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Rochford tries to rally Mayo troops


EYE IN THE SKYMayo manager Stephen Rochford is pictured watching the first half of Sunday’s game from the stand at Pearse Stadium with Donie Buckley (left) and Joe Keane (extreme right). Pic: Sportsfile

Ger Flanagan

THE atmosphere in the tunnel of Pearse Stadium long after the final whistle had sounded last Sunday spoke volumes about what had just unfolded.
The noise coming from the Galway players and management, supporters and officials combined indicated the magnitude of their win as they embraced, obliged all requests for interviews, and posed for photographs with fans.
That was in stark contrast to the small Mayo contingent present, made up mainly of their backroom team and County Board officials – people with no choice but to be there – all looking shell-shocked and bewildered.
Stephen Rochford, wore a similar appearance.
The players, meanwhile, were still in their dressing-room thirty minutes after the final whistle had sounded. There was no sight or sound of them.
So it was left to their manager to give us the Mayo perspective.
“Playing with 14 men didn’t help when you are playing against the Connacht champions who are now a Division 1 team,” he told The Mayo News, the emotion in his voice audible.
“We ended up playing over 50 minutes in tough, tough conditions. We hit the post. We hit the crossbar. We had a ball cleared off the line. We had two shots in those closing minutes.
“So you know, we didn’t have a malfunction. We didn’t have a situation where there was no life with us compared to where we were this time last year.
“So I am tremendously proud of the effort the lads put in. But ultimately, we have just come up short and we have to take that on the chin, dust ourselves down, and get ready for the route in the back door.”
Such was the noise coming from the Galway camp still celebrating on the opposite side of the tunnel some ten feet away, Rochford was forced to raise his voice to be heard on more than one occasion during his post-game interview.
And more than once the 38-year-old highlighted Galway’s numerical advantage as a major influence on the game. He said he didn’t see Keith Higgins’ red-card offence but would have ‘no qualms’ if it was an off-the-ball incident like he was ‘informed’.
However, he took issue with a few other breaks that didn’t go in Mayo’s favour.
“I thought Aidan O’Shea’s [incident, when Cillian O’Connor was penalised for a foul pass in the build-up to O’Shea’s point] was difficult when similar situations I think on the other side were let go,” he mused. “There was a couple of other marginal calls I though we got harshly pulled on in those situations. But again, I thought we created those opportunities.
“I don’t want to over-emphasise the point, but we played the game with [14 men] over 50 minutes against a Division 1 team and we have umpteen chances to not only draw the game but to win it. That is the small margins.
“Seán Armstrong made everything into the breeze and with the breeze and fair dues to them. You get an opportunity to win the game, you got to take it, but we didn’t.”
For the second successive year Mayo are now faced with the daunting reality of the back-door route into the All-Ireland series.
With the possibility of a much tougher draw this time around, it could well end up being a short summer for Mayo. But their manager did express genuine confidence in his team’s ability to draw from this latest setback and bounce back again.
“I think the amount of experience the team has accumulated out over the years [will] hopefully be a sign that they are well able to deal with this.
“The Qualifiers, we know, take on a life of their own, and you just take one game at a time and see where that takes you.”