Billy Joe Padden
HOW did I feel when I heard the news that Stephen Rochford was coming back to manage Mayo next year? I was relieved and glad.
Despite losing to Dublin, his approval rating has been sky-high since the All-Ireland Final and that’s the way it should be.
People have to acknowledge that he got close to the absolute best out of his team in the last four four games of the championship. That’s his job.
And he did it very well.
Mayo people know this team, they know their strengths, and they know that Stephen Rochford couldn’t have done much more to get any more out of those players.
I also think him taking an extra two years sends out a really positive message to the squad.
So many pundits will be queuing up saying ‘It’s win or bust in 2018 for Mayo’.
But it’s been ‘win or bust’ every season for years for Mayo, and Rochford committing for the next three seasons gives us continuity.
The last four or five weeks will have been hard for him and I have no doubt that he would have switched off for a few weeks after the All-Ireland. Or tried to anyway.
The management team’s review meeting earlier this month would have been where the planning for 2018 officially started.
How they performed individually and collectively and things like their coaching, their opposition analysis, and their in-game performances all needed to be parsed and analysed properly.
What did they do well? What areas can they improve on?
The review with the players would have been an important staging post too. That’s where Rochford had the challenge of marrying the personal desire of players with the overall game-plan for the team.
At some stage over the next month he will also need to sit down with his video analysis team and put together some clips for the players.
They need to be reminded of what went well, and not so well, from a tactical point of view in the big championship games.
In my opinion, players need to be studying that before the new season starts.
The positive stuff can be e-mailed to each player, along with an explanatory note, but the critical clips will probably need everyone in the same room at the same time.
Stephen Rochford and his coaches will need to be able to ask individual players: ‘What were you thinking there?’
Jim McGuinness made the point after the All-Ireland, and I would agree, that Mayo didn’t manage the game in the last ten minutes as well as they should have.
But that now has to be addressed in detail.
Regular readers of this column will know I’m a great believer in repetition when it comes to implementing game-plans and getting players used to a certain way of doing things.
But one area where I would love to see Stephen mix it up a bit next year is in terms of how he interacts with the media.
I can’t say that I know him well, but he’s always struck me as a very personable and nice fella.
He’s been very guarded in his interviews in the first two years, which is understandable in a way considering how the previous management ended up stepping down.
But I think he can relax a little more now in front of a microphone or a TV camera.
I’d love to see him smile a bit more, be himself, and not be afraid to hand out a few compliments to certain players or some of the backroom team every now and then.
It’s important that the message is out there, win or lose, that everyone in this Mayo group — from the manager to the players — enjoys what they’re doing.
Why does that matter? Because if you create a positive environment, like with all the lads going to Tom Parsons’ wedding in December, then when the tough times come, it all helps.