Tuesday 20 March 2018

Rochford's no tactical genius but is a source of inspiration

Mayo manager Stephen Rochford. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Mayo manager Stephen Rochford. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Independent.ie Sportsdesk

So Mayo's win over Kerry proves that Stephen Rochford is a tactical genius and any criticism ever made of his selections has been proved wrong? Nope. That's not how it works at all.

In the run-up to Mayo's replay against Roscommon, I wrote that Rochford's achievement in steering them to last year's All-Ireland final was terrific and that he was sometimes subjected to unfair criticism because his indulgence in questionable tactical gambles makes a rod for his own back. I'll stick with that.

The case for switching Aidan O'Shea to full-back can most charitably be marked 'not proven'. Kieran Donaghy was starved of possession for so much of Saturday's replay he wouldn't have exerted much influence on the game no matter who was marking him.


You could even argue that the impact O'Shea made at midfield in the opening minutes constituted a good argument for keeping him there, at least for a while longer.

What isn't a good argument is the contention that it's a good idea to play O'Shea at full-back because the Mayo attack functions better without him.

That is actually an argument in favour of leaving the poor lad off the team altogether in case he might accidentally stray into the forward-line and screw things up. Or perhaps playing him at midfield rather than in a position where he's an absolute novice.

Mayo won on Saturday because they dominated the middle of the field and destroyed Kerry's full-back line. They also won because they are superbly motivated and looked fresher.

This is a tribute to Rochford. But it doesn't mean he's always got everything right.

It would be childish, and embarrassingly sycophantic, to pretend that it does.

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