Subtle differences to Mayo’s make-up gives them more appeal

Manager Stephen Rochford just glad to have All-Ireland final to look forward to

Mayo manager Stephen Rochford during the All-Ireland football semi-final against Tipperary on Sunday. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho.

Mayo manager Stephen Rochford during the All-Ireland football semi-final against Tipperary on Sunday. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho.

 

They look different. Less like Mayo. Liam Kearns, manager of the vanquished Tipperary, says they were better in 2014.

That cursed All-Ireland semi-final replay loss to Kerry down in Limerick when Aidan O’Shea and Cillian O’Connor knocked each other senseless in a freak accident that cost them everything.

They seem different even from then. Certainly from the fullback line that Michael Murphy exposed just seconds into the 2012 All-Ireland final.

Barry Moran’s long frame was put in there before throw-in as Kevin Keane made way. Stephen Rochford is there as well. He brings a calm demeanour into post-match discussions. At the same time you can see how he would challenge this team.

A team that mostly runs themselves, certainly out on the field, like that automatic response to Conor Sweeney putting Tipp 0-6 to 0-3 in front on 24 minutes. There it stopped long enough for Keith Higgins, Andy Moran, Diarmuid O’Connor, Jason Doherty, Kevin McLoughlin, Lee Keegan and Patrick Durcan to storm the Tipperary defence from all angles.

Aidan O’Shea had been tuned-in from the off. Tipp centre back Robbie Kiely can attest. Black carded with seven minutes played for hauling down Doherty as the Breaffy beast skittled four Tipperary men before finding the over-lapping runner.

“Just content with getting to the final at this time,” said Rochford.

Higgins would feel nothing of the sort. Finals he knows. In 2006 he was part of the Mayo team that ambushed Dublin before throw-in and again down the home straight. Lost to Kerry a few weeks later while 2012 and 2013 brought similar misery.

The last two seasons, losing All-Ireland semi-final replays, were equally crushing moments. The wonder is what has changed, really.

“I don’t think the hunger has changed much,” Higgins said after Joe Brolly questioned as much on RTÉ.

“They don’t look like they believe they can win an All-Ireland,” said Brolly. “This is a team that has never won an All-Ireland. They should be ravenous out there.”

They were, it’s just that quickly after posting 1-7 to just 0-1 from Tipperary in a 10-minute spell before half-time, they weren’t at all.

“To win an All-Ireland the hunger still has to be there,” Higgins went on. “The attitude back then (2012) was alright because we were coming from a situation where we hadn’t been in too many All-Irelands. As the lads have matured you would hope the attitude would mature as well.”

What they do not seem like is a team that would allow Murphy or anyone steal a goal on them by taking advantage of a mismatch. They are too cynical now.

“We have played some fabulous football in 15-minute blasts and created big gaps in the scoreline but in times when we’ve maybe not been as good up front, not been as efficient, we’ve still looked quite solid at the back and not given the goal opportunities that we had been giving up earlier in the year,” said Rochford.

“Them parts are pleasing but we are certainly aware that we need to pull it more together for the next four weeks.”

A purgatorial period where Higgins has lived three times before: “I don’t think I would be getting too stressed anyway. I’ve been there twice in the last four years now. There is a huge amount of stuff that goes with All-Ireland finals, with the build up. You would hope guys are mature enough to know to avoid the sideshows.”

Can Kerry beat Dublin? “Ah, we’ll just see what happens.We just want to win an All-Ireland final by any way possible.”

Sounds less like Mayo too.

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