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The timeline of a chaotic few weeks in Mayo GAA leading up to Rochford's departure

Between Mayo men and Carnacon ladies, it’s been a busy month in the county.

Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

EVEN BY MAYO standards, it’s been a madcap couple of weeks in the county.

Last night, Stephen Rochford confirmed his resignation as Mayo manager citing a lack of ”a desired level of support” for him to continue in the role for a fourth season.The 2015 All-Ireland club winning Corofin manager agreed on a two-year extension to his deal last October, which was supposed to bring him up to the end of 2020.

But the search for Rochford’s successor is now underway, with former boss James Horan one of the leading contenders to replace him. 

The ladies game is also in turmoil in the county after reigning All-Ireland club champions Carnacon were thrown out of the Mayo championship last week for “bringing the game into disrepute.”

Carnacon were punished for withdrawing their players from the Mayo squad during the summer and are set to have their appeal heard with the Connacht Council this week. 

On a positive note, the county board also announced plans for a new Centre of Excellence in Castlebar’s Lough Lannagh last week, but that’s been overshadowed by other off-field matters. 

In the aftermath of Mayo’s All-Ireland round 3 qualifier exit to Kildare in Newbridge back in June, Rochford indicated he would take some time out before making a decision on his future. 

“The group will dust themselves down over the winter and look to re-energise to come again in 2019,” Rochford stated.

“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) Under-20 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.

“That would be the case no matter when you go out in the championship – it isn’t necessarily a knee-jerk reaction to going out in round three. We have two years left on our term so I don’t want anyone reading into that either way.

“It’s just a case of reflection which would happen if you went to the last Sunday in the competition as well.”

There were several twists and turns before Rochford’s eventual resignation last night.

TIMELINE OF EVENTS

23 July - Mayo county board chairman Mike Connelly says he expects Rochford to remain in charge for a fourth campaign, but they’re giving him a month to make his mind up. He also speculates there might be changes in his backroom team.

“There’s a lot of rumours that Donie Buckley isn’t going to be there and maybe Peter Burke (too),” Connelly tells the Western People. “We haven’t been told this but I presume that if that is happening, that (Stephen is) talking to whoever is remaining in his backroom and planning for next year. He was at the All-Ireland U20 semi-final in Carrick on Shannon so I presume he was there for more than one reason.”

1 August – It emerges that long-serving coach Buckley and goalkeeping coach Burke have both informed Rochford that they will be stepping down from their roles. It appears that Tony McEntee will be joining them.

14 August - Rochford officially commits to remain in charge of Mayo for the 2019 season. He also informs Connelly that Buckley, Burke and McEntee will not be continuing in their roles as part of the Mayo management team, while selector Joe Keane will remain in place.

15 August - Mayo forward Jason Doherty expresses his relief that Rochford is staying on. “Stephen has done some great work with us over the last number of years,” he said at a media event in Croke Park.

“We have definitely developed our game and new selectors coming on board will bring in new ideas and as a player you look forward to that, the anticipation of who will be in.”

16 August - Connelly and four other county board officials meet with Cillian O’Connor, Tom Parsons and Aidan O’Shea for an annual review meeting in MacHale Park, Castlebar.

17 August - The board meet with Rochford in MacHale Park and he informs them he is in the process of putting together a new backroom team.

21 August - At a Mayo LGFA county board meeting in the TF Royal Hotel, the agenda turns to whether Carnacon should be punished for withdrawing their players from the county squad. The delegates present vote 29-4 that Carnacon had breached rule 288 of the LGFA official guide. They vote 26-2 in favour of removing Carnacon from the rest of the 2018 league and championship.

23 August - Mayo GAA unveil plans to for a new three-pitch centre of excellence in Castlebar, in co-operation with Mayo County Council.

23 August - Carnacon confirm they are in the process of preparing an appeal to the Connacht LGFA over their expulsion from the club championship. “Understandably, the entire panel, management, club officers, our families and supporters are devastated by the sequence of events which have transpired,” it says.

23 August – At a county board meeting, Connelly tells club delegates that Rochford has been given a deadline of Friday 31 August to come up with names for his backroom team for 2019.

24 August - Mayo defender Chris Barrett is non-commital on Rochford staying in charge. “I’m not going to go too much into that at the moment because I’m not sure if it’s all rubber-stamped,” Barrett told the press at a Londis GAA event.

“He’s putting together his team at the moment. Continuity is great in football and it’s probably a key thing that it keeps going. Obviously there’s a shake-up in the backroom team so we’ll see who comes in.”

25 August - It emerges through media reports that Breaffy’s joint managers Peter Ford and Shane Conway have agreed to come on board as selectors under Rochford for next season. Ford previously managed  Sligo and Galway, while Conway is a respected coach on the club circuit.

26 August - Mayo county board release a statement through their official Twitter account stating that officers of the board had been “authorised” to meet with Rochford and his management set-up to discuss their plans for 2019.

26 August - Rochford meets with the board’s executive committee as planned. It’s expected they’ll ratify his new backroom team of Ford and Conway. Although the exact details of the meeting have not come out, it’s believed they did not endorse his new selectors.

It has also been speculated that the executive members were not happy that the names of new management team made their way into the public domain prior to the meeting.

Later in the evening, speculation on social media begins to mount that Rochford will tender his resignation. 

27 August – Connelly confirms to Midwest Radio and The Connaught Telegrah that Rochford remains the manager of Mayo.

Hours later, Rochford releases a statement confirming his decision to step down as manager. “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,” he said. “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 supported me during the past three years, two of which saw Mayo come so close to winning the All-Ireland title.”

Mayo release a brief statement thanking Rochford for his three years at the helm.

“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.”

28 August - The search begins for Rochford’s successor with Horan, Jim McGuinness and Mike Solan the early frontrunners.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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