O'Connor is 'captain material' - Rochford
By Cian O'Connell
Stephen Rochford is adamant that new captain Cillian O’Connor is the right man to lead the Green and Red this summer.
Ballintubber attacker O’Connor has been an influential figure for Mayo with Rochford highlighting his relevance to the Connacht Champions.
“He’s very much a leader and a guy that commands a lot of respect in the group and I have lot of time for from the behaviours he exudes to the group,” Rochford said at the Connacht Championship launch on Wednesday.
“The last number of years he has been in position to deliver day in, day out. For people that know him close up they would have expected him to be captain material and 2016 is his year.”
Regarding O’Connor’s injury problems Rochford replied: “The medics are happy and if they are, I’m happy. He has done a lot of work with a top class strength and conditioning team. He’s been back for maybe five weeks and played a number of club games and challenge games so I have no worries about that.”
Five members of Mayo’s All Ireland under 21 winning team - Diarmuid O’Connor, Conor Loftus, Michael Hall, Stephen Coen, and Brian Reape are all currently in the senior panel, but Rochford hasn’t ruled out the possibility of further additions during the summer. “I think we have to be mindful to remember that these guys are 19, 20 and 21 years of age,” Rochford commented.
“I think we all have a responsibility within the county of managing that level of expectation with that group. I think there was a number of guys that had made their debuts for Mayo that was on the previous All-Ireland U-21 winning team and a number of those guys that weren’t seniors at that time, it took them three or four years.
“Ger Cafferkey, Chris Barrett, all those guys are now stalwarts on the Mayo senior team. They didn’t play in the year they won the All-Ireland: it took a couple of years. I think we have to be mindful of managing that correctly and properly. Half that team are underage again next year.
“Whether we bring in one or two or decide to go with fellas over the age of 21, there is no hard and fast rule on it.”
Extra-time was required when Mayo last visited Ruislip, a tension filled afternoon that Rochford can recall. “I was listening to Mid West radio in my father in law’s and yeah I was wondering how this game was going to extra time.
“But no more than Leicester and Connacht on any given day teams can come up short if you are not focused and prepared properly.
“Obviously when I say Connacht and Leicester they have done it over a league campaign but it’s not always the favourites have a divine right to go to win a game.
“I remember looking thinking Mayo weren't going to have the summer they had when the beat Cork in the quarter final and for long patches of that All Ireland semi they were toe to toe with Kerry, but came up short.”
Following the provincial opener Mayo will remain in London for a training camp. “Everybody is aware that it's a common feature now amongst a lot of teams,” Rochford commented.
“It was about trying to manage the workload that was going to be on players. As part of our calendar, we were going to be going to an airport and travelling abroad.
“Instead of looking to do that at two different times of the year, we would manage that workload, minimize the upheaval or impact that would have maybe on club games and training loads. That's really been the point to why we're doing it at that time of year.”