Mayo lost the battle but they are getting ready for war and Stephen Rochford is the man to lead them there 7 years ago

Mayo lost the battle but they are getting ready for war and Stephen Rochford is the man to lead them there

There were four moments throughout the first half of that Castlebar battle that really stood out and caught the eye almost frighteningly.

They were four Mayo moments. Moments that warmed the heart. Moments that even upstaged Rob Hennelly's monstrous 45'.


They were almost un-Mayo-like. They offered nothing by way of thrilling entertainment to the ten and a half thousand stubborn souls that braved the cutting Saturday night cold. They offered the slightest of glimpses that there's a changing in the current on the west coast.

They maybe even suggested that Stephen Rochford is the right man in the right job at the right time. They maybe suggested that Mayo are ready for war.

Colm Boyle taking no shit

Diarmuid Connolly and Colm Boyle 6/2/2016


The All-Ireland champions have been held to two scores for most of the half and Tomás Brady is about to get absolutely nailed by Donal Vaughan. Two more green jerseys will arrive on the scene and Mayo will see what they didn't see once over two games last summer - a Dublin forward squirming.

Free out. The capital city outfit rattled. Jonny Cooper arriving on the scene too late and Colm Boyle in no mood to even rub it in or laugh about it. The half back is wired to the moon. He's pushing sky blue jerseys out of his sight, he's punching at Cooper's gripped hands on his jersey, forehead to forehead. Denis Bastick comes in heavy-handed, Boyle doesn't back down.

He's like a terrier with a bite between his teeth. A bite that will see him red-carded in injury time. He doesn't care. He doesn't like Dublin. He doesn't want to like Dublin. And someone somewhere in that dressing room doesn't want him to like Dublin either. Not even on a damp February night like this. Not even now.

The rotating sweeper


Michael Fitzsimons and Jason Doherty 6/2/2016

Last season, Jim Gavin embarrassed his counterparts in the opposite dugout by making light of their naive sweeper policy. In what seemed like the first game that Stephen Rochford actually began working with his side by way of shape and putting the game plan into practice, the new manager will have already earned kudos in that changing room.

The Connacht champions didn't drop a forward back and leave him there for the entirety of the game and leave him there wide open, exposed. They were slicker than that.

A sweeper manned their full back line, sure. He blocked the channel. He stopped the runners and the handy ball. But when Dublin even thought about getting those diagonal passes going - the ones that Croke Park is probably sick of at this stage - another Mayo half forward was dropping back and cleaning up on the other side. The ball was popped to the spare sweeper, Mayo counter-attacked.


The man who just tracked back? He took his breather as the new sweeper. He would be ready to launch the next attack. Clock-work.

Come July, Diarmuid O'Connor, Kevin McLoughlin and Jason Doherty are going to reel this out automatically. They won't just be working hard. They'll be part of a system that didn't give Dublin a sniff of a goal chance on Saturday night. One which held them to nine scores across 70 minutes. And one which makes them a deadly counter-attacking prospect.

Aidan O'Shea's block on John Small

Aidan OÕShea and Paul Mannion 6/2/2016

No Dublin back is going to waltz up the pitch against this Mayo team anymore. Those days are over.


John Small went the length of the field - he had to because the forward line was tied up. Aidan O'Shea went with him. Toe-to-toe, stride for stride and, when the Dub half back thought he'd get a handy shot off, he was badly mistaken.

There was Mayo's marquee forward on the edge of his own 'D' with a textbook block just to turn Dublin away. Just to say that this doesn't happen anymore. Just to show that he has bought into the new ideas.

The 15-man defence

David Byrne and Ger Cafferkey 6/2/2016

A disgusting night, a howling wind blowing in their faces, the best attack in the country coming at them.

Mayo didn't go out to play 15 behind the ball and it only happened a few times but, each time, it was only a measure of how Dublin weren't getting that early pass in. It was a yardstick that they were snuffed out and being held at an arm's length.

There was one time in particular, Aidan O'Shea was there again lining the steely centre of their rearguard, and the Dublin momentum just wilted. It stopped dead. They looked sideways, they were all flat-footed and bang... they were turned over.

What happened next? A cheer. A roar of appreciation.

The Mayo crowd weren't being treated to rose garden football but, finally, here they were addressing their problems.

A red card, seven scores, and not a whole lot to really shout about on a miserable night in the west.

But these fans and these players have heard too many sob stories and felt too many pats on their back over the years. They've been reliving the same nightmare and, now, here's Stephen Rochford desperately trying to drag them out of it.

The Castlebar crowd recognised that. They recognised that new defiance, that change of guard.

They could see their players were hurting. They could see they were hungry. Even now.

They could see they weren't feeling sorry for themselves and, amidst an intense, waning 0-9 to 0-7 defeat, they could see that their players weren't fearing Dublin and, more importantly, that they weren't liking Dublin. Not one bit.

They could see that their soldiers were getting ready for war.

And, hey, who knows, maybe come September, they won't fall this time.

Maybe, come September, they'll be ready for an ambush.

The plotting begins tonight.