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“There is an almighty game left in us”, says Mayo manager

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WALKING ON AIR Mayo forward Jason Doherty in action against Roscommon duo David Murray (left) and Gary Patterson. Pic: Sportsfile

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Ger Flanagan

MAYO manager Stephen Rochford believes there is an ‘almighty game’ left in this Mayo side yet after their sensational victory over Roscommon in Croke Park yesterday (Monday).
It was the performance of the year so far for Mayo, who are now into their seventh All-Ireland semi-final in a row. Speaking after the game, the Crossmolina native was quick to point out that despite this, they will still face Kerry as underdogs.
“They [Kerry] have been very, very impressive,” he told the written press. “The way they went about their work in the National League final was seriously impressive. [The Munster final against] Cork, especially that opening period, really good.
“But we will start tomorrow to focus on all the stars they have on their team, and look, we will go in there as underdogs, but it doesn’t really matter. I am sure there is an almighty game left in us – if not more.”
In the wake of last week’s drawn encounter with Roscommon, Rochford faced criticism over the decision not the bring Lee Keegan out the field earlier in the second half, while the various substitutions and their timing all prompted plenty of debate.
Asked by The Mayo News for his response to this criticism, Rochford was quick to back the tactical decisions made by him and his management team and acknowledged that criticism comes with the team’s recent performances.
“With all due respect, when you don’t win games you take a shelling,” he said. “A year and half into the job, it isn’t the first week that we have taken it, it would be great if it was the last week we would have to take it, but that comes with the territory.
“We won’t have agendas, we make decisions as we see them in the game. That’s the same with substitutions or how we play tactically, what we are about. So you know, you take it when it is going so I don’t have any major issue with it [criticism].”
The omission of Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan was another hot topic around Croke Park before throw-in. But Rochford said that the Westport man’s services were available ‘if needed, going into the final 20 or 25 minutes’ and that he will be 100 per cent recovered next week.
‘Fatigue’ was an issue that has surrounded this Mayo side after taking the back door route for the second successive year. But the Mayo manager believes the prospect of another All-Ireland final is enough to take fatigue out of the equation.
“The carrot that now dangles in front of the group is that there is a chance here now to be playing in an All-Ireland final,” he stated. “Christ above, what did you come back here for in January if this isn’t what it is about?
“It has been a fascinating championship for everybody. It wouldn’t be quite the word I would use for our own championship, but look, it has been challenging, and loads of players had time through the back door ... I just hope in the next fortnight or so that we can continue in that frame of mind.”
Despite this game being possibly Mayo’s best team performance since Rochford took the job, the Mayo boss stressed that there’s still work to be done, when asked about being considered in the country’s top four.
“We hadn’t earned the right to be talked about as potential All-Ireland finalists… and by and large we still haven’t,” he said. “So the challenge we will be laying down for ourselves will be, can we replicate that, or can we replicate a performance good enough to beat the Munster and National League champions.”

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