Mayo boss Stephen Rochford explains decision to employ Aidan O'Shea on Kieran Donaghy


The stakes are high when a team makes the All-Ireland semi-finals.

In Mayo’s case, after all they’ve endured, the stakes can’t get any higher.

Stephen Rochford felt compelled in the circumstances to roll the dice.

All week in the build-up the talk was about the match-ups Rochford and Eamonn Fitzmaurice would come up with in a bid to give their side the vital edge.

Read: Everything you need to know about the Kerry v Mayo replay

So we had Paul Murphy on last year’s Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan.

We had Chris Barrett on James O’Donoghue.

And, much to everyone’s surprise, Aidan O’Shea on Kieran Donaghy. Talk about hammering the hammer.

Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy celebrates his side’s goal beside Aidan O’Shea of Mayo

But had he handed Kerry a psychlogical boost in the process? “I don’t know, I’m not trained in that means,” replied Rochford.

“I don’t know what’s thought – I don’t care what’s thought in the Kerry dressing room. I don’t mean that out of disrespect.”

Donaghy was the difference when the sides met at this stage three years ago, coming off the bench at Croke Park to spark Kerry’s comeback when the game looked lost.

Now 34, he’s been in menacing form for Kerry this summer and after his performance against Galway the last day, Rochford decided to take action.

O’Shea has been in dangerous form, too, in an attacking sense.

But Rochford had used him earlier in the year as a full-back on Michael Murphy, and even last year he played there against Kevin Feely.

“He’s one of our best tacklers,” pointed out the Mayo boss.

“Obviously his physical presence versus the physical and aerial threat that Kerry might bring in that area.

Read: GAA fans were all saying the same thing about Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea

“We’ll look back on it and we’ll see if things worked from it or did we lose something from it.”

For the most part the presence of O’Shea kept Donaghy quiet.

But the Tralee giant still set up Kerry’s first goal, providing the assist for Stephen O’Brien, and it was O’Shea’s mis-control of an admittedly poor pass that led to a touchline ball that was quickly taken.

O’Shea was out of position when he took the pass and bypassed as Kerry marched in for their second goal.

The great untangible, then, is the question of what the absence of O’Shea meant to the Mayo attack.

Did Mayo lose out there? “Possibly,” admitted Rochford. “But you know, we’re not a one-man team.

“No more than Lee Keegan missing the (replayed) Roscommon game, we don’t want to be seen as a one-man team.

“I don’t believe we’re a one-man team. Aidan was effective in some aspects. We’ll take closer attention before being definitive on that.

“We would have felt that, after 2006, 2014, there was lessons to be learned from there. Was it the right decision?

Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy tussles with Aidan O’Shea of Mayo

“Look, we’re half-way through. You win the game, you lose the game, people decider you’re right or wrong. We’ll see what happens next week.”

Will Rochford persist with the experiment next week? Replays bring a different dynamic, as Mayo themselves proved in the way they went about their business against Roscommon.

As for Kerry, Fitzmaurice insists that the sight of O’Shea on Donaghy wasn’t a shock tactic to his players and he claimed that it didn’t change the Kingdom’s approach, although there was noticeably less high ball sent down Donaghy’s channel.

“It was a thing we’d discussed. There was a possibility it could happen, that they could match him up with Kieran,” said Fitzmaurice.

Read the match report: Kerry and Mayo to do it all again after Croke Park thriller

“We felt maybe it would be down list of possible options.

“Look, obviously it’s up to Mayo to get their match-ups right and for them to organise those – that’s not something we can control.”

But Fitzmaurice hinted that it was a relief not to have to deal with the rampaging Breaffy man running at his vulnerable defensive spine.

“I’m not sure, I think he did fine,” said the Kingdom boss.

“He won one or two balls in the first half and rooted away with Kieran, didn’t allow him to have a huge impact on the game.

“But with a player like that, if you give them a big job like that to do, it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul.

“He obviously can’t be in two places at once. From the Mayo point of view, they’d be happy once he does the role that is assigned to him for the day.”

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