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Mayo boss Stephen Rochford proud of his devastated players

By Declan Bogue

Published 03/10/2016

Head held high: Stephen Rochford hailed his players’ efforts
Head held high: Stephen Rochford hailed his players’ efforts

Here we go again. Another gutted Mayo manager, sitting in front of the press at Croke Park.

And the only logical place to start is with the goalkeeper. Rob Hennelly is a fine netminder, but was replaced after the Galway defeat, in which he made a mistake from a kick-out.

While David Clarke performed well since his promotion, he was dropped from the starting team in the All-Ireland final replay as Hennelly returned.

Hennelly's kickout indirectly led to Lee Keegan's black card, and his failure to deal with a routine high ball produced a penalty for Dublin. No wonder the cameras lingered on him as he shed tears afterwards.

Mayo boss Stephen Rochford's explanation?

"We did our analysis on Dublin. They had pushed with a formation in the first game, pushing four guys inside," he said. "They were trying to cut off our short kick-out and as the drawn game developed they were getting more reward and it was probably something they were going to try and maximise further.

"Rob's kick-out gave us more length, a bit more option and that was the reason behind it."

Pressed on whether it worked, he gave a rueful look and stated after a pause: "In some cases maybe it did, but I'm not thinking through every kick-out."

This grief he is experiencing is raw and primal but it must be nothing to what, say, Alan Dillon is feeling, in his fifth All-Ireland senior final defeat, to go along with his losses in the minor and Under-21 deciders.

"The majority of that group have been in four All-Ireland finals - and now have three defeats out of that four. They're very crestfallen. Devastated," said Rochford.

"You don't put the last 10 months of your life into an inter-county scene and take anything out of this year but absolute and utter dejection."

To be labelled 'celebrity losers' - as Mayo were before the drawn encounter - is nothing short of shockingly inaccurate, considering how much they give to Gaelic football.

"They've been doing that for a number of years, and we continue to fall short," Rochford pointed out. "I'm sure that will be the central point to a lot of column inches, but I couldn't be more proud of them.

"We'll see what the future brings then as regards how we move on and regroup.

"I'm extremely proud of all the players. They left every sinew of energy out there. But when you come out of a battle like that and lose by the smallest margin, it hurts a little bit more.

"You look at every single play, decision, moment and question what could have been. That's just the way it is."

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