Mayo may not have beaten Dublin in a competitive fixture for almost six years, but Stephen Rochford says that his team ‘certainly don’t fear’ the three-in-a-row All-Ireland champions.
The Dubs are unbeaten in 12 matches against Mayo since the 2012 All-Ireland SFC semi-final, although they needed replays to overcome the Westerners in both the 2015 All-Ireland semi-final and 2016 All-Ireland final.
Jim Gavin’s team also came out on top in last September’s All-Ireland decider with just a point to spare, stretching their unbeaten run against Mayo.
However, reflecting on that sequence of results, Rochford said: “The reality is that Dublin has lost one [championship] game since that 2012 semi-final, so we’re no different to the vast majority of other teams. So I don’t think that Dublin are a bigger factor for us than anybody else. I think we’re very close to Dublin, we certainly don’t fear them, we have a huge amount of respect for them, the quality of players they have, and what they’ve achieved. Three-in-a-row is unparalleled in the modern era of Gaelic football.
“Dublin continues to bring the best out of us, and on the other side we continue to bring the best out of them as well. It’s a good rivalry, what we need to be able to do is to be at a level where we can compete. But we’ve to make sure we’re playing well.”
Meanwhile, having so many players based in Dublin means that the upcoming Allianz League campaign is likely to be both ‘challenging’ and ‘tough’ for Mayo, according to Rochford.
Eleven of the 21 players who featured in last September’s All-Ireland Final defeat to Dublin are either studying or working in the capital.
The Mayo manager says he’s looking for his team ‘to be very competitive’ again in the League as they aim to retain their Division 1 status for the 22nd successive season.
“The National League is going to be quite a tough campaign, our last two campaigns have been quite tough anyway,” said Rochford.
“We certainly want to be competitive, and if we can be competitive then I think we can pick up points. It’s a really tight campaign with seven games in nine weeks, so we will continue to have challenges in the National League. Mayo teams are always going to have that.
“It’s going to continue to be an issue for whoever is managing Mayo for as long as a big number of players are studying and working in Dublin. That’s just a reality of life. You’re looking to develop your game-plan and put more names in the hat in terms of selection, winning breeds confidence,” he added in relation to Mayo’s objectives this spring.
“You want to have all of those in the mixing jar, and if we had that we’d have the recipe for a good league campaign.
“I think it’s probably about striking a balance. I certainly wouldn’t be contemplating getting relegated under any circumstances.
“We’ll just be taking it game by game. It’s not a case of ‘we want to win the league’ or ‘we won’t want to win the league’.
“If we can have accumulate enough points to make a league final, we’ll be going for it. But we’ll be taking it game by game.”
Mayo begin the new season tomorrow when they face Galway in the FBD Connacht League in Castlebar. However, they will be fielding an experimental squad for the game with all bar three of their 2017 championship panel currently on a team holiday in Malaysia.
Footballer of the Year Andy Moran, All Star goalkeeper David Clarke and experienced midfielder Barry Moran are the only players who didn’t travel.
Kevin Keane, who has been out of action since tearing his cruciate knee ligament last February, Jason Gibbons, Alan Freeman and Neil Douglas are among those with inter-county experience who have been recalled by Rochford. 2016 All-Ireland U21 winners Seamus Cunniffe, Michael Hall, Michael Plunkett, Sharoize Akram, Matthew Ruane, Brian Reape and James Carr are also included in the shadow squad
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