Rochford relishing first home championship test

With the first championship hurdle out of the way in London, Mayo are back on home soil this weekend and the visit of the old rivals from south of the border is the main attraction. For Mayo manager Stephen Rochford this is the day he's been waiting for since he took over the side late last year.

With Roscommon on the rise and Galway looking to make a push back towards the big time, Rochford knows that Connacht is going to be one of the tougher provinces to navigate this year. "I think that is a fair point. Galway won the FBD, beat Roscommon who had gone very well through their section and beat us. Galway had a very strong league campaign and, but for an odd result here and there, could easily have been in the division two final and they only lost to Tyrone by two points.

"Their pedigree is very strong; Roscommon have already shown what they are about while Sligo have proven that on any given day they are capable of taking a scalp. It is quite competitive, I have not really looked at the other provinces or what they are at. We have seen a couple of lop-sided results but that is the nature of these things. We are expecting a real tight battle on Saturday."

With Mayo having given Galway a few big beatings down the past few years, Rochford knows that the Tribesmen will be itching to give Mayo a real good go this time around. "Well I think they have an awful lot of good footballers, they had two or three drawn games and it could have easily been promoted. The rivaly is huge, this is a brand new competition, this is a brand new journey for both teams and I think experience of the past will count for very little once a minute to seven o’clock comes on Saturday."

Having been involved in the club scene in Galway for a number of years, it should give Rochford a good insight into the Galway set-up and the strengths and weaknesses of their players, but club and county football are two very different things, he is keen to get across. "I know a number of the players, though there aren’t too many Corofin players involved as best I know, but you get a knowledge of some of the players you come across; club football and county football they do link in and sometimes they don’t but very much around Galway they’ve had two All Ireland u21 teams in the last four odd years - All Ireland club champions in their midst up to March. It’s a footballing county and they produce a lot of good footballers and we expect nothing by a big challenge."

As for the job itself, it's all about learning as you go, the new Mayo manager says. "Yes. To be honest, you don’t get a lot of time to sit down and weigh it up and consider “am I enjoying it today". Last week was very tiring because there was a lot on and you are trying to get a lot done. You come back, you are trying to refresh yourself, you are looking at prep for Galway, you are trying to get the sessions right and all the other obligations that go with it. But none of it, at this point in time, is keeping me awake at night."

As for any aspects of the job that may have surprised him he replies, "Not particularly. What you find, and it comes back to that thing of it being a results based game, the results did not go our way in the early stages of the league so it was very helter skelter. From April to May, our focus was very much around the London game, getting our championship prep together. It is a bit like a heart monitor, it is going up during the league and comes back down after it, and this week it will be back up again. There is none of it thus far that is keeping me awake at night, but ask me that later in the year and I might have a different answer."

When it was put to him that you can learn a lot from the start in the league Mayo had, where results were poor early on, you can only really tell when the a red line is drawn under the season, he said; "I could answer that again in a few months' time and hopefully the way Eamonn Fitzmaurice answered it. I would rather have got a win or two at the start in order for us to have more context in what we were doing. Sometimes in the games you get very focused on the there and then.

"In the 24 hours after the game, you move on, if we had got a result or two it might have allowed for that. During the league it is just manic and we didn’t help ourselves by not getting back until December 29, but that is just the nature of how it panned out. I don’t have any issue with it now and it is a case of just getting on with it."

 

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