Sunday 23 October 2016

Mayo absentees force Stephen Rochford to target league survival

Published 26/01/2016 | 02:30

Rochford at yesterday’s league launch. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Rochford at yesterday’s league launch. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile

By Stephen Rochford's calculations, Mayo will start their Division 1 league campaign shorn of around 15 players.

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The ongoing club campaigns of Castlebar and intermediate side Hollymount-Carramore have taken a handful of players out of the loop while others like Alan Dillon, Andy Moran, Seamus O'Shea and Chris Barrett aren't expected to feature until much later in the league. The O'Connor brothers, Diarmuid and Cillian, are both also out.

Of the players currently on the injured list, Rochford explained that only Keith Higgins "will play in the earlier part of the league" with a slight chance he could feature against Dublin in round two.

And while Rochford would welcome a league semi-final on the weekend of April 9-10 to help break up the wait until their championship opener on May 29, he instead heads into his maiden league campaign targeting survival.

"With our own precarious position in relation to ... genuinely we are looking to bring 26 fit players - and (some of them) have maybe trained just over the last couple of days in order to make up those numbers so the league semi-finals are a distance away. To be honest, they're out of view for us at the moment," Rochford said. "It's really looking to be able to accumulate whatever, six, seven points as quickly as possible and maybe that will go into the last couple of games as well."

Rochford will be forced into a certain amount of experimentation and that includes the use of Aidan O'Shea in a variety of positions.

"He's been quite good in the three positions. When any manager is dealing with any group, you don't want to make yourself predictable. Again, as I alluded to earlier, it'll be about experimentation and I'm sure Aidan is going to be part of that."

Rochford insists he hasn't broached the subject of the ousting of his predecessors Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly since he took charge though he does accept there is a certain amount of pressure on both himself and the team.

"2015 is a history question in many ways. I don't want that to sound very dark, but all my focus is about 2016.

"In the short-term it is about going into the National League and survival in that, accumulating as many points as possible and knowing that we are going to be doing that on the basis that we are going to be missing a lot of players, trying a couple of new players and a bit of experimentation in that aspect as well. That's really where my focus has been, it's not peaking in the rear-view mirror."

"I don't think you can cocoon the players (from the expectation)," he continued.

"There's a number living in Dublin and they don't get that and are able to distance themselves from that. At the same time as regards the question about myself being under pressure, it's part of the job and I was well aware of that coming into it. But look, we'll embrace that - I'm more happy that we're viewed as being a team that can be competitive for the two competitions more than coming in under the radar so it is what it is.

"We'll deal with it as best we can and see how we go throughout the year with it.

"The big important part from the outset will be that we get enough points in the league so that we can continue to experiment and it's not a do-or-die-type game going into the final stretch."

Irish Independent

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