Saturday 24 February 2018

We trusted our own game says Rochford

Mayo's Andy Moran in action against Shane Enright of Kerry during yesterday’s All-Ireland semi-final replay. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Mayo's Andy Moran in action against Shane Enright of Kerry during yesterday’s All-Ireland semi-final replay. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Mayo manager Stephen Rochford admitted this was his side's most satisfying victory of his short reign but warned they will need to improve before they can contemplate laying a finger upon their Holy Grail.

Ultimately, Rochford and his Mayo side didn't blink. Instead, they stared down a Kerry side who, it seemed, blinked so much this week that they ended up fumbling in the dark.

Mayo stayed true to their principles; Kerry betrayed theirs. Mayo held their victims at arm's length for much of the piece; the Kingdom concluded their evening as a dissolute rabble, like drunks being evicted from a bar.

And so Rochford is this week's managerial genius; Eamonn Fitzmaurice its dunce; except he and his county folk will carry their regrets throughout the winter. Mayo are left surveying the summit yet again. So close but just as far.

This was a victory of studied excellence. No alarms, no surprises, no anarchy. Supremely competent albeit in a poor match, it was arguably Rochford's and his men's most complete day.

"Possibly, because it is an All-Ireland semi-final and there is only one other bigger game in your year," says Rochford, as calm and assured after the match as his side were during it. "I won't rush into that judgement before I review the game.

"I'm just proud of the way the players performed, the players went out to make sure we didn't leave it behind us. So it was possibly was the most satisfying win because it was after a draw and it gives us a chance of winning an All-Ireland final.

"We wanted to trust our own game a lot, we felt there were one or two areas we could do better on, our own kick-out and turnovers, which we handed the opportunity to Kerry to score goals last week. So a lot of the focus was on ourselves this week really.

"We did well enough to win an All-Ireland semi-final. We knew that Kerry were going to come at us really hard. We knew we would have to match that and do better. I thought we did that. It was really important that we didn't allow Kerry to get their fast start that they had got in previous championship games. That allowed us take a hold of the game."

Rochford, offered an invitation to crow at the much more beneficial impact of Aidan O'Shea, in contrast to Kieran Donaghy's negligible impact, politely demurs. "Look, Aidan had a fine game. No doubt about that. But you're only as good as your last game and there is another one coming up in three weeks that we will look to be better in and that's where our focus will be. It's satisfying that we won. I thought we played well last week but others maybe thought different. I was delighted for him because he has sacrificed himself and his play for the betterment of the team. It says a lot about him."

That Fitzmaurice was forced to reflect on the fact that his second-half switches weren't allowed to work - he strongly argued that Darran O'Sullivan's black card should have gone to his supposed victim - ignores the patent fact that his pre-match gambits didn't work either.

"What went wrong?" he said. "Mayo were better, Mayo were hungrier and they just performed better than us. They've been outstanding. We didn't need the last two games to confirm they are a serious outfit. They have been so close, going back to 2012 in particular, they've been so close every year. We knew we were going to have to be on top of our game to win the game and we weren't, so it's no huge surprise that they beat us. I think they are a great bunch, serious resilience and they are no mean footballers either.

"They were just operating at a slightly higher level than us. I think the kick-outs in the first half were a big factor - they got on top of our kick-out and won all of their own kick-outs, so they had a lot of possession. I'm sure people will be wondering what the hell were we trying to do, but the days it goes well then you end up winning the game and you look like a genius."

Rochford is the Einstein - for now.

"I don't do things with this team to seek outside approval, or disapproval for that matter," he said. "The players and the supporters concern me. I can't control what journalists write or editors put in headlines. We control what we can, not headlines in newspapers. We are aware that if we don't deliver in three weeks' time there will be another headline coming but so be it."

Mayo can't help being front-page news.

Sunday Indo Sport

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport