Mayo manager Stephen Rochford has remarked on the "great" spirit within the Mayo panel after publicly addressing the fallout to the criticism from the previous management of Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes.

An unfamiliar Mayo side began 2017 with defeat as NUIG enjoyed a 1-21 to 2-16 victory at Castlebar.

The All-Ireland finalists have been in the spotlight since the ex-Mayo joint managers warned that the county’s wait for All-Ireland success will continue unless “some egos are checked and outside influences curbed”.

The pair were critical of the disproportionate amount of power vested in a relatively small number of players.

With the squad currently on a team holiday in South Africa and no fewer than 10 players getting their first taste of senior inter-county football in Castlebar, Rochford said he was "happy enough" with the performance, before he was asked to comment on the recent furore following the explosive Holmes/Connelly interview.

The Mayo manager was asked after the match whether the fall-out had affected team morale.

“The role of the Mayo manager is a tough assignment for many reasons. We’re a group and a county that has high expectations and high standards to reach,” he said.

"The spirit is very good in Mayo football"

“We want to compete and we have been competing over the last number of years at the very highest level with a demanding group in Division 1 and a right demanding championship lies ahead with Connacht.

“The group are in great spirit. We met last Monday before the boys departed for South Africa and there have been big numbers training in South Africa.

“You could see there by the gentlemen that togged out and played today that spirit is very good in Mayo football.

“It gives great encouragement and optimism for the weeks and months ahead.”

The All-Ireland finalists begin their Allianz League campaign at home to Monaghan in four weeks’ time and Rochford is hoping his side can make further progress in 2017.

“We’ve been eager to get back out on the field. We’ve been looking forward to 29 December to get ourselves back training and to improve on 2016,” he said.

“There were a lot of positives and a good foundation we feel has been set.”