It was not the start to the National Football League that new Mayo manager Stephen Rochford would have hoped for last weekend, but Rochford was honest in his views on what went wrong last Sunday. Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser this week Rochford said: "Obviously the scoreline tells a story of being second best, having reviewed the video, you know the second quarter of the game, I would be very disappointed with because 15 or so minutes we were level and Cork went into a period where they couldn't miss and in that time we missed three or maybe four of what we'd call softer or easier chances, and if we had capitalised on those chances we could have really been within touching distance of four points at half time which would have left us in a more sprightly manner for the second half. But the way things materialise if you don't take your chances in this division, you're going to be punished and we met a Cork team that hit a lot of very sweet scores."
He went on to say: "Look at their [Cork] pedigree in the league over the last few years, they beat Dublin in the first round last year down in Cork, not too many teams will go to Paric Ui Rinn and get a result. Our lads kept battling away and we are all disappointed with certain aspects and that's the nature of these things."
Things are not going to get any easier for Mayo this weekend when Dublin come to town on Saturday night, but it is all about improving as each week goes by and being ready for the tests that lie ahead, says Rochford. "It's a learning curve for the new management team of course and a number of new players into the wider group, but you have got to learn quick, games come thick and fast, and the oppostion are all improving week in week out, like we will improve from week to week, but the reality is so will they."
As for the next test, you will not find any harder, Rochford believes. "The reality is that you can't find anything tougher than the National League, Leinster and All Ireland champions, you know it's a real baptism of fire and that's the nature of these things. To sit still and feel sorry for yourself isn't going to make the performance [last weekend] any better, so we have got to get on the field this week, patch up a number of guys, and put the best foot forward."
The major talking point coming out of last Sunday's game apart from the defeat was the concussion to Lee Keegan, and the fact he stayed on the field. Mayo issued a statement shortly after the game, putting their hands up on the issue, and Rochford is keen to impress that player welfare is the biggest concern for him and his management team. He told us: "Look the statement is all that I'm saying about it, it's a medical matter. It's acknowldeged by all that if we could have the time again things would have been done differently and we would have taken Lee off at that time. We're big enough boys, to say we were wrong, and thankfully Lee is in good health and is continuing to recover over the next few days, and that's the most important thing at the end of the day, it's not the management taking a clap on the back for saying we were wrong. It's about making sure that it doesn't happen again and the player is Ok and I can guarantee you it won't happen, we're just focusing on Dublin now this week."
Mayo's mounting injury problems were not helped by the fact that Kevin McLoughlin also had to leave the game early last weekend, and Rochford does not expect to have him back for tomorrow night's game. "Kevin has some hamstring damage and I won't put a time period on it, but he won't make the weekend," he said.
After the Dublin game Mayo will be able to look forward to a three week break from competitive action, but things will not be slowing down on the preparation front, Rochford said, adding: "It'll be a break from games, but it won't be a break, the games will come very, very, quick once March comes around, we've got to use the three week break in as smart a way as possible in order that we increase our fitness levels and manage our injury list."