SAFE HANDS Mayo’s Rob Hennelly gathers possession ahead of Dublin’s Paul Mannion of Dublin during Saturday’s National League game at Croke Park. Pic: Sportsfile
IT’S often said when a goalkeeper is the best player on the field then something has gone drastically wrong elsewhere. Proof of that saying again came last Saturday night.
Rob Hennelly, enjoying his third start in four games, was a shining light on an otherwise grim evening when anything that could go wrong for Mayo, did.
Finishing as Mayo’s joint-top scorer in the game with two points, and also making at least six noteworthy saves, without Hennelly’s contribution, Mayo’s blushes would have been much worse than they were.
The 28 year-old from Breaffy appears to have convinced James Horan in recent months that he has earned a run of matches in the number one jersey, while two-time All Star David Clarke sits on the bench.
Last Saturday night’s display means that Hennelly’s stock has risen even more.
It’s worth remembering that it was the current Mayo manager who handed the-then 20 year-old goalkeeper his league debut for the Green and Red against Kerry eight years ago.
As well as his couple of points last weekend — one a free from the best part of 60 yards and the other a 45’ which brings his overall tally to 24 points in his Mayo career — Hennelly was successful with an impressive 85 percent of his kick-outs (18/21) finding their targets.
Even with Dublin maintaining such a high press, particularly in the first half, Hennelly was calm and composed and varied his use of the long and short options.
Often criticised for his inconsistency under the high ball, Hennelly caught three shots last Saturday that were dropping below the crossbar and was assured in gathering possession.
But his biggest contribution came from his shot-stopping.
Cormac Costello got the better of him early in the game when he skinned Keith Higgins, raced through, and cracked a shot to the net, but Hennelly recovered to make at least six crucial stops before the final whistle, frustrating Costello, Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey.
And to think that the last time Rob Hennelly lined out at Croke Park was that ill-fated 2016 All-Ireland Final replay.
Since that day, the Dublin-based Head of Product Marketing at Solgari, has been much maligned by Mayo supporters, many of whom suspected that the ship had sailed in terms of his Mayo career.
And while some of the criticism may be warranted, in terms of the odd mistake that he’s prone to, the fact that he is a goalkeeper, and the fact that he is Rob Hennelly, means every error is scrutinised even more.
Hennelly is turning 29 on March 8 so, in terms of an age profile for a goalkeeper, he can still be considered relatively young. To say he has nothing to offer is a long way wide of the mark.
However, he needs to maintain the level of consistency that he has found this season because while he is being widely applauded right now, he won’t need reminding about how quickly things can change in the world of a goalkeeper.
But right now he looks nailed-on to make his 49th appearance for Mayo against Galway next weekend.