Mayo manager 'didn't bat an eye' at criticism

Stephen Rochford claims he ‘didn’t bat an eyelid’ over the criticisms of his decision to use Aidan O’Shea as a man-marker on Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy, writes Brendan O'Brien.

The Mayo manager’s move was the main talking point of the drawn All-Ireland semi-final with Kerry seven days ago, so much so that it dominated the build-up to Saturday’s replay when O’Shea again spent most of the game picking up the Kingdom full-forward.

The debate on the O’Shea switch threw up plenty of arguments for and against but the most cutting opinion came from one newspaper piece which claimed that, tactically, Mayo were a team of lions led by donkeys.

“I had an engagement and didn’t see the papers, I heard about a few of them,” said Rochford after his side saw off Kerry by five points in the replay. “They are people’s opinions. I don’t do things with this team to seek outside approval. Or disapproval for that matter. The players and the supporters concern me.

“I can’t control what journalists write or editors put in headlines. I didn’t lose any sleep about it. It may not be the nicest headline I ever got but at the same time I didn’t bat an eyelid at it. We control what we can, not headlines in newspaper. We are aware that if we don’t deliver in three weeks’ time there will be another headline coming but so be it.”

Asked if this had been Mayo’s best team performance since he took the reigns given the stage of the championship and the status of the opposition, Rochford was non-committal but he did lean towards agreement.

“Possibly, possibly, because it is an All-Ireland semi-final: there is only one other bigger game in your year. I won’t rush into that before I review it.

“I’m just proud of the way the players performed. The players went out to make sure we didn’t leave it behind us. It was the most satisfying win because it was after a draw and it gives us a chance of winning an All-Ireland final.”

Mayo will now play their tenth championship game of the summer in the decider but, after a heavy run of engagements, they at least have three weeks to gather their breath and plan for the decider against either Dublin or Tyrone who meet on Sunday afternoon.

Whether that is a good thing remains to be seen, The Connacht side has, like last summer, clearly benefited from the regular run of fixtures but Rochford is happy to take the foot off the accelerator and take stock for a change.

“No, I don’t think the three weeks in any problem. Genuinely, I think a six-day turnaround was always going to be a bit of a challenge (for the Kerry replay), but three weeks now to sort of top up now on a bit of fitness, try and assess what we did well out there...

“Try and learn from, and obviously plan for, what sort of conundrums that the opposition will bring. So, no, three weeks is a nice turnaround for us, to be honest.”

Most Read in Sport