If Stephen Rochford’s second season with Corofin is anything to go by, Mayo could be in for a treat next year.
As a Galway man, Gary Sice hopes that isn’t the case but knows from experience just how Corofin benefited from Rochford getting more acquainted with his players in 2014-15 when they conquered county, province and country.
“The first year he was getting to know individuals and creating relationships – the same with any manager. You see it at inter-county level as well. Oftentimes, the second year is the best year because they know the group.
“We really got to know Rochy and he got to know us and a few lads came of age. I won’t say they had been languishing but they had been in and out of teams and stuff and he really got a hold of them and said, ‘Look, this is what I need from you’. Our guys stepped up and provided it and as a team we excelled.”
Man-management is just one of Rochford’s qualities, says Sice. “He has a lot of fortes. He has a lot of stuff going for him and that was one particular one we needed in the group and he brought it. In saying that, he had a good group to work with, so it was a good gel.”
Sice puts Galway’s Connacht semi-final win over Mayo down to the upheaval this time last year than Rochford only getting to know his panel. “I don’t know what to expect from that group. We beat them in June. So I’m looking forward to playing them again, that’s the long and short of it.
“We’ve played them this year and saw some chinks. I suppose they had the turmoil over the Christmas and we capitalised on it. He’ll have his own thoughts on it and he’ll do it his own way.
“He’ll change it up and things that you or me could talk about here, I don’t think he’ll be thinking about them. He does things a little bit differently and that group will do whatever he asks because that’s the kind of individual he is.
“They’re a strong group obviously and they’ve been to All-Ireland finals over and over and over, just not getting over the line. Whether they can come again or not, we’ll see.”
This Sunday’s clash with St Brigid’s brings back plenty of memories of previous tense clashes between the pair. Karol Mannion’s wonder goal in injury-time of the provincial final 10 years ago is a stand-out moment.
“I was only talking to him this morning about it. I said, ‘Look, no goalkeeper, 15 balls, I’ll put a patch in the goal, hit the patch’. And he admitted in fairness to him that, no-way, he’d do it. It was a sickener!
“We learned a valuable lesson from that. We should have taken his head off. We had 14 men for 58 minutes of that game and were cruising two points up.
“There were seven minutes of over-time. Where that came from, I don’t know. He let rip, and in fairness... I’m still convinced he wasn’t going for that, I think he let rip.
“There’s no way, he was 32 or 33 yards out, Jesus Christ you wouldn’t try it in a schools game, it was a ridiculous effort but that’s Karol Mannion. It made us stronger as a group, we came back and got to two All-Ireland semi-finals after that and we met two All-Ireland champions in a row, Galls and Kilmacud so we learnt a lot from it.”
Could he do it again in Carrick-on-Shannon?
“He’s not going to run 50 yards with the ball and stick it in the top corner at the weekend.” says Sice with a smile.
“With the help of God, he won’t anyway, hopefully.”
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