Lorcan Doherty/INPHO
# the comeback
Rochford's Mayo return - 'I loved every minute, even with difficult times'
Stephen Rochford is back with Mayo as assistant manager and coach.

IT ENDED BADLY. There is no sugar coating that fact and Miriam O’Callaghan certainly didn’t. On the morning of the 2018 All-Ireland final, Stephen Rochford appeared on the RTE show. He had stepped away as Mayo manager just six days earlier.

Rochford was dignified and reasonable throughout. Some of the texts read out on the programme were the opposite. He had brought the county as close as anyone before he had to resign due to a lack of support from the executive committee but that didn’t afford him a fond farewell. 

“If he’s struggling to understand why he’s in this position now, playback this interview to him. He won nothing with Mayo, brought in no new players and brought nothing new to the table,” declared one armchair critic. 

stephen-rochford James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Fast forward to 2022. Rochford is sitting alongside Kevin McStay beneath the main stand at MacHale Park in Castlebar for their first press night. He is back as coach and assistant manager. Unscarred from his previous experience.  

When the chance came to join McStay’s ticket, he jumped at it. 

“It wasn’t long and hard by any means; a quick reflection just as regards the role Kevin had set out to me but I think within 24 hours we were sitting down planning ahead,” he explains. 

“No more than what Kevin has said, being involved with Mayo it’s seven or eight years ago. It was a big job and I was involved in it and I loved every minute, even with difficult times but I really loved it.

“The opportunity to come back and work with Kevin and seeing the plans that he had in place made that decision quite simple.”

Rochford took Mayo to two All-Ireland finals during his tenure. They lost to Dublin by a point after a replay in 2016 and by the same margin to the same opposition in the 2017 decider. 

Is it a case of coming back for unfinished business? 

“I wouldn’t necessarily say unfinished. Each year is its own year, you move on. It’s a new squad. There are new people to it. It’s a new management team.

“Mayo are still a top team in my eyes. They are competing at the very top and also as I said there, Kevin’s wider plan was the type of vision I was attracted to work with and we were very much on the same page on where we wanted to go with it.”

The backroom team is familiar to him. Damien Mulligan was a Crossmolina team-mate. McStay was his U21 coach. Donie Buckley worked with him during his previous stint and Liam McHale was a childhood hero.

In recent years he was a coach with Donegal and experienced the bearpit that is the Ulster championship. Even still, the pressure out west is on another level. 

You certainly don’t need to tell Stephen Rochford that. 

“No pressure, Kevin. No pressure at all. Don’t mind them,” he says with a laugh and a nod towards McStay.

“Look, I as a Mayo man want to see Mayo competing at the very, very top. If you are at the top there’s going to be pressure. It just comes with the territory.

“I’m happy to share that pressure, it comes with the territory. I hope we go long into the seasons and if that cranks up, so be it.”

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment

    Leave a commentcancel