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Re-opening the Rochford files


HOME SWEET HOME New Mayo assistant manager Stephen Rochford is pictured at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park in Castlebar last week. Pic: Sportsfile

Mayo’s new assistant manager Stephen Rochford on why he came back

Michael Gallagher

IT’S a rather pedestrian Tuesday night in downtown Castlebar with nothing for even the nosiest newshound to report. However, nearer the outskirts of the historic settlement there’s a sense of energy and excitement brewing in the bowels of Hastings Insurance MacHale Park.
The gates are open, the lights are on behind the stand, TV vans are in the carpark and some of the nation’s best-known GAA journalists have alighted from their chariots. The local scribes are there too and a few eagle-eyed parents watching an underage match on the back-pitch have momentarily switched attention from their offspring in an attempt to ascertain what’s going on.
Soon, it becomes obvious. Kevin McStay, Stephen Rochford and Damien Mulligan are in the building. The new Mayo manager and his sidekicks have come to speak to the media for the first time in their new roles and there’s a sense of anticipation in the air.
A room at the top end of the stand has been set up for the event and press friends who usually only meet on tension-filled Croke Park afternoons are soon jawing about the cost of living crisis, the roadworks around Castlebar and family life.
Those word streams soon dry up when McStay, Rochford and Mulligan walk through the door and take their places behind the table at the top of the room.
The journos’ chatter is replaced by a sense of excitement and positivity, even among the more tired and cynical of the attendees. Those who were in the room in September 2014 when McStay’s name was used less salubriously at a county board meeting can only smile at the wonder of it all.
Likewise, Rochford left his role as Mayo manager in less than happy circumstances in August 2018 - what made them come back? What’s drawing them back to the centre of Mayo sport?
“There was only one appointment that would change my mind,” McStay says when the first query wonders about his decision to retire from inter-county football management at the end of his stint in charge of Roscommon.
The same question is soon redecorated and sent scuttling towards Rochford.
What was his thought process when McStay rang and asked him to be part of his management team?
“It didn’t require a lot of thought,” he begins. “There was a quick reflection as regards the role Kevin had set out for me and within 24 hours we were sitting down planning ahead.
“Being involved with Mayo seven or eight years ago was a big job and I loved every minute of it, even with the difficult times.
“The opportunity to come back and work with Kevin, and after seeing the plans he had in place made that decision quite simple.”
Was he returning to a job unfinished the next reporter asked.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say ‘unfinished’” he replied. “Each year is its own year, and you move on. Each year has a new squad and now there’s a new management team. “Mayo are still a top team competing at the very top and Kevin’s wider plan was attractive to work with and we were very much on the same page about where we wanted to go.”
Is returning to the same group as assistant manager after being manager a few years ago going to require a different mindset?
“I think the group has evolved,” he offered.
“There’s no squad for 2023 in place yet and there are guys I’ll be working with for the first time.
“I’ve been on a learning journey as such in Donegal and there’s plenty to learn up there. Ulster Championship is enlightening, and I’d hope to bring some of that back to the group as well. I’m really looking forward to pivoting the role.
“I wasn’t as deeply involved in the coaching when I was here last time but now, I’ll be in deep and really looking forward to that.”
Soon, the questioners moved their attention to McStay and Mulligan but Rochford knew from experiencce it was only a temporary reprieve.



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