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Mayo goalkeeper Hennelly makes his mark

Sport
Mayo goalkeeper Hennelly makes his mark


Daniel Carey

FIVE minutes into the second half, Mayo were awarded a ’45 and Robert Hennelly left his goal to take it. The move didn’t meet with universal approval – one tweeter virtually screamed: “What? Hennelly?? Why?” A minute later, from at least a metre behind the line – making it more of a ’46 than a ’45 – the Breaffy man had kicked the equaliser and the same Twitter user responded: “LEVEL!! Good man, Hennelly!”
Wearing a broad smile and still dressed in shorts, the DCU student told The Mayo News: “It’s lovely kicking in Croke Park. It’s totally different to any other pitch. You don’t have to worry about the ground conditions or anything like that; you just strike the ball and go for it. I wouldn’t mind getting a few more the next day!”
Hennelly’s pre-match routine included a couple of pops at goal, so eagle-eyed spectators wouldn’t have been surprised to see him come forward. The “absolutely delighted” netminder is “really looking forward” to playing Kerry. The fact that Mayo were written off in many quarters did serve as “motivation”, he noted, “but you don’t want to get too sucked into it either at the same time … I’s also nice to come in [as an ] underdog like that. You’ve nothing to lose, according to everyone else. But we knew what we’re about, and how [well] we can play. We just hadn’t got the conditions so far. And if we knew if we got a good day [with] good conditions, we could beat anyone.”
Conventional wisdom suggested Mayo needed a good start. Instead, they conceded an early goal, and “it took us ten minutes to get the confidence to go at them”, Hennelly acknowledged. Kevin McLoughlin’s goal gave them the boost to “just go for it”. Mayo “started playing a bit more football, hitting them harder in the middle and [getting] on the breaks, and it paid off”.
Just two points down at half time despite having conceded two goals … were Cork there for the taking? “They were there for the taking, but we didn’t say that, really ... We never really panic at half time, no matter what’s happening. We just say ‘keep doing the simple things, keep sticking to our game plan’, and keep taking our scores. And when we ... took maybe three or four very important scores straight away, and that what was kept us going ... We’ve the forwards now. Our forward line has got a lot of bad publicity recently with free-taking and everything, but I don’t think we missed one free.”
“Their forwards couldn’t get ball because we were tackling them so hard out the field, and they couldn’t get the ball in fast. And when they got it in then, our backs were straight in, so it was impossible for them to do much about it.”
One of those defenders, Keith Higgins, was surrounded by a media scrum. Asked if Mayo’s defeat to Cork in last year’s league final had “any bearing” on preparations, he replied: “No, definitely not. I think that last year was a bit of a shambles really, how it ended, after that Cork game, after Sligo and Longford. So lads just didn’t really take any notice of that. It was one of those days. It was a bad day all right. But there’s a lot of new fellas in this year who weren’t there at all last year, so it wouldn’t bother them at all one bit.”
As his mother and father hail from Kerry, Aidan O’Shea told the press conference that there will be “split loyalties” in the O’Shea household “for a few weeks” and a bit of slagging. “I’m looking forward to it,” he added. “I played them at minor and we had the bragging rights for a couple of weeks after that one so hopefully it'll be the same result.”
Cork manager Conor Counihan took his hat off to Mayo, who “dominated” his team. “Players aren’t machines; you don’t turn them on and off,” he said. “We came up against a different kind of fight today and we just weren’t at the races.”