By John Fogarty
An understandably dejected Stephen Rochford explained the reasoning behind the decision to start Rob Hennelly in this evening’s All-Ireland final replay.
Mayo had been struggling on their kick-out before Hennelly gave away a penalty for a foul on Paddy Andrews and was replaced by David Clarke, who had started the drawn game. Diarmuid Connolly scored the resultant penalty and Dublin never lost the lead it created.
Rochford said: “We did our analysis on Dublin. They had pushed with a formation in the first game, pushing four guys inside. They were trying to cut off our short kick-out and as the game developed in the drawn game they were getting more comfort or more reward and it was probably something they were going to try and maximise further. Robbie’s kick-out gave us a bit more length, a bit more option and that was the reason behind it.”
Asked if the move worked as planned, Rochford shrugged: “In some cases maybe it did, but I'm not thinking through every kick-out now at this moment in time to wonder about that."
Rochford’s initial reaction gave some insight into the anguish he was experiencing.
“Extremely proud of all the Mayo players. I thought they left every sinew of energy out there. Obviously, that’s matched with a huge amount of disappointment but when you come out of a battle like that and come second and to lose by the smallest margin makes it hurt a little bit more.
He added: “When you look at a one-point defeat you look at every single play, every single decision, every single moment in it and question what could have been. That’s just the way it is.”
A third All-Ireland final defeat for this group, Rochford admitted the dressing room was a scene of dejection.
“Do you know, the majority of that group have been in four All-Ireland finals – now three defeats out of that four. They're very crestfallen. Devastated. I mean, you don't put the last nine-10 months of your life into an inter-county scene in the way it is at the moment and take anything out of this year but absolute and utter dejection.
"But they've been doing that for a number of years, and we continue to fall short. I'm sure that will be the central point to a lot of column inches over the next couple of weeks, but I couldn't be prouder of them.
“We had a free maybe to draw the game and we could be still all outside looking at extra-time. But it's not to be, and we'll see what the future brings then as regards how we move on and regroup."