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History repeats itself once again

Sean Rice

Seán Rice

IT has come as no surprise that Stephen Rochford has quit after three years as manager of the Mayo senior team. The shenanigans that have surrounded his appointment would have tested the patience of Job, never mind the tolerance of the genial Crossmolina native.
His resignation falls neatly into the plans of the County Board. Their wish has been fulfilled. All of their silence, all their posturing, all their lack of communication, all the insincerity emanating from one direction in recent weeks has come to a head in one massive collective desire to end the managerial reign of a good manager and a decent man.
Ever since he took up the reins the Ballinrobe resident has been the target of vituperative critics from within, and without, the County Board for not humping Mayo over the line in Croke Park.
Better performances against Dublin than any other county have been lost amid the invective aimed at Rochford for no reason other than failing to do what no other manager has done in 65 years. The rumours, the gossip, the mean, unfounded allegations finally found their mark.
He came with the principal qualification of having led Corofin to an All-Ireland club title and, in that capacity, earned plaudits not just alone for winning, but also for the manner in which he prepared his squad for that title.
Rochford will be the first to admit that he made some mistakes. But those who contributed to recent defeats cannot be exonerated.
It was no fault of the manager that Mayo’s loss to Galway last year resulted from the dismissal of Keith Higgins before the interval. Nor could the dispatch of Donal Vaughan in last year’s All-Ireland final, which had a big bearing on the outcome, be attributed to the manager.
Nor, let it be said, could the red card issued to Diarmuid O’Connor in Mayo’s championship match with Galway earlier this season, and which was the decisive issue in their defeat, be ascribed to Rochford.
A regular complaint was the manager’s reluctance to use players from the All-Ireland winning Under-21 side. He did use five, two permanently and others, judiciously, as the occasion demanded.
Outside influences, rather than conscientious assessment of applications, seem to dictate the selection of Mayo senior team managers. Their reluctance to make contact with Rochford for well over a month is the prime cause of the undercurrents that surrounded his stewardship.
It implies that there was no enthusiasm for the manager to carry on even though his term had been extended for two further years. And in his resignation statement Rochford confirms that conclusion.
“After a meeting of the Mayo GAA Board’s Executive Committee last night, held to discuss the management team I had assembled to manage Mayo senior men’s team in 2019, the Board issued a statement saying they wished to meet the management team and me about our structure and plans.
“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. 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.”  

IN the next few days we’ll hear feint plaudits from the powers-that-be of the good work Rochford has done. A word of thanks has already been issued by the chairman of the Board but, in the wake of the long silence and the negativity from the County Board that followed Mayo’s defeat by Kildare in the Qualifiers, that praise sounds hollow. Better the silence than false praise.
Vacuums give rise to equivocation and all sorts of gossip and rumour. A convincing management team could have been formed with Rochford and Peter Ford running things. They would have made a capable duo.
Isn’t it time Mayo GAA Board got their act together? Have they learned nothing from previous selection appointments?
Controversy has surrounded many of their appointments in recent years. Before James Horan was elected, Tommy Lyons was the front-runner and apparently informed that his appointment was imminent. Fortunately, Horan’s engagement, in hindsight, was an inspired success. But that does not excuse the way it was handled.
On another occasion an official travelled to Kerry to seek the interest of the jaded Mick O’Dwyer in the post without scrutinising fresher talent closer to home. The disgraceful handling of the application of Kevin McStay for the post a few years back leaves a stain on the county that has not yet been removed.
This latest episode does nothing to enhance the reputation of an administration that seems to be ruled by influences on social media rather than by any sense of genuine evaluation of applicants’ bona fides.
So who is next to experience the unpredictability of the Mayo Board in their selection of managers? Jim McGuinness, they say, is the man. If the former Donegal manager is unfortunate enough to accept the post, he will learn that Mayo is a different kettle of fish.
Is it now time a system were put in place that would eliminate the shameful farce that the appointment of senior team managers in this county has become?

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