Stephen Rochford: Spirit in Mayo squad ‘second to none’

Mayo boss Stephen Rochford says the spirit within his squad is “second to none” ahead of the start of the new season.

Rochford was responding to questions in the wake of a recent interview by former Mayo joint managers Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes, who had claimed that the westerners’ All-Ireland title ambitions were being damaged by some “unchecked egos” in the Mayo panel.

Connelly and Holmes had also been extremely critical of a number of individual players, and had suggested that “outside influences” had become a distraction for some members in the squad.

However, speaking to reporters after yesterday’s FBD League defeat to NUI, Galway in Castlebar, Rochford said he wasn’t unduly worried about ‘things he couldn’t control’ — such as the aforementioned interview with his predecessors.

“I’m the manager of the Mayo team so my concern is about playing football, getting out, training, getting into games.

“[The interview] is outside my control. What I could control was us getting back here on December 29. We’ve put in a couple of good sessions, I’m really happy with the attitude and the response that I’ve got from the 2016 squad, and the players that we’ve called in.

“Things that are outside my control, I don’t tend to labour on them. The spirit within the squad is second to none.”

The majority of the squad who contested the All-Ireland final are currently in South Africa — but Rochford insisted it is not all play for them. “They’re there at the moment, they’re enjoying themselves as well as training quite hard. Conor Finn, one of our strength and conditioning guys, is with them. They’re in good form.”

Rochford was also asked if the revelations in the recent interview by Mayo’s former joint managers had made his job more difficult for the coming season. “Back on the day after I got the job, a man said to me: ‘You got one of the hardest jobs in football’.

“So it was a hard job 12 months ago, it’ll be a hard job for somebody in 12 months’ time. But that’s because we have a level of expectation, we have standards we have set, to be in Division 1, to be winning Connacht championships, we expect to be challenging for All-Ireland titles.

“That’s what makes the Mayo manager’s job difficult, or more challenging shall I say, more than difficult.

“And I look forward to that challenge, and it’s no different than it was 12 months ago.”

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