Danny Hughes: Great manager? The jury is out on Stephen Rochford

Mayo manager Stephen Rochford

What makes a good manager?

Is it about getting the tactics right on the biggest occasion?

Is it about motivating players to go above and beyond their capabilities?

Is it about winning and medals and trophies?

In truth, it’s probably all the above and more.

In American Football, any head coach or manager is statistically measured on how many winning seasons they have (in addition to the normal trophies collections).

Gaelic football is somewhat different and despite our amateur status, it is no longer truly relevant whether you win more than you lose, for the vast majority of those operating at inter-county level it’s about titles and medals.

Success is measured at the same level as the winners no matter what the circumstances.

This has catapulted players into a semi-professional lifestyle across the board, without the financial rewards of course.

As a person you will benefit both professionally and personally from playing at the top level in gaelic football and if you are smart about it you will use the associated status to your advantage.

I do not think that money or financial reward is motivating factor nowadays for the average inter-county player.

While I have always felt that players should receive more in terms of either tax breaks or advantageous benefits for everyday life items such as car insurance, for the vast majority representation at county level remains the pinnacle of one’s football career but nonetheless intrinsically rewarding.

It is worth noting that the current GAA system rewards the stresses and pressures of management and coaching however much as we choose to ignore this elephant in the room, players receive relatively little in comparison.

When you consider the stress of being a manager at inter-county level though, you have to simultaneously question also if it is worth it?

Take last weekend’s semi-final.

Stephen Rochford decided to play Aiden O’Sea at full-back on Kieran Donaghy.


It turned out that this particular tactic absolutely bombed.

A quote came to mind when I was watching the game unfolding, ‘the difference between insanity and genius is success.’

Indeed using the same definition, this was an insane move for Rochford to make.

Changing David Clarke after the drawn 2016 final also failed and while we all have the benefit of hindsight then and now, the facts are that Rochford has got a fair amount of ‘big calls’ wrong thus far.

As a manager he made those decisions for the right reasons, of that there is no doubt.

However I am not sure how long these decisions have been mulled over or indeed if these switches have been discussed with the wider management team.

It seems, like last year, there is no one sweeper identified.

Kevin McLoughlin, Colm Boyle and Keith Higgins have all played this position at various times.

Aiden O’Sea has played everywhere except goalkeeper at this stage without any real seasonal continuity.

You get the feeling that Rochford is making it up as he goes along.

You can guarantee that Colm Boyle will be substituted, as will Andy Moran in the majority of games.

Granted this didn’t happen last weekend, but it took something extraordinary for Moran not to be pulled ashore.

I wouldn’t bet against Andy being removed next Saturday as it’s very unlikely that any player would reproduce such a performance two weeks in succession against the same opposition.

For me though, there just doesn’t seem to be any consistent decision making along the line.

Changes are laid out before the game.

Match-ups are ill-thought-out or ignored totally in some cases.

And most of all, for the Mayo players it must be extremely frustrating.

They have provided so much to their own supporters and the country’s GAA fraternity in terms of entertainment and drama for the last decade.

So much so, that most supporters outside of Mayo would not begrudge this set of players an All-Ireland title.

The question is- would Mickey Harte or Eamon Fitzmaurice have won an All-Ireland with these same Mayo players?

Would Jim McGuinness have taken Mayo to the Promised Land in the same equivalent period?

For me, I’m afraid that the answer is ‘yes’ to this question, especially considering the three latter-named managers.

Without intending to, Rochford has let his players down on the big occasion too many times.

As a player, we talk about making the right decisions, at the right times, in the white heat of the battle.

That ability to make the right decision in the critical moment can be prepared for, but cannot be recreated or artificially simulated.

It takes experience, intelligence and in some cases a bit of luck.

They say you must lose many times, before you win.

And preparation takes the edge off bad luck.

So the tough mentality to accept emotive situations and to remain as unemotional as possible seems to differentiate managers who fail and those who succeed.

Rochford will be ultimately be judged as a manager on whether he wins an All-Ireland or not.

That is it.

Given 2016 and given some rather bizarre decisions this year thus far, he does not have very many more opportunities to secure a positive legacy.

The Mayo players for their commitment deserve to be beaten by better teams at this stage and not by a series of questions only their management can answer.

They deserve the right decisions to be made along the line.

The jury is out on Rochford.

The white heat of the battle on Saturday will be his next big test.


Tyrone will approach the most intriguing of semi-finals of the last few years with a renewed confidence.


Until this year, I have felt that Tyrone were still missing that inherent belief that offensively, they can out-shoot Mayo, Dublin and Kerry.

This is a game Mickey Harte and his players will have been preparing for the last three years.

I feel (after a series of devastating wins) that they are just at the right temperature and condition to play Dublin.

Do I think they can win? Yes.

However considering that Dublin are double All-Ireland winners, I think the legacy element will be a huge motivating factor and something that this Dublin team will look to cement.

This bunch of Tyrone players will win an All-Ireland in the future and I feel have easily surpassed their nearest rivals in Ulster in terms of playing power and ability to compete with Dublin and Kerry.

I would not expect the same entertainment value we experienced last Sunday at the Kerry Mayo game.

It will be no less a tactically intense game and I wouldn’t be expecting a free flowing affair.

Tyrone are what they are.

A team who have done what it takes to get to the stage to compete against a modern superpower.

For that, they deserve respect and Dublin will certainly honour them for that, however will be no less ruthless in dispatching them because of this.

Dublin to win marginally.




Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 for the first month to get full access


Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: