Stephen Rochford has Mayo braced for Cork ‘backlash’

Mayo boss Stephen Rochford says his team are ‘expecting a backlash’ from Cork in next weekend’s All-Ireland SFC Qualifier in Limerick.

The teams meet in Round 4A on Saturday (5pm, Sky Sports) with the winners guaranteed a ticket to the last eight of the All-Ireland series.

However, despite the comprehensive manner of Cork’s defeat to Kerry in the Munster final, raging hot favourites Mayo are taking nothing for granted, according to Rochford.

“We’ve all the seen the negative press that Cork have gotten nationally, and maybe locally as well, after the Munster final but we’d still see them as a big threat. They’ve got a lot of quality footballers, and they created quite a few goal chances against Kerry. If some of those had gone in maybe the outcome could have been different, the margin of defeat certainly would have been.

“Cork are a big, physical and athletic team and as we saw with the likes of Armagh and Kildare over the weekend, you’re always in with a chance of winning games with teams that have those qualities.

“There’s a lot of talent in the Cork attack too, guys like Paul Kerrigan, Mark Collins, Peter Kelleher and Donnacha O’Connor who was very impressive when he came on against Kerry. With those type of guys involved, they’ll feel they have a right chance of winning.”

The Westerners’ last competitive meeting with Cork was in the National League at the beginning of last season; a fixture which also doubled up as Stephen Rochford’s first day out as the new Mayo manager.

It turned out to be a baptism of fire for the 38-year-old as Mayo crashed to a heavy nine-point defeat at Pairc Ui Rinn.

“We came back to Mayo with our tails between our legs after that game,” he recalled. “And a lot of the same guys will be involved next weekend too. We know Cork is a strong GAA county and they will be keen to put in a big performance after what happened against Kerry.

“So we’re expecting a backlash from them, and we’ll be looking to meet that head-on.”

Mayo report a clean bill of health for next weekend’s game with Tom Parsons fully recovered from the flu bug that kept him out of the win over Clare on Saturday week last. Barry Moran, who has been sidelined with an Achilles injury since late last year, also managed to play 45 minutes for Castlebar Mitchels in a club league match last weekend.

“I’m quite happy with how our preparation is going,” Rochford explained. “Having no game last weekend gave us a chance to reassess, and we know our performance levels need to increase from where they were against Derry and Clare.

“But we feel we’re on the right path, and if we continue to improve we’re in with a good chance of beating Cork.”

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