Mayo will be competitive next year, says Stephen Rochford

By Peter McNamara

Stephen Rochford is choosing not to believe it, but this is the end of an era of sorts for Mayo.

Bowing out to Kildare, numbers of the players within their squad have surely played their final game at senior inter-county level, including last year’s Footballer of the Year, Andy Moran.

Additionally, speculation is bound to mount regarding the futures of Colm Boyle and Keith Higgins.

However, those three players are not the only ones with plenty of mileage on the clock.

Yet, Rochford stated even if some were to exit stage left in the off-season, Mayo will still be extremely competitive in 2019.

"That has been something said since about 2014 so somebody was going to be right with it," Rochford mused. "I don’t necessarily think that’s going to be today.

"That group, there are four or five guys came into that group this season in their very early 20s. There are a lot of good quality players, Mayo have just won the (Connacht) U20 title.

"There may be some of them that won’t be available next season, but Mayo football will be competitive in 2019 - I have no doubt about that."

Rochford could well turn out to be right with his optimism.

Nevertheless, it is highly unlikely Mayo will achieve, in the not-too-distant future, what they really want to achieve and that is win Sam Maguire.

The group that has been in place up until now have given their supporters incredible memories from an incredible journey.

Unfortunately, though, the players will appreciate themselves that they ultimately failed in their quest to realise the dream of being All-Ireland champions.

As cruel as it sounds, you cannot have too much sympathy for them, however, due to the reality that they had so many opportunities to get over the finishing line, opportunities other counties would give their collective right arm for given how tough it is to position yourself within inches of the winners’ enclosure.

And no matter how many people defend their crusade, the players will have regrets because, internally, they will know their best chances of the most coveted glory has surely passed them by.

Which, in a way, is sad, obviously, and you can still reasonably understand why so many people feel for them, because there are so many names on their panel that have earned iconic status in the west in the last five to 10 years.

Moran, mentioned previously, would be a primary example of somebody you would feel for as not having collected a Celtic Cross.

Yet, there are countless examples of Herculean characters that have ended their careers without an All-Ireland medal.

Moran would fall into a category alongside the likes of Declan Browne and Tony Browne.

Or, in a Leeside context, the likes of Colin Corkery.

There are so many of these wonderful players without a Celtic Cross that you could nearly put teams together and have a computerised Fantasy All-Ireland SFC series.

And when you think of players like Declan Browne, in particular, you might feel a little less sorry for the likes of Moran and his teammates.

After all, the former could only dream of contesting in the number of highest-profile encounters that the latter crew did.

As illustrated, Moran was the recipient of the Footballer of the Year award in 2017. What Declan Browne would give to hold a Footballer of the Year award.

In fact, what Browne would have given to have played in All-Ireland semi-finals just so he would have had the opportunities to help Tipp reach a date with destiny in September.

All the players involved with Mayo these past five to 10 years earned the right to perform on these massive occasions. But, let us be totally honest, when you take into account the bigger picture and factor in just how many others were never so lucky, you could surely appreciate Mayo, as a panel, have had a remarkable adventure.

And who knows, maybe Rochford will be right, maybe there is more to come.

However, if not, which is, for this group, more likely to be the case in terms of capturing the All-Ireland title, nobody can say they did not have their opportunities.


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