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Rochford relishing challenge of trying to topple champions

Sport

READY FOR ACTION Mayo manager Stephen Rochford believes if his team perform they won’t be far away on Sunday week against Dublin. Pic: Conor McKeown

Mike Finnerty

“IT’S a challenge that we’re all relishing, and if you’re going to be the All-Ireland champions then no better way to do that than by beating the All-Ireland champions.”
That’s the battlecry from Mayo manager Stephen Rochford as he assesses the challenge of trying to topple Dublin in next Sunday week’s All-Ireland SFC Final.
Mayo have been installed as 11/4 outsiders to win the Sam Maguire Cup for the first time 1951 as they meet Dublin in the decider for the second time in four seasons.
The holders are raging hot favourites to retain the title, and haven’t lost a championship match for more than two years.
Rochford – who brought the team to Limerick for a training camp last weekend – admits that Dublin set high standards, but so does his Mayo team.
“I’ve seen Dublin described as a very well-oiled machine, a team that hasn’t been beaten in 27 games over the last two seasons. That just shows you the level of consistency that they have,” he told The Mayo News.
“It’s going to be an enormous challenge, but I think history has shown that this bunch of Mayo players have played some of their best football against Dublin, while not always getting the win.
“We know while they are the top team in the country at the moment, by virtue of their record and their trophies, on our given day we’re not far off that either.”
Rochford and his coaching team of Donie Buckley, Tony McEntee and Seán Carey were all among the capacity crowd at Croke Park when the Boys in Blue beat Kerry in the recent All-Ireland semi-final.
Carey says he’s a big fan of Dublin’s work and was nothing if not impressed by the way they got the job done.
“I feel no different coming away from Croke Park the last day than I was coming away over the last four or five years watching them,” he explained. “They’re the best team I’ve seen.
“You’re talking about a team that’s won four National Leagues in a row and, bar the Donegal semi-final defeat in 2014, they’d be going for four in a row for All-Irelands this year.
“They’ve exceptional talent. They’ve a goalkeeper that’s redefined goalkeeping, Cian O’Sullivan has defined the sweeper system, talent all over the pitch.
“Some of the best players that have played the game play for Dublin. “You’d have to be impressed coming away from that.
“It’s a big task, a big ask, but something that we’ll be ready for.”
The Bangor native, who has played a key role in analysing Mayo’s opponents all summer, is also excited about the prospect of planning to halt Dublin’s gallop.
“I’d enjoy the challenge of that. It’s part of what I’m supposed to be doing so I’m enjoying it,” said Carey.
“I wouldn’t necessarily think that having three or four weeks is an advantage. I thought the Qualifiers were great because you had a week or two to get things done and then you had a game on the horizon. I’d like the game as soon as possible.”

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