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Rochford admits Mayo need a goal to beat Dubs

Sport

ON A JOURNEY Mayo manager Stephen Rochford arrives at Croke Park prior to the All-Ireland Final match against Dublin on Sunday week last. Pic: Sportsfile

Interview

Daniel Carey

IN the dressing-room after the All-Ireland final finished in a draw, Stephen Rochford said to his players: “Put up your hand if you thought you had your best game”.
Nobody raised their hand.
“Guys genuinely didn’t feel that they had delivered their ‘A’ game,” he said when asked about the incident at last Tuesday’s press event in Breaffy House Hotel.
“And that’s what’s required to beat Dublin ... I suppose what it comes back to is that guys have set a high standard for themselves. Every day you go out, you’re looking to improve, and there’s certainly scope for improvement.”
The Mayo manager won All-Ireland club titles as both a player (with Crossmolina) and manager (Corofin) in Croke Park, and was a selector with the Mayo minor team that lost the 2005 decider to Down. Still, donning the bainisteoir’s bib for the big gig is obviously a different kettle of fish. We wonder how he found the whole All-Ireland day experience.
“I’d recommend it, Danny!” he says, smiling.
“I’d hope to have another one or two of them along the way! … I wasn’t lucky enough – or good enough – to be there as a player. It’s the day you want to get [to], and to be involved with Mayo, and being able to do that was certainly an aim of mine.
“But part of that as well is to get a win, and get performances in there, and we haven’t quite achieved that yet. So we won’t be getting too sentimental about … the occasion that last Sunday brought.”
When we met two days after the draw, he’d watched the game back once, and the squad was gathering for training the following evening (Wednesday). Sipping occasionally from a glass of water placed between his feet, Rochford says his focus will not be on doing something different, but on what Mayo can do better.
“The thing that pleased me most was our level of consistency,” he says. “I think we worked hard throughout the 70-plus minutes. We challenged well, we brought a level of intensity and discipline to the game … But there’s a lot more that I’m not happy about.”
He reels off some of the specifics of his ‘must do better’ list. Mayo will be looking to ‘cut out’ Dublin goal chances (he’s not prepared to write off the two OGs as ‘freakish’ – after all, Dublin ‘had created an opportunity’).
The high number of turnovers last Sunday week (21) was a concern – “I wouldn’t be happy with our use of the possession”. And he’s looking for an improved execution rate on goal chances (which he tallies at one and a half – Andy Moran’s second-half shot which went over the bar, and Paddy Durcan’s blocked effort in the opening period).
“I think you need a big score to be able to beat Dublin, and in that, you need to score a goal,” he reckons.
The 37-year-old deals smoothly with any potential fires. Rumours that Jim McGuinness addressed the Mayo players at a training camp in Limerick are scotched (I’ve never spoken to … or met the man”). Joe Brolly’s description of Mayo as ‘celebrity losers’ was not ‘fair language’ but ‘certainly didn’t keep me awake last night’. Referee Conor Lane ‘did a good job’ in ‘difficult conditions’.
After being widely praised for matching up the Mayo backs expertly with the Dublin forwards, Rochford is philosophical about the possibility of changes in the champions’ attack, saying: “We won’t be over-focusing on it being Player A versus Player B”. As for his own team, the way Mayo battled back late on means there are reasons to be cheerful.
“I think it illustrates what we have been saying all year – we can get to a level of consistency in our performance. But the quality of it is now the challenge that we need to rise to.”

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