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Rochford and O’Shea optimistic about 2016 for Mayo


SUITED AND BOOTED New Mayo manager Stephen Rochford (centre) is pictured with Barry Naughton (left) and Seán Deane of AIB (Club Stars awards sponsors). Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Daniel Carey

THERE’S something ‘very special’ about a club journey, new Mayo manager Stephen Rochford said at the 11th annual Mayo News/O’Neills Club Stars Charity Banquet in Knockranny House Hotel, Westport on Friday night.
The Crossmolina man was honoured with a Special Achievement Award to mark the All-Ireland club title he won as Corofin boss last March. After receiving his prize from AIB colleague Seán Deane, he said his overwhelming emotion when the final whistle blew in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day was ‘satisfaction’.
“When you start out on a club journey, it’s a 13-month journey [if you get to the All-Ireland final],” he explained. “There are bends and crossroads and ups and downs. There’s something very special about a club journey – people with 18, 19, 20 years playing together – bonds forged at school [with] mothers and fathers following you.”
Rochford revealed that he had spoken to ‘nearly 50 players’ since being ratified as Mayo boss, and said the response he had got from them was ‘very infectious and positive’.
He predicted that if the players’ positivity was reflected in their football, then 2016 promised ‘to be a successful year’.
Noting that Mayo ‘have been one of the top three or four teams’ in the country in recent years, the 37-year-old said their minimum aim was to ‘stay in that circle’.
He added that Mayo would be ‘very competitive’ and players and management would be ‘very honest’ with each other.
“Mayo supporters are an infectious lot,” he said when asked if he had a message for followers of the county team. “They’ve supported the team up and down the country – and there are some long journeys coming up in the National League!”
But Rochford urged fans to ‘be a bit patient’, pointing out that he and his management team would be ‘looking at new players’ over the course of the next few months.
Mayo footballer Aidan O’Shea, who was named in the Club Stars Team of the Year, said he was ‘always optimistic’ ahead of the next season.
Looking around the Knockranny House Hotel, he told Master of Ceremonies Mike Finnerty: “There’s players here that don’t play for Mayo, but the talent in Mayo club football alone is very, very strong, and [with] the panel of players we had last year, [and] whatever Stephen [Rochford] brings in this year, [we’ll] be very, very strong. So any time we look forward to a new year, we can look forward with hope, because we’ve got such a strong panel. We’ve been knocking around [for] the last couple of years, but I think we’re getting very, very close, and hopefully it’s gonna happen very soon.”
Meanwhile, Ballycastle GAA Club also picked up a Special Achievement Award for winning the Mayo Junior ‘B’ Championship title. It was the club’s first adult county title since 1939 and came despite major emigration and depopulation in recent years.
Club chairman Martin Heffernan, who accepted the award on behalf of the club, paid tribute to the players and management for making it happen.
“We had a wonderful year,” he told MC Finnerty. “The players committed 100 per cent, and our manager Donie Tuohy was very, very important in making sure that we got everything right on the pitch. The players put in a massive effort. We had a great year, and we’re hoping to go one better next year, maybe.”
Clearly honoured that Ballycastle had been chosen for the gong, he added: “We’ve always had great footballers in Ballycastle, and we knew that in ourselves. But when players are moving away looking for work and unemployment and emigration [hit], things were bad there for a few years. Three years ago, we’d only 12 players lining out in the Junior Championship. So things were bad, but we knew we had to do something about it. So the club put in a big effort.”

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