Mayo manager Stephen Rochford.

Mayo manager Stephen Rochford.

Rochford: 'There is a prize on offer to get to the last eight'

By Cian O'Connell

Stephen Rochford wants his Mayo team to remain patient against Westmeath in Saturday’s All Ireland Football Championship Round 4B qualifier at Croke Park.

Mayo’s response since losing a Connacht SFC semi-final to Galway has featured wins over Fermanagh and Kildare at Elverys MacHale Park.

Now Rochford’s team return to GAA headquarters, a venue in which Mayo have posted some impressive results during recent summer campaigns,

"You need to show patience, which probably links in closely to the experience part, you're looking to play at a high pace and intensity, but we'd be looking to do that no matter who the opposition were,” Rochford replied when asked about how Mayo can demonstrate their ability.

“I think in many ways we won't be focusing on whether this teams is in Division one, two, three or four. This team is in the last 12 in the All Ireland championship, they are no further ahead of us or behind us and we'll be respecting that fixture as it is and we'll be understanding there is a prize on offer to get to the last eight, but it's the same for Westmeath.”

Rochford reckons the midlanders’, beaten by Dublin in the Leinster decider, carry a considerable threat. “You know they are Leinsiter finalists, have plenty of quality throughout their team, they have in John Heslin a footballer that could make any county team up or down the country, a fine free taker also.

“But they are peppered throughout the team with fine footballers. They had a very structured defensive system in place, they held Dublin for long periods of the game and maybe they will feel they could easily have been ahead at half time in the Leinsiter final.

“The likes of Paul Sharry, Kieran Martin, Ger Egan, James Dolan and Francis Boyle they have plenty of quality players there and we are aware of that.”

Despite outwitting Kildare, Mayo encountered some difficulty at centrefield in that fixture. "Yeah, we scored 2-17 out of losing maybe 60 per cent of the ball in the middle of the field and we've been looking at that - trying to analyse that as best we can,” Rochford commented.

“The week previous our midfield was the foundation to the comeback against Fermanagh and Fermanagh don't have a poor midfield.

“That's certainly an area for us to improve and it requires an improvement on, because we have a good midfield, it was a bit strange, but you know, I was satisfied by the way our defence handled being under that bit of pressure and the amount of ball that Kildare had in that second half.

“When you're looking at midfield, you're looking at breaking ball and not just the players who are playing in midfield there are a few factors in it. We'll be looking at improving that before Westmeath.”

Rochford went to watch the Leinster showpiece. “I was in Croke Park, I saw Westmeath put in a good shift. Bernard Brogan chipped on a goal and Kevin McManamon at the very end and maybe that shows a wider gap.

“Certainly Westmeath could have been leading at half time; not necessarily by a big margin. They have a lot of good footballers and as I said already, the likes of John Heslin and Ger Egan.

“Ray Connellan being out injured now will be a loss to them because I did feel that he was giving Dublin problems on their half-back line, and that’s a good half-back line there as well. They have plenty of quality to them.”