Stephen Rochford gives the impression of a guy who doesn’t pay much heed to the noise beyond the dressing-room walls.
That’s no bad thing, given the volume of excited chatter that is likely to trail Mayo from this 22-point defeat of the Connacht champions all the way through to their All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Kerry later in the month.
The soundings until this had been largely negative, or concerned, at least. The last week had been awash with debate about tactics and substitutions in the drawn game, as well as rumours of Lee Keegan’s illness, which would see him sidelined yesterday.
“With all due respect, when you don’t win games, you take a shelling,” said Rochford. “A year-and-a-half into the job — it’s not the first week we’ve taken it. It would be great if it was the last week we’d have to take it. That comes with the territory. We don’t have any agendas.
“We make decisions as we see them in the game. It’s the same with substitutions, how we play, tactically what we’re about. You take it when it’s going. I don’t have any major issue with it. I didn’t lose sleep this week about that anyway.”
Nor over talk all last week that Mayo’s form had lost them their place alongside Dublin, Kerry, and Tyrone as football’s market leaders.
“We hadn’t earned the right to be talked about as potential All-Ireland finalists, or whatever, and by and large we still haven’t.”
Keegan, he confirmed, will be available for the Kerry clash. He would probably have been fit to start had the game been detailed for today rather than yesterday, in fact, but Donal Vaughan did a fine job deputising for him anyway.
Mayo didn’t just win more ball here, they held on to it much better than in the drawn game, too. All in all, it was a performance that gave the lie to the theory that an ageing team would be drained by the heavy workload of recent months.
“Tonight, it is seen as a positive. We could be talking in a fortnight’s time saying: ‘Jesus, ye looked a little bit leg weary.’ Physically, I have no concerns in relation to that. The carrot that dangles now in front of the group is a chance to play in an All-Ireland final. Christ above, what did you come back for in January, if this isn’t what it is about?”
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