WALKING THE LINE?Corofin manager Stephen Rochford is pictured during Sunday’s Galway SFC Final win over Mountbellew-Moylough at Tuam Stadium.?Pic: Sportsfile
Over the next few weeks we’ll be taking a look at some of the contenders for the position of Mayo senior team manager. We start with Stephen Rochford
WHILE the Mayo senior club football championship semi-finals were taking place in Castlebar last Sunday, one Mayo man was trying to create a bit of history in Galway.
Crossmolina native Stephen Rochford led All-Ireland champions Corofin to their first ever three-in-a-row of Galway football titles thanks to a ten-points win over Mountbellew-Moylough at Tuam Stadium.
After the match Rochford, who has been earmarked as one of the front-runners to succeed Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly, was asked about his interest in the vacant Mayo post.
“Things have happened very, very quickly and unfortunately in Mayo over the last week or so,” he said, adding that he has been ‘totally and utterly focussed on Corofin’.
“I am on record as saying that at some stage in my managerial career, as a man from Mayo, I would love to be given the opportunity to manage Mayo.
“Whether that is going to be in 2016 or not, time will tell. I am very, very focused on Corofin, we have a game again in two weeks’ time,” he added.
“I have had no communication with the county board, either proactively or reactively. We will just be enjoying tonight’s win and focusing on Mohill come Tuesday.”
So it appears he is certainly interested in the Mayo position, whilst declaring an obvious loyalty to his club who are now defending their Connacht and All-Ireland crowns.
Plenty is known about the credentials of James Horan, the other strong candidate for the role. However, just what do we know about Stephen Rochford, the man and the manager?
He turned 37 last Friday and is Branch Manager of AIB in Castlerea. He lives in Ballinrobe, and is married to Laura. They have one son, Dara.
Stephen Rochford was the captain of the Mayo Minor football team in 1996.
In fact he scored a late equaliser to secure a draw in that year’s Connacht Final against Sligo and Mayo won the replay.
He went on to be a regular in defence for the great Crossmolina team which won six county titles between 1995 and 2006 and, most famously, an All-Ireland club title in 2001.
Rochford started life as a defender and was right-half back for Mayo Minors in 1996 and often played in the corner for his club.
However, towards the twilight of his club career he moved into the forward line, operating in the corner and drifting out. His days as a defender were coming to an end but his football intelligence saw him carve out a role as a creative and clever forward.
In fact, he won the last two of his six Mayo senior championship medals in attack.
“He was an exceptional reader of the game, and that was the thing about him, you could virtually play him in any position on the field and he would find a way to adapt,” said Crossmolina’s 2001 All-Ireland winning manager Tommy Jordan.
ROCHFORD was still playing for Crossmolina when he began his coaching career proper as a Mayo Minor selector under Eugene Ivers ten years ago. He was also involved in 2006.
Mayo reached the All-Ireland Final in 2005 and among the current Mayo players who were involved in those two seasons were Ger Cafferkey, Tom Cunniffe, Chris Barrett, Donie Vaughan, Seamie O’Shea, Tom Parsons and Kevin McLoughlin.
Vaughan was also on the Ballinrobe team which Rochford coached to a Mayo Under 21 B title in 2007. Rochford was part of the management team headed up by then Ballinrobe senior manager Alan Flynn.
The pair would also work together with GMIT in the Sigerson Cup while they crossed swords in this year’s Galway semi-final, which Corofin won after a replay.
“From since I first met him there has ever only been one topic of conversation,” Flynn, a native of Tuam, told The Mail on Sunday. “He has a great passion for it (football), thinks very deeply about the game and is also very organised. He is ambitious too and always has been.”
Meanwhile, his former team-mate at Crossmolina, Michael Moyles, also believes Rochford has what it takes.
“People are always looking for that edge and Stephen is somebody that’s played recently, understands the game and has an in-depth knowledge of it,” the former Mayo forward said last week.
“Tactically he can change it up a bit and while sometimes managers can try to outdo each other and take away from the strengths of the team, Stephen is a very smart individual.”
It is worth remembering that Rochford was beaten by one vote for the position of Mayo under 21 football manager in 2012.
It remains to be seen just how far he will progress in the race for the senior gig.
However, he had this to say when asked after last Sunday’s Galway County Final if he would have to take the opportunity of managing Mayo if it came along.
“There is an awful lot of fences to jump in relation to that, we are not getting ahead of ourselves again. . . But we will see what happens. There is a lot of things to iron out in relation to even considering that, between the task work that’s involved in inter-county.
“Be it at home, be it with your work environment, be it with Corofin. We will take it one step at a time.”
Name: Stephen Rochford
Occupation: Manager, AIB Castlerea.
Did you know: Rochford became the first man to win All-Ireland club football medals as both a player and a manager with different clubs last March.