four guys inside. 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.

"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."

But his answer, when asked if the ploy had worked, was telling in its terseness. 

After a pause Rochford replied: "In some cases maybe it did, but I'm not thinking through every kickout now at this moment in time to wonder about that." 

However, Rochford was still effusive in his praise for Mayo's herculean effort over 80-plus gruelling minutes.

“Extremely proud of all the Mayo players," he declared. "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."

The manager concluded: “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."

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