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Mayo need Rochford

Sport

A MOMENT IN TIME Mayo manager Stephen Rochford shakes hands with Donie Vaughan after he was sent off during the All-Ireland SFC Final. Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics
Billy Joe Padden

IT dawned on me last week that the reason this All-Ireland Final defeat probably feels worse than the other ones is because in other years, you knew where you had to improve. This time, so much of the Mayo display was so good that losing is just heartbreaking.
I’ve been trying to compare last year’s All-Ireland Final defeat to this one, and I’m fairly sure that the latest loss will be much harder to take for the management and players.
Two or three big things went against us last year, but to lose this time after doing so much right is tough.
But if you’re inside the Mayo camp, you have to say: ‘We’re right at the top level, right there with one of the best teams of all time. So how can we improve?’
Stephen Rochford and every single one of his players have to forget about Dublin and focus on themselves.
There is no doubt in my mind that this Mayo team has improved since last year, but so have Dublin.
Now the question is: can Mayo get over the line next year? We don’t know, but that’s the challenge for the players. What we do know is that we can definitely put ourselves in a place to win it with ten minutes to go!
These are going to be a very tough few weeks for Stephen Rochford, but before he starts to analyse things coldly and clinically, he’s got to park his own personal disappointment and regrets.
In terms of how he set the Mayo team up, the match-ups, the tactics on kick-outs, and how well the players performed on the day, Rochford can feel fairly happy.
He outfoxed Jim Gavin for the most part, and was literally just minutes away from making history.
Of course when you lose any game by a point though you’ll feel there were things you could have done differently. That’s why he needs to find some quiet time at some stage to reflect on what worked and didn’t work.
But the reality is that he can’t do that until he knows for sure what he wants from the future.
Personally, I want him back in charge of Mayo in 2018. The team have improved again under his watch this season, he’s got them playing a very effective brand of football, the players are responding to his approach, and he wins far more games than he loses.
Sure, he made some calls in terms of game-plans and personnel over the course of the season that I didn’t agree with, but in fairness most of the decisions he’s made over the last two years have been right.
Mayo now play the modern, pragmatic type of football that I felt they needed to if they were to stand the best chance of winning an All-Ireland.
Under Rochford, the style and systems of play have evolved and made Mayo a far more rounded team.
Now the question is where can he find the small improvements required to finish the job?
Where can he take us now?
If Stephen goes, then his management team breaks up, and it’s going to be very hard for the squad to reach the level they’re at right now again next year.
Hopefully that won’t happen, but only he knows if it will be possible to balance a young family, a demanding job and managing an inter-county football team for a third year in a row.
The same goes for many of the players. They all have uniquely different personal circumstances but, leaving that aside, they will be asking themselves things like: Do they want to play in the team again? Do they want to challenge themselves again to be the best they can be? If the answers are ‘yes’ then they know what needs to be done. Just look at Andy Moran. And yes, he will be the Player of the Year!

Vaughan and company will all bounce back
WHEN Mayo got tired in the last 15 minutes they needed to keep doing what they had been doing, but be even more precise.
With clearer heads, and if they were more familiar with the style of football they were playing, I think they could have held out.
I can only imagine that Stephen Rochford would have been trying to get the message across to the Mayo players to take their time in those last fifteen minutes.
To just relax, be patient, take a breath.
If I was to single out one area where this team could improve, game management would probably be it.
When Mayo were on top, two points up after 63 minutes, they needed to manage the game and see it out. They weren’t able to do that last Sunday week.
There’s obviously been a lot of discussion about Donie Vaughan’s red card since the game ended.
One thing for sure is that he will get 100 percent support and backing from his team-mates and management. That level of trust between all of them is unequivocal. Donie himself has to externalise the outside noise and focus on the future. The reality is that his role within the team is to be physical and abrasive, so it’s in his mind not to take a backward step at any stage.
I think in that incident with John Small, he felt the need to be the ‘enforcer’ and that instinct got the better of him in that instance.
But he will come back from this better and stronger, and he should reflect on this year overall as one where he played a huge part in Mayo’s great run.
I don’t think losing last Sunday will break any of this Mayo team. It was different for us back after losing our All-Irelands because we didn’t really believe in what we were doing anymore. And you have nothing when you don’t buy into the system.
These players believe in the set-up and they believe in each other. ‘We’re as good as anybody and we’ll be back’ is their mantra.
And I think they will be back.

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