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‘There will be no talk of All-Irelands’ – Stephen Rochford sets out his stall as Mayo manager

First things first as the new Mayo boss prioritises the league campaign and Connacht championship.

Image: Mike Shaughnessy/INPHO

STEPHEN ROCHFORD SAYS he can’t wait to get started as Mayo manager as he considers it a huge honour to be asked to take charge of his native county.

Rochford, who guided Corofin to three Galway SFC titles as well as the All-Ireland club title earlier this year, said that taking charge of the Green and Red was an ambition since he decided to go into coaching.

“It is a huge honour to be asked to manage your native county and it has been an ambition for some time. You just never know when you are going to get an opportunity so I’m grateful to be given the chance.

This is a huge football county, it means an awful lot to the people, and you want to try and honour that passion.

“The fact that Mayo have been operating at the top end has increased that interest, and it is a credit to the people who have gone before,” said the Castlerea based bank manager.

Rochford said he will be using next year’s league campaign to experiment as much as possible to fashion a team for a big championship assault.

And he said that he would be taking on board any learnings gleaned from the fall-out which resulted in Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes stepping down after just a year following a heave by players.

Rochford, who was appointed on Monday night for a three-year spell, said that while what happened can’t be ignored, they need to move on.

“It is unfortunate what happened. There is a mediation process ongoing between the players and county board and we will take on board any significant learnings from that,” said the Crossmolina native.

Rochford, who cut his coaching teeth with Crossmolina, GMIT and Ballinrobe where he lives, while still playing, got his big break in management when he was approached by Corofin three years ago.

He expects to have his first meeting with the squad the weekend after next, with an extended squad being drawn up for the FBD League and into the national league.

The fact that three Mayo teams — Castlebar Mitchels in senior, Holloymount Carramore at intermediate and junior side Ardnaree — have all won Connacht club championships will further deplete his resources in January and February.

“These are all challenges. We are not going to be dwelling on taking up the job at this point or anything like that. It is what it is, all of us involved are more than familiar with Mayo football.

We will experiment during the league, we will want to maintain our Division One status and if we get more from it then that’s good. But there will be no talk of All-Irelands or anything like that. Connacht will be very competitive and we want to prepare for that.

“Our first FBD League game is four weeks from next Sunday so we have plenty to do, but I think we have assembled a strong management team.

“We have continuity in the likes of Donie Buckley and Barry Solan, Tony McEntee will bring a different dynamic to it and Sean Carey will also bring freshness.

“But it is important, no matter what sport you are in, whether professional or amateur, that there is not a clean sweep. I would like to think we have got the mix right and we are all looking forward to the challenge,” added Rochford.

It will probably be the weekend after next before he pulls the squad together for their first full meeting but Rochford can’t wait for the job to begin as a new era starts for Mayo football.

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John Fallon

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