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Rochford stays cool under pressure


Ger Flanagan

A WHOLE heap of unexpected pressure was mounted on to Stephen Rochford’s shoulders after the defeat to the Galway in the Connacht semi-final almost a month ago. Very few people could have foreseen what unfolded that day in MacHale Park, and the result sparked rumours of disharmony in the Mayo camp.
Despite all the speculation, Rochford has displayed no signs of tension or strain within the group, somehow remaining ice-cool in all his media dealings. He gave the impression that he was still very much in control of the situation. Despite being widely criticised for deploying Kevin McLoughlin as a sweeper, with former All-Ireland winner John Divilly accusing him of doing ‘too much messing’ on Newstalk, Rochford proceeded in keeping him there, and the Knockmore man has vastly improved in his two outings since.
On Saturday evening, the former Corofin manager chose to watch almost the entirety of the first half situated at the back of the stand with selector Donie Buckley at his side, as Seán Carey and Tony McEntee manned the sideline. It was clear that the Crossmolina man wanted a clear vantage point of each one of his players and to assess how they were performing, communicating down to the sideline with ear-pieces where he had McEntee, making good use of his visibly high level of fitness, delivering the instructions to individuals. The Crossmaglen native must have covered every single blade of grass on the immaculate MacHale Park surface over the 70 minutes. The runner ventured on to the pitch so much that one nearby fan suggested he ‘should put on a jersey’. A match official eventually had to have a word to the Armagh man in the second half about his on-field excursions.
The Mayo manager took his place on the sideline for the restart, and apart from the odd shake of the head, possessed an ice-cool demeanour throughout., Rochford had signalled for Barry Moran off the bench in the 51st minute even before a black card card was issued to Colm Boyle for pulling down Fergal Conway. The Davitts man got his manager’s seal of approval for the foul too, receiving a thumbs up as he made his way off the pitch.
All substitutions made by the management were done in an extremely efficient manner. There seemed to be very little deliberation between them. McEntee was busy making sure each player on the field was carrying out their role, while Carey and Rochford would come together for a quick word before an introduction was to be made. No player got brought in without being pulled aside by Rochford and given what looked like a detailed set of instructions to carry out and where best to do so, even the late substitutes when the win was certain.
At the final whistle, Rochford wasn’t hanging around. A brisk jog over to commiserate with opposing manager Cian O’Neill was about the most frantic he looked all game, before disappearing immediately down the tunnel to the backdrop of camera flashes.
“At five to seven I was looking for us to get a result, and that’s what we got,” he told RTÉ afterwards, refusing to get in any way animated about his side’s impressive performance.

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