"It hurt all of us when Rob was struggling or when he was down" - Breaffy team-mate O'Shea backs Hennelly for a big one 1 year ago

"It hurt all of us when Rob was struggling or when he was down" - Breaffy team-mate O'Shea backs Hennelly for a big one

Life in the goals can be a cruel station and nobody knows it better than Robbie Hennelly.

One mis-step, after all, was all it took for his 2016 All-Ireland final replay to turn into a living nightmare which, you suspect, will only truly be forgotten about if this Saturday goes well. It's been five long years.


The Mayo player who, in the mean-time, hasn't dropped a ball or hasn't committed a foul has not been made yet but because Hennelly is a goalkeeper and because of the stage it happened on, his toughest day, mentioned by commentators and referenced by spectators, goes around with him like a cross.

That's one hell of a penance. Joe Brolly called it a 'heart-warming PR exercise' in 2016 when, two days after his mistake, Hennelly took to Instagram to thank those who had reached out to him. Hennelly's message was a dignified one but from men like Brolly, the criticism rolled in.

"I told a brilliant young man Anthony Casey that that one game wouldn't define him, and today, and probably for a while to come, I'll be telling myself the same thing," Hennelly began, in reference to a Cork under-21 goalkeeper who conceded five goals on a bad day out.

"It is not a good place to be, but I know I have to come back from it, I still believe I have something to offer this team and my county, so now is not the time to relent.


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

"Mhaigh Eo Abú"

"Rob Hennelly seems a good lad," was Brolly's take, "but was no sooner out of the shower than he was embracing his experience, as though it were some noble tragedy," the Derry-man added, in his Sunday Independent column.


To Hennelly's credit, he has lived by those words above. He hasn't given up, he has regained his place as Mayo number one and with a tremendous season behind him, he is one of the main reasons why they will contest this weekend's All-Ireland final against Tyrone.

As both a club and county team-mate, Seamus O'Shea knows better than most what Hennelly went through in the aftermath of the 2016 replay but heartbreak aside, what O'Shea keeps coming back to is the mental fortitude this man has shown, the strength of character that has brought him back.

"We all make mistakes out the field that have far less implications for the team," says O'Shea, "but if a goalkeeper does it, it's the end of the world."

"It hurt all of us when Rob was struggling or saw him down. He's a huge character within the squad. He has been a huge character for years, driving the craic around the place and for a lot of those years, you have to remember, David Clarke has been the number one."


But as he touched on in that Instagram, far from individual praise, Hennelly is here for his teammates and for Mayo.

"His performance (in 2016) hasn't affected his personality around the place," continued O'Shea. "Certainly, on the pitch at the moment, he's playing great football, and it's great to see it."

"I was delighted for him. I think he'll take huge confidence from it. He's been steady all year. I know he got a lot of the headlines the last day because he kicked the 45, and a number of frees as well, but he was outstanding from kickouts generally. The same in the Galway game - I think he lost one or two kickouts in the whole game. He was brilliant. Even outside of the frees, which will obviously get the headlines, he's just been really, really steady throughout the year. He's picking out fellas really well.

"I'm thrilled for him, and he'll take huge confidence from his performances over the last while."

One more big one is all he needs.