Photo: Sportsfile/Brendan Moran
The formal launch of the 2016 National Football League took place yesterday and Stephen Rochford was involved in it. What he had to say is covered in all of the nationals today – Irish Independent, Irish Examiner, Irish Times. There’s also coverage in The 42 and Hogan Stand.
The Indo focuses on the point Stephen made about the number of players we’ll be missing at the outset of this year’s League campaign. While this is portrayed very much as a negative, fifteen players out for Cork won’t come as a shock to any well-informed Mayo supporter. As they say in the financial news, this information has already been priced in by the market.
In fact, you could argue that the news on the injury front is actually quite good. This is particularly so in relation to Keith Higgins, about whom Stephen had this to say yesterday (this is from the piece linked above in The 42):
Keith Higgins is very very unlikely to play this weekend, we’ll just have to see how things go for him over the weekend in terms of his rehab for whether he’ll be available for Dublin the following week.
While I’m all in favour of Keith being eased back gently into action this year, it’s great that it doesn’t look like the timing for his return to the fray will be dictated by an injury requiring several weeks of rehab. I’m not sure we should be rushing him back in time to face Dublin but it’d be a real positive if he were fit and raring to go then.
In all of the pieces linked above, Stephen made clear that his target first and foremost for this spring will be to secure our Division One status for another year. In the Indo piece, he’s quoted as follows on this point:
It’s really looking to be able to accumulate whatever, six, seven points as quickly as possible and maybe that will go into the last couple of games as well.
Unsurprisingly, the journos did a bit of poking about on last year and the heave and all that but the new man was savvy enough not to provide the Fourth Estate with any tidbits to plaster across their articles. He stressed that his sole focus is on looking forward, not “peeking in the rear-view mirror”.
The article in the Examiner is particularly interesting, as it touches on Tony McEntee’s role as coach/selector in the new set-up. According to Stephen, the Crossmaglen man is already having a positive impact and that “the players have responded greatly to his voice in the dressing room and more importantly on the training field”.
Speaking of Tony McEntee, the Mayo News had the first part of an interview with him last week (here). In this, he made the point that he doesn’t buy the notion that the current squad have too much mileage on the clock and he reckons there’s every chance that this team could yet scale the summit. Much like the Armagh team he was part of finally did, after so many years trying, back in 2002.
The second part of that interview is, by the way, included in a special League supplement in this week’s Mayo News. I’ve spent a good portion of this morning pigging out on this supplement and it’s well worth getting your paws on it. There’s an in-depth interview with Jason Doherty in it, some good tactical stuff from Billy Joe Padden and loads, loads more. The paper also has, as you’d expect, extensive coverage of the heroic wins recorded on Sunday by Hollymount/Carramore and Ardnaree in their respective All-Ireland semi-finals.
The Mayo News (paper and digital variants) even has a positive story this morning on the player availability front. Aidan O’Shea, David Drake, Mikey Sweeney and Michael Hall, as well as long-term cruciate injury absentee Cathal Carolan, are all back in action and are all expected to be named in the match-day 26 for Cork. The team is due to be announced on Friday night after training.
Show your support for the lads ahead of the start of the new season: go to the Mayo GAA website (here) and click ‘Play Now’ to contribute to the cause via the Mayo GAA Players Training and Welfare Fund Lotto. The current jackpot stands at €7,100.