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Patience was our winning virtue says boss Rochford

By Declan Bogue

Aother emotional day for Mayo. Boy, can they do emotion like no other county. Take Aidan O'Shea. Ever since his dive to win a penalty against Fermanagh in the Castlebar qualifier, he has taken serious flak across the board.

He was a leader here and when the final whistle sounded, he let it all out of him, punching the air in front of the crowd with tears in his eyes.

It was in a rather more sober mood that Mayo manager Stephen Rochford arrived in for his press conference, although he needed a few slugs of water and a towel to wipe the sweat from his brow, all the same.

"It was controlled up to about 68 minutes," he said of their performance, prior to the final closing minutes when they seemed almost determined to let Tyrone back into it.

"Maybe in the past the lads would probably be reflecting if we had done things differently with a couple of minutes to go, we could have closed out the game. It is something that we need to improve on because we just did not play the game in the last stretch in the right area of the field," he said.

"We played it too deep in Tyrone's half and we asked them to come onto us a little bit. Anyway, we have an opportunity over the next two weeks to improve on that. Darren McCurry got a shot off, Niall Morgan had a free so we coughed up opportunities for them to get level and maybe even we could have potentially lost it.

"I thought in the ebb and flow of the game that we could have had a free ourselves down the left so there was an opportunity to increase that gap but I am not going to criticise the lads. They have gone through a tough couple of weeks and they showed a strong resilience and we are into an All-Ireland semi-final."

They will now face Tipperary and will be hottest of favourites to make their third All-Ireland final in six years. Whatever about this team's inability to close a gap stretching back to 1951, you have to admire their application to the task.

Coming through the qualifiers was a novel approach for them, as acknowledged by Rochford.

"Looking at it, the qualifiers are a means to an end which is they get you to the quarter-finals.

"We have not been playing as consistently as would have liked but we were getting the results and the games were coming thick and fast. Against Tyrone we were acutely aware that it was going to be a game of patience, discipline and we coped with that so we got our reward which is an All-Ireland semi-final."

As for a word on Lee Keegan's performance in blotting out Sean Cavanagh and contributing to the scoreboard, he enthused: "The key thing here is that Lee Keegan has been a consistent footballer over the last number of years. He was vice captain in the International Rules and you don't get that for no reason.

"When the call came out to him to hit two serious points in a real pressure situation, he hit them. We were codding inside that he had missed one or two before but cometh the hour, cometh the man. It was his moment."

Nor for Tipperary and Rochford speculated: "I don't think 13 points will win an all-Ireland semi-final." Too right.

Belfast Telegraph


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