Robbie Hennelly well positioned to keep Mayo dream alive
Goalkeeper focused on going one step further than before
IT has been the year of the goalkeeper, with shot stoppers dominating events in Brazil for the past month while on Gaelic fields, the importance of the goalkeeper seems to be magnified Sunday after Sunday.
In Castlebar, Mayo’s Robbie Hennelly finished the Connacht final with a clean sheet but reflected on a hectic period just after half-time when he saw Galway’s Shane Walsh smash a shot against his crossbar, Paul Conroy fire another goal chance just inches too high and was then asked to step up to face Walsh in a penalty.
He made the save look easy and inevitable but afterwards admitted that with one-on-one spot kicks, there is always an element of smoke and mirrors.
“I knew which way I was going to go before the game. I didn’t know which way he was going to go! You just have to commit to it, I was thinking about doing a bit of Tim Krul but I had kicked away your man’s (Danny Cummins) boot in the first half so I thought I can’t be at that again.”
Serious questionThe sight of the Galway forward’s boot spinning away from his foot seemed to sum up the visitor’s day in the first half. Things got better for the visitors but from minute one to 70, Mayo controlled the final and never allowed a serious question about their superiority to materialise. The win gave this generation of Mayo men the significant accolade of winning four provincial championships in a row.
“I think history is only really something you enjoy when you retire. It’s a great achievement,” Hennelly says. “You’d totally regret it if we didn’t win today and you’d think I’d love to have gotten four in a row. But if you start thinking of history before the game you’ll get caught up in it. It’s four in a row but we are hoping to do five in a row or six in a row, that’s the target. At the same time its only one step on the journey for us.
“That was the most important thing today, a clean sheet and a good solid performance. We didn’t break any records today but we got through and it’s another Connacht title in the bag and we are looking forward to going back to Croke Park. It’s where we want to be.”
The argument that Mayo’s domination of the west has been facilitated by a lean period for other counties – most notably Galway – is weakened by the fact that they have been consistently excellent in the latter stages of the championship. The latest versions of heartbreak in the last two All-Ireland finals left them as close to winning the championship without actually winning it as a team can come.
Their resilience has been a marvel: this year, they look just as energetic and fresh as they did during Horan’s first summer in charge. For Hennelly, the escapology of this year’s Connacht semi-final win against Roscommon and a much improved Galway showing in the final was to be expected.