Stephen Rochford’s acrimonious departure from Mayo has been handled similarly to the last heave against the management team three years ago: Badly.
The dogs in the street knew for the last week or so that trouble was brewing out west. There were murmurings that the players weren’t happy.
Then, we were told Peter Ford and Shane Conway were coming in to fill the void vacated by Tony McEntee and Donie Buckley, but it’s clear the players had problems with the set-up going forward and have played some part in Rochford going. I think there can be no doubt about that.
Rumours were just rumours but it has come to pass in the last 48 hours and it looks as if the players have gone to the county board and exerted influence again. He would have loved one more shot at it, but the outcome of it all is that Rochford finds himself jobless.
After three years in charge, and three years since Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes were ousted by player-power, it probably was time for Rochford’s tenure to be looked at more scientifically.
They loosened their grip on the Connacht title, but came so close twice to winning the All-Ireland. Did they have a style of play, though? I don’t think so. A school report of Rochford’s tenure would say he did a satisfactory job, but that just isn’t enough in Mayo and that’s why he finds himself where he is today.
Rochford says his decision is not based on any issue with player support. We probably won’t know, or know any time soon, and there won’t be any public statements on the matter, but if it’s actually the case that any players went to the county board to voice concerns, then they are under even more pressure than ever before.
Rochford probably did not hear those concerns directly, but the way I see it and what I have heard is that the Mayo players went directly to the county board to make their feelings known. The players are coming off their worst year in a long time, so the good news for the new manager is that he will have the freshest, hungriest Mayo team available to him. They finished up in June, so they will be eager and ready to go in 2019.
The talk is that Jim McGuinness is the guy they want and there are people in America with the necessary finance to make that happen.
His arrival would mean people would sit up and take Mayo seriously again.
He would be inheriting a very good panel of players and there’s still two or three months club football left in this season to inherit a few more. A lot of those Mayo lads on the cusp of the panel will have a year’s more club football under their belt and the criticism that Rochford did not inject enough new blood into the system would soon be forgotten.
The question mark, as always, is can they finish the job?
The way McGuinness plays football comes down to making the right decisions, and we aren’t talking about a Mayo team who are a million miles away, it’s just their decision-making in the last 10 minutes has cost them.
If it’s not Jim, then maybe there is somebody else there who is interested and has those credentials.
Just like teams threatened with relegation from the Premier League, Mayo will be looking for the tried and tested, not someone on the managerial merry-go-round either.
Certainly, however, they won’t be taking a punt on an inexperienced manager. The next appointment is far too important for that.
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