Between the team’s lacklustre display in Cork last Sunday, and the controversy around Lee Keegan’s concussion, Mayo were the talk of the GAA country as the dust settled on the opening weekend of the Allianz League.
Rochford and his players are back in the spotlight again this evening as Dublin come to Castlebar town looking to make a bad week even worse for the Westerners.
As learning curves go, Mayo’s 37-year old manager couldn’t have asked for a much steeper introduction.
“I don’t think it’s a time for getting bogged down or feeling sorry for ourselves,” he said matter-of-factly in Páirc Uí Rinn.
“It’s game one, it’s January. We didn’t say we were looking to achieve anything more from this campaign than survive.”
Whatever about the prospects of maintaining their long-term residency in the top tier, getting through these first two rounds and reaching the sanctuary of the three-week break will certainly give Team Mayo a chance to gather their thoughts.
Management were without 23 of their 49-man squad for last weekend’s trip to Cork due to injuries, club commitments and unavailability. By the time the final whistle sounded at Páirc Uí Rinn, Lee Keegan (concussion symptoms) and Kevin McLoughlin (hamstring) had joined their colleagues in Mayo’s overcrowded ‘sick bay’ and both will sit out this evening’s game.
Defenders Tom Cunniffe, Keith Higgins and Chris Barrett, midfielders Barry Moran and Seamus O’Shea, and forwards Cillian O’Connor, Andy Moran and Alan Dillon are just some of the other household names among the long list of absentees.
Stripped of so many experienced, conditioned and pivotal personnel, Mayo were always going to be overstretched against league specialists like Cork and Dublin.
Plus, the long delay in ratifying Stephen Rochford last Autumn was also bound to have knock-on effects.
Despite being the only candidate nominated for the position on November 2 last, four weeks went by before he was ratified.
At the time we were told this delay was to facilitate an independent inquiry of sorts into the events that had triggered the resignations of Mayo’s joint managers Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly.
But no details have ever emerged about this process and very few people seem any the wiser.
However, the memories of Mayo’s 14-point drubbing against the All-Ireland champions at MacHale Park last March are still very vivid for the natives.
They are also well aware Dublin are unbeaten in their last six outings against the Connacht champions (four wins and two draws between league and championship).
Remarkably it will be four years next August since Mayo last got the better of their nemesis, a day when James Horan watched his team prevail in a rip-roaring All-Ireland semi-final.
Summer days like that one must seem like a world away right now for everyone in the Mayo camp, but those sort of occasions are ultimately what they will be judged on.