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'We will rise again': Raw heartbreak with every word in speeches at Mayo function

Mayo manager Stephen Rochford and captain Cillian O’Connor delivered emotional tributes last night.

ANOTHER YEAR, ANOTHER heartbreaking All-Ireland final for Mayo.

Dean Rock broke Mayo hearts in the 76th minute of yesterday’s decider as he pointed Dublin to three-in-a-row, while Stephen Rochford’s side fell just short yet again.

Stephen Rochford and Cillian O’Connor dejected after the game Heartbreak: Rochford and O'Connor after yesterday's loss. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The scenes that followed said it all. Absolute devastation for the Westerners. So close, but yet so far. And last night’s function acted as the funeral.

An emotional Rochford and captain Cillian O’Connor were among those to take to the stage to deliver spine-tingling speeches.

“The dream has not died, just postponed,” the manager said.

“We’ll go home tomorrow with dignity and pride and we will lick our wounds. But we will rise again. Because this year, like so many years that have gone before, has shown that Mayo may only be temporarily down, but we are never, ever out.”

He thanked all of those involved throughout the year, paying special tribute to the players’ families, friends and loved ones, and supporters.

“When people seem to take the pleasure of kicking these guys, see them as soft targets, you are the people who put their arm around them and keep them going.

“That’s the reason they are able to drive out the performances like they did today. Yes, we didn’t cross the line, but believe you me, if they didn’t have that support around them, we wouldn’t have the days that we’ve have had.

“In the coming weeks and months, be there for them once more. It will be important that we make this winter as short as we can. Your support will make that. If ever a group of supporters deserves a day in the sun, it’s you.

“From the bottom of my heart, I am proud of you too, the Mayo supporters. There is nothing I can say…..”

Rochford broke down, as the entire room rose to their feet to offer a hair-raising standing ovation as he gathered himself.

“There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said and yet none of it sounds like enough,” he continued.

Cillian O’Connor followed suit with an impressive speech of his own, vowing to come back even stronger next year, ‘fighting the good fight’.

“There’s very little that I can say that can soften or reduce the sadness in all of us. Defeat has visited us once again.

“In this very position last year, I spoke about fighting the good fight and hanging in there. Well today, we did that. All year along, we did that and for years, we’ve done that. But what’s more, moving forward into the future, we’re going to continue fighting the good fight.

“I couldn’t be prouder of my teammates this year for their efforts all year. Not one of the 35 lads ever flinched, they never thought about throwing in the towel. They never gave in.

Cillian O’Connor dejected after the game O'Connor after the game. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“Today, we have to admit, Dublin are worthy champions because they overcame great men. Those boys, they don’t understand the meaning of the word ‘no’ and they represent their county with pride every time that they take to the field. We’re very lucky to be blessed with boys like them.

“Our supporters — ye probably feel like you have to feel sorry for us, you have to pity us. We don’t want anybody’s sympathy, we don’t want anybody’s pity. We’re lucky every day we get to take to the field. Every day we get to pull that crest over our chest, we’re privileged.

“So don’t give us any pity or sympathy. Today, tonight and the coming months, we’ll remember the roars that we heard rolling down from the stands. Those roars will keep us training, keep us going in the winter this year.”

The Balintubber man closed by congratulating Dublin and like Rochford, wished the Mayo ladies the best of luck in their All-Ireland senior final on Sunday.

“We may be down tonight, we may be very disappointed but there’s absolutely no doubt, we aren’t going anywhere,” he concluded.

You can watch Cillian O’Connor’s full speech here, and Stephen Rochford’s here.

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