It was only the day after the All-Ireland final that Stephen Rochford heard Joe Brolly’s “celebrity losers” comment about Mayo.
He wasn’t alone in the camp. Under the Hogan Stand following the draw, Brolly was greeted with smiles by some of the county’s backroom team who were unaware of the insult the Derry pundit had made towards them in his column that day. Had they known, their reaction wouldn’t be as welcoming.
Rochford knows what he can control and what he can’t. Brolly, like his colleague Pat Spillane who claimed Aidan O’Shea cheated against Fermanagh in winning a penalty in their qualifier, falls into the latter category.
“I don’t really get bogged down in it. My ask has always been about it not being personal. We’re all big boys and we understand that we’re open for analysis and analysis can sometimes be critical as well as ... supportive with players being highly acclaimed for some performance here or there.
“I would think that ‘celebrity losers’, no more than a player being called ‘a cheat’ during the summer... I don’t think it’s necessarily fair language. But again, that’s a choice for that journalist or pundit to make. It certainly didn’t keep me awake last night when I heard about it.”
Fatalism is something some Mayo supporters may skirt with but this group of players, Rochford maintains, are gleaning no moral victory out of last Sunday week’s drawn All-Ireland final.
Like his opposite number Jim Gavin, he and his players felt they had not done enough to deserve a victory.
“You concede two goals against Dublin, you’re asking for trouble. If you’d asked me beforehand ‘if we conceded two goals, would you win the game,’ I would say, ‘It’s unlikely’. So, we would look at it to say there were aspects to the game that if we’d done a little bit better then maybe we would have gotten the result or fallen over the line.”
Having reviewed the game, Rochford was of the same view he shared with the media after the final whistle when admitting that there were too many elements of Mayo’s performance which were not to his liking. The two goals, as much as they were own goals, for a start.
“In relation to the concession of the two goals, people talk about them being freakish and that but Dublin were in there with the ball and had created an opportunity. Maybe on a dryer day there wouldn’t have been the need for a Mayo man to stick the ball in the back of the net; it might have been in there from a Dublin foot. So they’re the things we’ll be focusing on and looking to cut out.
“Turnovers – I wouldn’t be happy with our use of possession on a number of times. And, you know, our own creativity – we got one, maybe two, goal chances and we need to be able to execute them better if we expect to win. It’s probably more that focus rather than trying to draw up some new plan.”
Rochford’s long-standing belief that at least one goal will be required to beat Dublin holds up and it’s an aspect the players want to address as part of their whole approach to the replay. “Guys genuinely didn’t feel that they had delivered their A-game and that’s what’s required to beat Dublin or to beat whoever in an All-Ireland final. I suppose what it comes back to is that guys have set a high standard for themselves.”
As for the popular perception Mayo’s best chance of winning this tie has passed them, Rochford shrugs: “With all due respect, I’m only concerned with what 33 guys and the management focus on and we genuinely don’t see this as some sort of lost opportunity. We see it as an opportunity to get our top performance. We did a lot of things right but we did a lot of things that we wouldn’t be happy with and if we had set them out as what were our five, six, seven key points in the game, I would say that in five of those seven we didn’t do them to the quality that we had wanted and had set out. I would certainly see us demanding an improvement.”
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