Being brave should be applauded - not mocked

GAA: Comment

Being brave: Stephen Rochford has shown he's not afraid to make the big calls and back himself. Photo: Sportsfile

Being brave: Stephen Rochford has shown he's not afraid to make the big calls and back himself. Photo: Sportsfile

Opinions are like a certain body part - everyone has one - or so the saying goes; and since 3.34pm last Sunday - when Aidan O'Shea swung left and headed back towards the Davin Stand, plenty of them have been expressed on where he headed and where he stayed for the next 70 odd minutes.

The idea was thrown about in the week in the build up to the game that O'Shea was the man to take on Kieran Donaghy and stop the threat that the aerial ball into him has caused Mayo, more than few times over the last 11 years when it really mattered. Former Mayo player David Brady flew this particular kite first and copped a lot of flak for his suggestions - but even the entertaining raconteur that Brady has become through the media over the past number of years, probably did not really think it was going to happen.

The criticism came thick and fast from plenty of outlets for Stephen Rochford during and after the game for the decision, but as the days have passed a more considered tone has come to pass when it comes to reflecting on his decision. Mayo have come close plenty of times and there has been enough 'Monday morning quarterbacking' as to why they have come up short, why changes were not made, and going with what we know was the norm. That is not to level criticism at those who have gone before the Crossmolina man in the hot-seat, they did what they thought was the best thing to do, and like the saying goes "unless you've walked a mile in my shoes, don't judge me." There have only been four other men since 1951 who have lived that life and brought Mayo as close as they did to finally getting over the line. They rest of us are just onlookers, looking in from the outside - playing guessing games.

One thing that cannot be levelled at Stephen Rochford and his brains trust is that they are too cautious, when it has come to the big games in the past two years they have shown that they have the bravery and the conviction to make big calls that many never saw coming. That might not be to everyone's taste, but as they have made the calls and stood behind them you have to admire that. Moves like dropping Alan Dillon into the starting 15 for last season's All Ireland quarter-final against Tyrone, nullifying the Ulster side's double sweeper tactic worked to a treat. The decision to put Lee Keegan into midfield against Roscommon in the drawn quarter-final earlier this year, taking Enda Smith out of the game, and allowing Keegan to hit 1-3 and then tailing him into full forward line took everyone by surprise with Roscommon manager Kevin McStay saying he had not seen it coming. In last year's replay of the All Ireland final, the decision to bring Robert Hennelly into the game did not work out, but the reasoning of why they chose to was well thought out and considered. It has been a decision that has been hung around his neck since, but Rochford has taken the flak that came with it and shown that he is still ready to make the tough calls and not play it safe.

As for the man himself who went into the full back position last Sunday, he has had to deal with plenty of comment and conjecture over his performances on the big days for Mayo in the past and his role within the team. But whatever notions people may have about him being an individualistic player - he showed once again that he is team player, not afraid or wanting to shirk a new challenge and do what is requested of him for the good of the team. Come tomorrow afternoon at 3.01pm, all eyes will be trained on whether he swings left and heads back towards his own full-back line again. At that stage, it will all come down to the bounce of a ball and the grace of whatever gods you may believe in, but at least for the Mayo management, players, and all involved, they will not die wondering come 4.30pm, they will have placed their faith in themselves and their own abilities and you cannot hope for anything more than that.

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