Nine times Stephen Rochford made massive calls and they paid off
As much criticism as we all love to dish out, sometimes you have to hold your hands up.
Stephen Rochford said that, when he took the Mayo job, he wasn't going to die wondering.
The county have tried it a certain way for so long and got agonisingly close but, time and time again, they came up short. What would be the point in him coming in and doing the exact same thing? Surely you'd rather try something different and, even if you failed and even if you were sacked after a year, you at least asked a different question.
This man asks questions every single week.
At times, you could probably say it's overboard. You could say it's tinkering for the sake of it and you could say that what looked like automatic substitutions being made for Colm Boyle and Andy Moran was a misunderstanding the games as they were presenting themselves.
Such an honest interview from Rochford https://t.co/J1ZrOpXFeP
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) August 23, 2017
But he makes the big calls all the time. He takes gambles and it doesn't matter if it's the first round of the qualifier or the All-Ireland final, he will go with what he thinks is the right decision even if he hasn't done it in the past.
He was strung up for changing goalkeeper in between the two finals last year but the facts were that David Clarke's kicking had put them in serious bother in the drawn match with Dublin and, in Rob Hennelly, he was reintroducing a man who had already served as number one for Mayo - he wasn't some untried rookie. The manager couldn't legislate for a ball that lands on the 'keeper's chest bouncing out of it.
It was a call that needed to be made - or so a lot of people would've agreed anyway - and he made it. On that day, it didn't pay off. On other days, it has.
Here are some inspired switches Stephen Rochford has conjured up in championship football during his time with Mayo.
1. Aidan O'Shea v Fermanagh
Six down at one stage, the tide needed turning so Rochford threw O'Shea into the full forward line and, whether you think it was a dive or not, the winning of the penalty was the moment that won Mayo the game.
2. Kevin McLoughlin v Kildare
Played in the sweeper role where he'd spend a lot of that summer from there on and Kildare didn't really know how to pick him up. Broke lines from deep, laid in team mates and, crucially, when big Aidan O'Shea followed Kevin Feely back to the edge of the square, McLoughlin was the one there to pick up breaks and double up.
3. Alan Dillon v Tyrone
Surprise inclusion in the starting team, raised eyebrows like a lot of Rochford's gambles do but this completely threw Tyrone. Dillon pushed up and played on the 45' and, for a lot of the initial exchanges, he was left completely isolated because the Ulster champions hadn't legislated for the extra man in the Mayo attack.
Their plan was to play Justin McMahon and Colm Cavanagh on their own 13 metre line but Dillon was causing havoc so McMahon had to push out and vacate the space before he was whipped off after 22 minutes. A masterstroke from Stephen Rochford and, in a game that was won by one point, it was pivotal.
4. Donal Vaughan v Dublin
Named at full back for the first game but picked up Paul Flynn and destroyed the four-time All Star.
Mayo knew that the Dublin wing forward would roam around the middle third and into defence as necessary but Vaughan ate up the yards around that area like nothing normal. He kicked two points that day, penetrated the champions something fierce and was deadly beneath the kickout.
To be honest, everything Mayo did that day was perfect. The two own goals just... ah f**k it.
5. Aidan O'Shea v Derry
Still hadn't been recalled into the Mayo lineup but he was a late inclusion in Castlebar and, if he hadn't played the whole match, Christ knows what would've happened.
Operated in midfield, caught ball like it was going out of fashion and won free after free driving into attack. The young Derry midfield really struggled with him.
6. Conor Loftus v Derry
His perfectly-timed impact off the bench probably hampered Rochford's vision when making the same call time and time again thereafter. In this game though, he was the hero whose goal rescued his county before kicking a beautiful point and, again, in a match that was drawn, every single point was absolutely vital.
When they were behind, Rochford backed himself and backed young Loftus to save them.
7. Jason Doherty v Cork
Hadn't started a qualifier match up until this game and looked to be out of favour until he was sprang against Cork. Won hard, dirty ball on the 45' and became the platform for Mayo to attack. Subsequently became the blueprint to undo Kerry's backline and completely annihilate Mark Griffin.
8. Lee Keegan v Roscommon
Enda Smith had been running riot for the Rossies, Lee Keegan licked his lips.
Kevin McStay admitted that they had no idea Mayo would make that positional switch of throwing Keegan into midfield but the Westport man not only spoiled Roscommon's biggest threat, but he scored 1-3 himself at the other end. Another very clever plan which no-one anticipated.
9. Aidan O'Shea v Kerry (replay)
Whilst the decision to play him at full back was much-maligned the first day, deploying O'Shea at number 6 was genius. This way, Mayo got the best out of him. He could still drop back under high balls that were launched on top of Donaghy and offer more brute strength there when needed but he was also free to rampage forward through the middle too.
It was a perfect concoction which freed up Keegan to occupy Kerry backs at the other end, it helped nullify the aerial threat and still allowed O'Shea to impact the game with his driving power.