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Comment: Robbie Hennelly abuse highlights how attention junkies have bought the social media lie


Robert Hennelly of Mayo takes down Paddy Andrews of Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Robert Hennelly of Mayo takes down Paddy Andrews of Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Robert Hennelly of Mayo takes down Paddy Andrews of Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

IT was while reading Joey Barton's autobiography last week that a thought struck.

The bad-boy of soccer offers mitigating circumstances for his sometimes cruel and often bizarre bullying behaviour. But like any bully, there is a repressed sensitivity too. He admits to spending 'crazy' amounts of time searching for his name on Twitter and other social mediums to find people abusing him.

Before he could contextualise it, it stung. But at least he had the phenomenal footballer wages to console himself. While at QPR, he was on £70,000 a week.

Rob Hennelly, Mayo goalkeeper, had some scandalous stuff directed towards him on social media after his errors in Saturday's All-Ireland final.

Here we present a section of some of the comments from the heroes of Twitter;

Niall McCauley; 'I've never laced a pair of football boots in my life but I'd honestly have put in a better shift than Rob Hennelly did today'

Rob Flynn; 'That's two finals you've f***** up hennelly'

Ricky Power; 'Rob Hennelly you are a joke'

On Monday, Hennelly himself posted up a picture of that fateful moment when he was shown a black card by referee Maurice Deegan after conceding a penalty. In a classy Instagram post, he admitted; 'What I was expecting to be one of my best days turned out to be the opposite, and it breaks my heart that I didn't come through for my team and county…

'I don't know where I'll be in a year's time, but I do know that I'm not going to give up. I love Mayo and this team too much to do that.'

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He got a lot of support, too. Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern came out for the Goalkeeper's Union and tweeted, 'Hard luck yesterday Rob. Days like that make success taste even sweeter when it comes.'

By now, a mini-industry of books and academic studies have been written on how technology and social media are changing how our brains are wired.

The stimulus of 'likes' and 'retweets' are highly addictive for people who, whether they realise it or not, are attention-junkies. Even our phones have become too pervasive in everyday society.

Even though I don't use a smart phone, I have been pulled up enough times on  the bad habit of answering a text message instantly while in company. 

The Olympic boxer Kenneth Egan was on Newstalk radio last Thursday examining the nature of addictions and made the point that the next epidemic is literally in our own hands. We have bought the lie that we have never been more connected, but for many, they are growing isolated.

A shortcut to a bigger social media following comes with outlandish tweets and posts. It soon becomes an arms race when nothing is left unsaid.

But others know better. Like Rob Hennelly. A few months ago Anthony Casey had a tough day in goal for Cork against Mayo in the All-Ireland  under-21 final. Hennelly tweeted that day; 'I think it has to be said that Anthony Casey is a fine keeper with a big future and today won't define him or his career by any means.'

Ultimately, the greatest text written on the nature of criticism, and the willingness to take on a challenge, is the famous 'The man in  the arena' speech by Theodore Roosevelt, delivered in Paris, April 1910.

Anybody would benefit from looking up the full text, but the closing lines are particularly poignant.

'…Who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.'

Hennelly knows defeat, and victory. And he will be back for more. Everything else is just hanging around.



SOME time ago, the Dunloy and Antrim GAA die-hard Tony Shivers walked into the offices of Legacy Consultants, the sports and entertainment agency of which Bernard Brogan is the commercial Director.

He was there to meet Bernard's cousin, Managing Director James Brogan, for advice on how Antrim could be a little more like Dublin.

Right now, the contrast could not be more stark, to the naked eye. Antrim football has made incremental progress over the last twelve months, but the lack of Championship wins are what supporters ruminate on over the winter.

On the hurling side, the Saffrons have lost their identity. The new management fully admit they are starting from Ground Zero again.

In conversation with Shivers this week, he recalled, "I had studied the Dublin model with AIG and the other companies. I thought, 'if we were getting everything right with Antrim, we could go to the right people and they would knew where the money was spent, where it was going to be used.'"

The result of this is The Saffron Business Forum. They will be hosting an event this Friday night at the Malone Lodge Hotel (beginning at 7.30pm for any other business or interested parties to attend), where they are expecting a minimum of 75 businesses, all with a view to supporting Gaelic games in Antrim. 

Already they have made their presence felt. The hurling club Championship is sponsored by Bathshack. The football Championship has Northern Switchgear.

Imagine the potential for Antrim as a county if they can harness their undoubted commercial potential?

"Having studied the Dublin model, while we are not Dublin, we are allowed to dream and this is the first step on the path of catching up," said Shivers.

"We hope that this is successful because the money would be spent in the right way, in Development Squads and infrastructure projects which are needed."

Complimenting their progress, is the grand opening of Dunsilly, Antrim's dedicated training ground, on October 15th, when Director-General Paraic Duffy will be doing the honours.

Further details to follow in the coming days.

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