LOOKING TO THE FUTURE Evan Regan, Rob Hennelly and Tom Parsons are pictured at the Mayo team's homecoming at MacHale Park, Castlebar last Sunday evening. Pic: Conor McKeown
CARDS on the table time. This writer knows Rob Hennelly well. It was 11 years ago that we had to bring him into a Breaffy minor team for the county final after our regular ’keeper, Mayo minor Ciarán Barnicle, got injured a week beforehand.
Hennelly was only under-15 at the time, and was pitched into his minor debut for a county final. He was rock solid, we beat Crossmolina and we knew we had a serious talent on our hands.
It was readily apparent too how good a guy we had. Rob has always been courteous, open, and is a hugely popular personality in the club. People warm to him.
He just has a lovely way about him.
Were what happened to him on Saturday to befall David Clarke, Stephen Cluxton or any other goalkeeper, Rob would be the first one to feel for them.
That’s not just talk.
After Mayo won the All-Ireland under-21 final earlier this year, Rob was quick to show support for the Cork goalkeeper Anthony Casey, who made mistakes in Ennis. He’s done invaluable work in the promotion of mental health issues through the GAA’s ‘Little Things’ initiative. Empathy and kindness are two of his best qualities.
Now it’s Rob who is under the spotlight. You would be a cruel and cold person if your heart does not go out to him this week. In Breaffy, we know this will hurt him, but we know his spirit is strong too.
He’ll have to go to Ballindine on Saturday and play in goal in the club championship. I’m sure it’s the last place he’d like to be, but the journey to redemption will start there against Davitts. Getting back on the horse could be the most therapeutic thing.
The selection is under as much scrutiny as Rob’s mistakes, if not more.
It was the wrong decision, plain and simple. It’s what this game will be remembered for long after so many other inches that make up the difference between winning and losing are forgotten.
It puts a big asterisk beside Stephen Rochford’s heretofore successful first year in management. We hope this will not affect his nerve either when making big calls in the future. It was an error of judgement, and he will have to examine why and how it was arrived at.
There was an argument for it, but the risk outweighed the benefit. Rob Hennelly was dropped after the Galway game. Since then he has played two games, both for Breaffy. Asking him to go in so cold to an All-Ireland final replay was a huge ask.
For some positions, guys might relish that, but goalkeeping and goalkeepers are different. You need games, you need confidence, and the calmness and self-assuredness that goes with knowing you are number one.
But it would be wrong to discount what Stephen Rochford has brought on the basis of one bad call. Suffer he will over the winter, but he will not have to go far if he’s looking for perspective this week. His seven-week-old son Rory is currently in Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin. Rochford was up there a few times during the last week.
Everything, fingers crossed, is expected to be okay, but if you want a reminder of what’s important in life, there you have it.