Thursday 22 February 2018

'We'll need to score a goal this time' - Rochford

Andy Moran reacts after missing a goal chance for Mayo. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
Andy Moran reacts after missing a goal chance for Mayo. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Pope Francis could have been linked with an appearance in MacHale Park last week and it wouldn't have cost Stephen Rochford a thought.

A withering attack on the character of his team in a newspaper column could have resurfaced and again, not a wink of sleep would have been lost.

Even the perception that they have blown their chance in the drawn game doesn't provoke a reaction from the Mayo manager.

But a dearth of goals against some of the top teams in this year's championship? Now that's something worth concerning himself in the 13 days between draw and replay.

Mayo have scored nine goals in four of their games so far but in the other three, against provincial champions Galway, Tyrone and Dublin, they have drawn blanks.

Clearly the balance struck between caution and risk is being reflected here.

But despite forcing a replay without scoring a goal, Rochford senses that can't be repeated.

"If we had lost the game it would certainly have been a concern," he accepted.

"The aspect here is that we created one chance in Andy's and maybe a half-chance with Paddy Durcan's in the first half. It is certainly something we need to work on. We need to score a goal to beat this team.

"You could say 'well 15 points and you drew the game, 16 and you'd have won it'. In the broader aspect you need a big score to be able to beat Dublin and, in that, you need to score a goal."

Scoring a goal against the champions will be among Mayo's priorities as they seek to address areas of improvement this week.

Rochford is convinced that their scope for improvement remains significant despite getting so much right in the drawn match.

"Guys genuinely didn't feel that they had delivered their A-game. And that's what's required to beat Dublin, or to beat whoever in an All-Ireland final.


"What it comes back to is, that guys have set a high standard for themselves, and every day that you go out, you're looking to improve.

"We genuinely don't see this as some sort of lost opportunity. We see it as an opportunity to get our top performance - we did a lot of things right but we'd did a lot of things that we wouldn't be happy with; if we had set them out as our five, six, seven key points in the game, I would say that in five of those seven we didn't do them to the quality that we had wanted and had set out."

Rochford doesn't accept that Mayo were that unlucky in the concession of two own-goals last Sunday week.

"People talk about them being freakish and that but actually Dublin were in there with the ball, had created an opportunity.

"Maybe on a drier day there wouldn't have been the need for a Mayo man to stick the ball in the back of the net, it might have been in there from a Dublin foot.

"You concede two goals against Dublin, you're asking for trouble. If you'd asked me beforehand, if we conceded two goals, would you win the game? I would say it's unlikely. So, we would look at it to say there were aspects to the game that if we'd done a little bit better maybe we would have got the result or fallen over the line.

"So they're the things we'll be focusing on and looking to cut out. Turnovers? I wouldn't be happy with our use of possession on a number of times.

"And our own creativity - we got one, maybe two, goal chances and we need to be able to execute them better if we expect to win. It's probably more that focus rather than trying to draw up some new plan."

The Mayo manager still feels his team delivered their most consistent performance of the season.

"In the Tyrone game we were quite consistent but there was a bigger prize on offer the last day and we came across bigger challenges in that we were five points down (at half-time) and three points down at the end," he said.

"Dublin have that knack in that last 15 minute spell of being able to blow teams away. And in that spell we scored four to one or three-zero, whatever it was."

Rochford says any commentary on the character of this Mayo team is out of their control but still describes some recent language, describing them as "celebrity losers" as unfair.

"My ask has always been about it not being personal. We're all big boys and we understand that we're open for analysis, and analysis can sometimes be critical as well as it can be supportive or players being highly acclaimed for some performance, here and there."

"I would think that 'celebrity losers', no more than a player being called a cheat during the summer - I don't think it's necessarily fair language.

"But again, that's a choice for that journalist or pundit to make. It certainly didn't keep me awake."

Irish Independent

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