Wednesday 24 January 2018

'Show me another job where you're evaluated on a weekly basis' - Stephen Rochford

Mayo manager Stephen Rochford has come in for plenty of scrutiny since taking the job 21 months ago. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Mayo manager Stephen Rochford has come in for plenty of scrutiny since taking the job 21 months ago. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Stephen Rochford has woken up to plenty of adverse headlines during his 21 months in charge of the Mayo football team.

From the fallout after switching goalkeepers between the All-Ireland finals last year to the positioning of Aidan O'Shea at full-back in an attempt to negate Kerry's Kieran Donaghy last month, the level of scrutiny has been far more intense than it has been for any of his peers.

But that, he accepts, is what he signed up for even if it has taken a period of adjustment.

Two months in, he admits, after Mayo lost a third successive league game, he realised how he had stepped into a whole new world.

"You understand you are out there every week, you are under the microscope, you are in a situation whereby your performance is evaluated on Monday morning by a result," he said. "I would ask you to show me any other profession, and this isn't even a profession, where you have got journalists, pundits, analysts, evaluating your performance on a weekly basis. I don't see politicians, solicitors, whatever it is, getting that kind of scrutiny. And the narrative can change from week to week, depending on a result."

Complaining

He's not complaining, he's just telling it as he sees it from his side.

The decision to place O'Shea at full-back for the Kerry game was first rolled around the heads of the management a day or two after the Roscommon game and had hardened by the following weekend, seven or eight days out from the game.

If Mayo had won the first day would the criticism over O'Shea have been as heavy?

"I am not looking to control that or anything like that. We understand that is how things are. We never selected Aidan to seek approval of a paper, or a pundit on a TV programme or a radio station. We looked to do it to try and win a game of football, that would have allowed us to get into an All-Ireland final. That might sound very simplistic but that is the way we look at it.

"You work within your own county. You have a lot of support there. The Mayo support have been very good to me, to the team, and whatever sort of criticism we were getting in the week between the two games.

"Because the replay was only six days after the drawn match, we sort of sheltered ourselves away from that as we had enough to be focusing on in relation to winning the replay, to not be distracted by a headline, a comment or a line here and there."

"There is a lot in this job, this role, this position. I am very privileged to be managing the Mayo team, getting to All-Ireland finals.

"There is a big workload in it but I knew that when I was signing up for the job. Things have moved on from those first two months.

"We lost the first three National League games, so when you sign up for the job initially, you don't envisage losing the first three league games. That is not part of the plan anyway. That is the context of saying 'two months in'. It was my first foray into inter-county."

Rochford admits confidence was "rattled" after they lost a second successive Connacht semi-final to Galway in June.

"When you invest into a provincial championship and it doesn't go your way, your confidence is certainly rattled. It takes a lot of character to be able to deal with that," he admitted.

"That (subsequent) Derry game was difficult because, no matter how hard we were trying to score, we just couldn't.

"We had 18 wides, five balls into the goalie's hands, and five times we hit the woodwork. That's 28 shots on goal with no reward, plus what we had scored. So that may be 40 chances, and still we had to wait to see if James Kielt was going to knock us out of the championship.

"So, in those moments you're there wondering, 'Holy Christ, we've had a bad day in front of goal - but we've done a lot well, to create those opportunities, and we could have been out of the championship like that'."

Recovery

There was a good last 50 minutes against Clare, a good first 50 minutes against Cork, a good recovery against Roscommon but when, he wondered, would they get a consistent 70-minute performance.

They hit that groove against Roscommon the second day but Rochford is adamant it wasn't anything as simple as 'throwing off the shackles'.

"There were just a couple of things crying out there to be done, as regards you can't go and win big championship games by handing over the ball to the opposition.

"You are giving them the ability to create their scoring chances while they were set up to defend.

"Maybe a little bit of the change we needed to impose had to be mental, that we needed to tighten our focus, but by and large we just needed to continue play the game through every ball and not start to think about what was happening on the scoreboard or whether there was a game next week."

throwinlogo2.png

Subscribe to The Throw-In, Independent.ie's weekly Championship podcast, for the best in GAA discussion and analysis every Monday, with some of the biggest names in football and hurling from Joe Brolly, Tomás Ó'Sé, Brendan Cummins and John Mullane.

Subscribe and listen to The Throw-In podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport