Rochford quits amidst lack of support: Who are the top contenders to replace him?

A lack of support from the Mayo executive from the All-Ireland qualifier defeat to Kildare to recent days compelled Stephen Rochford to step down as senior football manager yesterday.

With little in the way of an endorsement from board officials despite having two years of his agreement remaining, the 39-year-old felt he had no choice but to step away.

From an August 31 deadline being placed on him to put forward replacements for his backroom team of Donie Buckley, Peter Burke, and Tony McEntee to an unsatisfactory response to news of Peter Ford and Shane Conway coming on board alongside Joe Keane, Rochford sensed he didn’t have sufficient backing.

Although there was some disgruntlement from a few players about how the 2018 season finished, the Irish Examiner understands there was no major opposition to Rochford remaining at the helm next season.

Despite bringing Mayo to the cusp of consecutive All-Ireland titles, Rochford was informed his lieutenants would have to be approved. At a county board meeting last week, chairman Mike Connelly was reported to have said Rochford’s 2019 selectors “will be going back to the executive, the executive will be making the recommendations, and that recommendation will then be made to this board”.

On Sunday night, a message from the Mayo County Board’s official Twitter account read: “Following an executive meeting of Mayo GAA this evening the officers of the board were authorised to meet Stephen Rochford & his management team on their structures & plans for 2019.” It was this public declaration as well as what he had been informed about what was discussed at the executive meeting that completely convinced Rochford that he was not being backed sufficiently.

In a statement yesterday evening which confirmed rumours earlier in the day, he remarked: “After a meeting of the Mayo GAA Board’s Executive Committee last night, held to discuss the management team I had assembled to manage Mayo senior men’s team in 2019, the board issued a statement saying they wished to meet the management team and me about our structure and plans.

It was apparent from what transpired at that meeting that the desired level of support for me as manager was not forthcoming from the Executive Committee. This disappoints me greatly.

Accordingly, I see no value in meeting with the officers of the board and I am resigning my position as Mayo manager. I thank all those who supporters me during the past three years, two of which saw Mayo come so close to winning the All-Ireland title.

“In particular, I thank the players, backroom team, spouses and partners, family members, our team sponsors Intersport Elverys, the county board, the clubs and the Mayo supporters worldwide who turned out in huge numbers to support us during the three years and who lent financial backing to the team.

A special word of thanks to my wife Laura, and our children, and both our families, for their support and forbearance at all times.

“I wish all who will wear the Mayo jersey in 2019 and beyond every success and I look forward to supporting the footballing fortunes of the county.”

Less than an hour after Rochford’s statement was issued to journalists, the Mayo County Board reacted to his news with a statement issued on Connelly’s behalf: “We sincerely thank Stephen Rochford for all the hard work and commitment he has given to Mayo GAA since he was appointed in 2015. Stephen has given an enormous amount of service to Mayo and has given us as supporters many great days on the pitch.

Since he become senior team manager he has been involved in three great years for Mayo GAA. He has brought Mayo to two All Ireland finals, losing both by the narrowest of margins. We wish him and his family all the best for the future and thank him for all he has done for Mayo GAA.

The Mayo board declined to comment on a follow-up question about Rochford’s claim that he felt he did not receive “the desired level of support”. However, it’s believed some officials were dismayed by a third Connacht SFC defeat in as many years to Galway prior to the third round qualifier loss to Kildare.

The main contenders

James Horan

Has been keeping his hand in with Turloughmore hurlers and Westport’s footballers in the last couple of seasons while keeping a strong media profile with The Daily Star, Newstalk, and Sky Sports.

The 47-year-old said he would find it difficult to take charge of another county and he has never ruled out a second term with Mayo.

Jim McGuinness

His friend Paul McGinley spoke earlier this year of how there was something afoot for McGuinness later in the year, but the former European Ryder Cup captain appeared to be referring to soccer, where the 45-year-old has been earning his spurs of late.

Would seem a strange move only for what he’s put into his soccer managerial career but links with Mayo have never gone away.

Kevin McStay

Once bitten, twice shy could be the case here as McStay knows, like Rochford to his detriment, how the Mayo County Board works.

This season might not have ended on great terms for Roscommon but there is little doubt the 56-year-old and coach Liam McHale have brought on the county and made them a regular top-eight team.

Mike Solan

Guided Mayo to a famous All-Ireland U21 title two years ago before leading the county to the U20 final this year.

The Ballaghaderreen man, brother of Barry, has made major strides at underage level and could be the breath of fresh air that Mayo requires.

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