Neither last weekend’s opening defeat to Monaghan, nor Pat Spillane’s dim view of Mayo in the wake of that result was going to upset Stephen Rochford.
Saturday’s rudderless first-half display was a more pressing matter to him. His team’s performance after the interval compensated for it just as it belied some of the points made by Spillane a week earlier, although hardly a motivation.
“I’ll be blunt and honest, I haven’t seen them or heard them,” he said of the Kerry legend’s remarks.
“A colleague at work told me an expletive or two. I hadn’t heard a thing and it certainly wasn’t spoken about around the dressing room. That happens. I wouldn’t be in any way as concerned about it.
“Two games into the league, last week one game into the league, it was irrelevant as to what way the year will play out. We still have a lot of improving to do and there will be plenty to critique us. Last year we played poorly against Cork but played well in the following three games. We only had two points at the end of that run. So I’m quite happy to come out of Tralee with two points.”
There was solace for Éamonn Fitzmaurice in the display of his young players as there might have been in Dr Crokes’ All-Ireland semi-final win over Corofin earlier on Saturday, in that it increases the chances of Colm Cooper returning to the county fold for another season.
The Kerry boss agreed: “It’s probably a fair point but I just think it’s good for him to be enjoying his football and it’s good for him to have that All-Ireland club final and it brings him to the middle of March, which shortens the gap to the summer which is no bad thing.”
Mayo went into the 2016 break between round two and three with no points so it would be logical to suggest they are in a better position than last year.
Rochford concurred: “We are. We’re still trying a few things. We’re in better shape than we were this time 12 months ago; what’s not reflecting that is consistent performance levels. Over two games we’ve now played for 35 minutes at a standard that we would be happy with.”
Rochford hopes to have Westport pair Lee Keegan and Kevin Keane available for Saturday week, as well as Aidan O’Shea, Chris Barrett, and Brendan Harrison. Fitzmaurice mightn’t put as much of an onus on Darran O’Sullivan to come back for the visit of Monaghan after Glenbeigh-Glencar’s All-Ireland junior final, which takes place on Sunday.
“We expect Stephen O’Brien from Kenmare to be back next weekend. He had a bit of a hamstring injury out of that game as well. Darran, we’ll see. We’ll see how that goes. It would be good to have him available but we’ll see how next weekend’s game goes for him first of all and hopefully the lads who have been injured this week and last week we’ll have them available as well.”
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