Last Saturday saw Mayo move their historical record in the All Ireland Senior Football Championship qualifers into the black with their two point win over Fermanagh. This coming Saturday, they will be looking to move that win/loss record a little bit further into the black when they welcome Kildare to MacHale Park.
While the Lilywhites have fallen quite a bit back from where they were in the games standings earlier in this decade they will still be a threat on Saturday afternoon, as Stephen Rochford told us earlier this week. "Kildare could quite easily be preparing for a Leinster final this weekend rather than a qualifier, they came very close against Westmeath, they've had three tough games in the championship so far under their belts." The return of Cian O'Neill to MacHale Park for the first time in his own right as the main man in the county also adds a little bit more to the game. "Of course there is a Cian O'Neill factor, he'll know a lot of this group quite well from his time here, but they've moved on and progressed since then too," said Rochford.
The short turnaround in game time leaves little time for kinks to be worked out on the training field between games, but Mayo will be ready for what's coming up, the Crossmolina native believes. "It is really about being ready for the challenge. You've very little preperation time for these games, maybe one session before it, but we're well prepared. There were an number of things for us to work on in the first half, we gave away some silly possessions and we made unforced turnovers that led to a few scores they are things you want to see going right and we have to work on."
The use of the bench, along with making some changes to the starting 15 the last day, showed that Rochford isn't afraid to stir things up a little bit and he was very happy with the impact that those coming off the bench made against Pete McGrath's men in Castlebar. "Alan Dillon did do well when he came in, but so did the four or five guys who came on, they all made an impact in the game and it's what you expect from this group." He has also drafted in some extra cover into the squad to deal with injuries that have cropped up over the campaign so far. "Yeah Eoin [O'Donoghue] is in with us as part of the extended panel at the minute and getting some experience with the lads, we've five, I think, of the u21s in with us and they all add something different to it."
While the most controversial talking point coming out of the Fermanagh win was the penalty Mayo got late on in the game, Rochford said in the immediate aftermath of the contest: "I would have hoped that after seeing the attention he got in the league, he got a break, he got a black card in Monaghan for a tackle that was just an arm out in the first three minutes, he got fellows, you know, jumping on his back here against Dublin, if he got a break it’s not before time.”