Only Mayo could make McStay come back

GAA

Ready to roll: Mayo senior manager Kevin McStay and his assistant manager Stephen Rochford. Photo: Sportsfile

Ready to roll: Mayo senior manager Kevin McStay and his assistant manager Stephen Rochford. Photo: Sportsfile

On Tuesday evening as the gloom of autumn settled in over Castlebar, the new and hopefully bright future for the Mayo senior team strode into the Dr Mickey Loftus Suite at the far end of the stand in Hastings Insurance MacHale Park.

Once upon a time, the manager was the be-all and end-all when it came to shaping the direction of a team, but in this modern world who is standing behind and beside the manager is equally important.

Before the event got under way a list with 13 names and their roles and responsibilities was handed out to the assembled press corp, with a line at the end stating that further appointments in other roles will be made shortly. It's no one man job any more and Mayo's new commanding officer Kevin McStay entered the room flanked by two of his most senior lieutenants, Stephen Rochford and Damien Mulligan, the former a man who had previously held the position McStay currently has in his charge.

For McStay the position is the culmination of a dream he has dared to dream before only to be overlooked, but this time following as he admits himself a rigorous vetting process he got the nod to take the big seat.

When he stepped away from the position of Roscommon manager in 2018, for all intents and purposes it seemed he was done with inter-county management, but Mayo was the one job to tempt him back into the cut and thrust of life on sidelines.

"I suppose you should never say never, should you really? But there was only one appointment obviously that would have changed that and it was my own county. And thankfully it has come to pass.

"And we just feel very privileged and very honoured to get the green light to manage Mayo football for the next four years and we are very focused on that now and we are really going to give it our best shot."

Having gone for the job twice before it would be natural for McStay to feel his chance had gone, but once the chance came up unexpectedly, in his eyes he had to go for it.

"I’m 60 now, I’d had a few goes at it. And I had no sense there was going to be a vacancy, I thought James would stay on for another year or two, he was doing really good work.

"I didn’t want the job just so I could say I was the Mayo manager, I want the job because I feel I have a lot to contribute and I feel I can make a difference. We feel we will make a difference, that remains to be seen, I can’t tell the future.”

Once Horan stepped aside, it didn't take the former army man long to decide to throw his hat in the ring and one of the first calls he made was to Stephen Rochford to see would he come on board as part of his team.

"Very quickly. I had some people in mind on a page, particularly this man to my left, Stephen, and I teased it out through a third party and you had a sense this could happen. And then I had a list of backroom guys I wanted to have with me and there wasn’t a plan B on that list.

"So once he said yes and a few more joined the team we were all in and that was very quickly, perhaps within two weeks. And then we started focusing on getting ready for the interview because we rightly anticipated it was going to be a very rigorous process.

"I want to commend Seamus and the board for that. They put together a serious interview group and I said in some earlier interviews, I have done a few military promotion interviews that I thought were tricky and difficult but this was just short of two hours so it was a very rigorous process. And when you look at the calibre of candidate that was up against our plans, you had Declan Shaw, Mike Solan, Ray Dempsey, very high calibre and the teams they brought to it it is a great marker for Mayo GAA that we could get that calibre of competition going for the position.

"That can only be good for Mayo and lots of those guys are in the backroom teams of other counties as we peak and that can only be good for Mayo, and no doubt Mayo will benefit they will come back in the future, no doubt that."

The workload of an inter-county manager is huge and McStay feels privileged to be at a stage in his life where he can dedicate the time to the role that it will take to get the best out of Mayo.

"The workload is outrageous. I am at a time of my life where I am essentially retired and I have the time to give it. Myself, my wife, my family, we agreed I would dedicate the next four years of my life to this challenge and so I have the space to do it."

That work both on and off the field is going to be condensed into an even smaller period of time if Mayo are to make it all the way to the end of the All Ireland series next year and the pre-season work will be key to that success, he explained.

"There are 20 games we reckon if you’re going to get to the end of the road and you have about 26 to 28 weeks to do it, so it’s game on game, and you can see why the preseason is our focus. Build out the backroom team, draft a panel, go to the club games, tidy up the panel, get ready for preseason, go through and bang hit the National League. That’s our own focus at the moment."

 

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