Stephen Rochford on the impact the "lions led by donkeys" jibe had on family members

Mayo manager reflects on 2017 and the road towards the 2018 campaign

BY Raf Diallo 19:51 Wednesday 20 December 2017, 19:51 20 Dec 2017

Mayo manager Stephen Rochford ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

They came so close yet again in 2017 and 2018 provides another opportunity for Mayo to bridge that slim gap that has kept them from beating Dublin in consecutive All Ireland finals.

Stephen Rochford has not shied away from making brave tactical decisions in the two years that culminated on the long roads that led to trips to Croke Park for deciders. 

With 2018 approaching, the Mayo manager joined Joe Molloy and Kevin Kilbane to discuss the year to come.

You can listen to the full interview on the podcast player: 

"Of course I wanted to do it from a heart point of view but there were a number of things just to get sorted," he said of his decision to continue on in the position for another tilt at Sam.

"A number of the management team live outside the country, the levels of commitment they take, other issues with the backroom team as regards availability of people. I just needed to see then the position with the county board over the next couple of years and also going into a 2018 season being labelled maybe as 'my last season' or something like that, I didn't want that to be hanging over it."

Mayo Football manager Stephen Rochford observing Ireland rugby training at Carton House in November ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

He also added that there are still a number of years of excellent service within the current Mayo panel.  

On maintaining the management team in place for consistency and continued progression, he said, "I think it would have been quite difficult to come back if, say, at least three-quarters of the management team weren't back. At least three quarters."

The nature of the role means criticism is always there for Rochford and his players and one headline remark - "tactically lions led by donkeys" - was hurtful for his family.   

"It wasn't something that I was aware of initially and I sort of got a call on the Monday morning after the Kerry drawn game," he said of the match when he made the bold move of putting Aidan O'Shea on Kieran Donaghy.

"Actually my sister in law had got married that weekend and I'd actually met up with them on the Sunday night just coming back. So we were in the hotel and I just went to tell my wife that my sister in law had overheard it and in the wider discussion that started to upset people that were there; an aunt of my wife's and my own family would have been a little bit disappointed with the headline.

"But I would have said afterwards, headlines are written and people make comments. People are pundits on a Saturday and experts on a Sunday and the element was that we were still in the game and we've learned lessons coming out of that game and we would look to put them into practice the following week. In essence what we want to get out of that tactical move, it doesn't necessarily need to be approved by s journalist or somebody on the radio or the TV."

He also stated that talk that Mayo intended to go on a warm-weather camp next April, which is due to be earmarked for club fixtures, was well wide of the mark and that it led to what was a "hysteria around what our planning was and what our preparations were".

He also feels that the structure puts every county in a "straitjacket".

"For me it's just putting every county in a straitjacket to say that everybody has to be the exact same. We've got half our squad in Dublin which means that we don't have that contact time with them during the week," he said. 


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