Monday 22 January 2018

Hennelly kicks out at his critics and puts up staunch GPA defence

Rob Hennelly will again be between the posts for Mayo against Cork tomorrow Photo: Sportsfile
Rob Hennelly will again be between the posts for Mayo against Cork tomorrow Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Perhaps nothing demonstrates the changing role of goalkeepers more than last year's All-Ireland semi-final replay between Dublin and Mayo.

The game turned on two quick-fire Dublin goals, the first of which came after they won possession off a Mayo kick-out. Rob Hennelly drove the ball out after a 'hurry up' from referee Eddie Kinsella.

Hennelly's restart cleared his own 65, formerly the only measure of what made a 'good' kickout, but barely a dozen seconds later, Dublin had the ball in the net to level the game.

Another goal followed soon after, along with more Mayo heartache.

In an article the following week, Kerry legend Darragh Ó Sé pointed to that rushed kickout as the turning point in the game and an example of Mayo's failures. Hennelly's brain, he said, was "scrambled" and he laid much of the blame for the defeat at his door.

In the misery of the following week, Ó Sé's comments didn't escape Hennelly's attention.

"He did that in public but I did that kickout in public so it happened in public," Hennelly reflects now. "I was fully prepared for somebody to say something about it.

"But, as far as I was concerned, I still kicked the ball 60 yards. It was still out in the middle of the field. I didn't chip it to someone in front of me and it was kicked into the goal.

"Would I do it differently if I was doing it again? Yeah, absolutely, I'd put on my glove. But, that said, if I'd put on my glove and the referee came in and threw it up and they got a hop-ball and kicked a point, that would have been the changing point in the game.

"Darragh found his angle on it, and that's just his angle, it doesn't really make any difference to me.

"There was other moments that were focused on as well that people said were turning points, so there's always going to be that.

"I don't really give a sh*t if it's me that's the person that's singled out. That's just me, I know a lot of people mightn't take it.

"I'm not saying I thought it was a great article or anything, I think it was probably a bit of bullsh*t from Darragh.

"It's funny, I've obviously thought about it a lot and it would only be a former player that would really do that. You wouldn't see a journalist doing it. That's the way it is, it's unfortunate."

Hennelly's career hasn't always been straightforward. After joining the Mayo squad in 2009, he walked away in 2012 and watched that year's All-Ireland final from the stand.

These days he looks established as Mayo's No 1. He's also the panel's GPA rep and he took strong exception to Colm O'Rourke's recent attack on the players' body and some of the services they provide, saying he "found it hard to read".

The Meath legend believes the GPA aren't tackling the real issues affecting players and also wrote that now "young men are not as mentally tough in dealing with normal life issues as previous generations".

"He's comparing generations, saying his generation just got on with it and dealt with it and maybe inferring that our generation is soft and that they had it harder than us," says Hennelly.

"If you work in a corporate environment now, it's not easy, they don't care if you play football for Mayo, they need you having an output.

"I don't think it's fair for someone from his generation to comment on our generation that we should basically get a kick up the hole if we are depressed or something like that.

"An article on a Sunday that was a load of tripe. . . and people are agreeing with it which is worse, because it's so far away from what we should be talking about.

"It really does frustrate me as a player and as somebody who has had personal problems in the past.

"I'm very lucky that in my home environment I have a person of the same generation as Colm O'Rourke in my dad that if I went to him and said 'I've a problem' his answer wouldn't be 'you need a shoe up the hole and get on with it'. He'd understand."

And Hennelly is adamant that while some of the GPA's services are utilised by only a small minority, they are vital.

"It's the biggest honour ever to play county football. And the opportunities it gives you is unbelievable.

"And that's the thing about it. It's a lot of dedication. I hate the word sacrifice, it's not a sacrifice. Yes you have to put a lot of hours in to be a county player but I wouldn't change a thing about it.

"There are a lot of former players now speaking in the media taking swipes at the GPA.

"And fair play to them they are entitled to their opinion but they could be doing a lot more instead of running down our generation of players suggesting their generation was the golden era or whatever.

"They were at a different level. And the thing is a lot of the players that played in that generation would probably recognise that too."

Irish Independent

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