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Rochford exit leaves regrets

Sport

Comment
Billy Joe Padden

THE news that Stephen Rochford has decided to step down as Mayo manager has only just broken a short while ago and I’m still finding it hard to get my head around it.
First off, it’s really awful that Stephen felt he had no option but to resign after last Sunday evening’s meeting of the County Board executive.
Obviously, he didn’t like what he heard from the meeting, and I assume had been expecting his new management team to be recommended by the executive.
Having sat down with Peter Ford and Shane Conway, and persuaded them to come on board with himself and Joe Keane for 2019, Rochford had obviously already started sketching out his plans for next season.
I know he was at club championship games in Westport and Clogher on Saturday evening, as well as a number of the recent All-Ireland championship games at Croke Park, so he was already ‘back at work’ as Mayo manager for weeks now.
He was looking to the future, had spoken to some of the Mayo players, and by confirming his intention to stay on to the County Board chairman recently, had obviously decided that he was the right man for the job again.
When the dust settles on Stephen’s resignation statement, the spotlight will turn to the County Board executive and the questions will be asked as to what exactly was said in that meeting on Sunday evening.
In my opinion, Stephen Rochford has handled himself, and the situation, as well as he possibly could. By stepping down, and releasing a very articulate and heartfelt statement, he is putting the best interests of Mayo football ahead of everything else.
That is just one of the reasons why I feel that he can hold his head high this week.
Maybe looking back at his three years in charge is for another day, but one thing struck me when I considered it — ultimately every Mayo manager has been ‘unsuccessful’ since 1951 in terms of winning an All-Ireland senior title.
But Rochford had this Mayo team playing at a level in August and September of 2016 and 2017 that was consistently excellent, and got Mayo closer than any other side to Dublin in each of those All-Ireland Finals. The same Dublin that are known as arguably the greatest team of all time.
That has to be to his credit, and to the credit of the management team that he assembled around him.
Finding somebody to step into the Mayo manager’s hot-seat is now the main priority for the Mayo GAA Board.
And when you consider the issues that they’ve had over the last three or four years with management and players, it’s only natural to assume that they will find it very difficult to appoint the best and most-qualified man for the job.
There’s no doubt that this Mayo squad deserves the best manager that is out there, that’s the only way they can continue to compete for All-Irelands again, and that is what the players will be demanding.
In the coming days though the crux of the issue, and what Mayo supporters will want to know more than anything, is what was said, or not said, to make Stephen Rochford resign.
Was it a culmination of events? The chairman’s comments a few weeks ago about freshening up the management team and the playing squad? The deadline imposed to get a management team in place at last week’s County Board meeting? And the lack of support for the new management team from the executive last weekend?
When you add all of those things together, it’s easy to see how somebody would feel that there was no confidence in them.
And if the principle officers of Mayo GAA are determined to set such high standards for their managers, then Stephen Rochford’s replacement will have to expect the same thing.
The real shame is that his time in charge of the Mayo team had to end like this.