GAA Football

Alan O'Mara speaks out over coverage of goalkeeper's error

Former Cavan goalkeeper Alan O'Mara has hit out at the coverage of Rob Hennelly's error for Mayo in last Saturday's All-Ireland SFC final replay
Picture by Séamus Loughran

ALAN O’Mara has spoken of his disappointment at some of the coverage surrounding Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly’s error in last Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC final replay and says the pressure on GAA players is “as high as it’s ever been”.

The Cavan goalkeeper, who suffers from depression and earlier this year released a book about his experiences, revealed his disappointment with how post-match comments were framed by one media outlet. The Bailieborough netminder, who lost an All-Ireland U21 final with his county in 2011, also felt controversial pundit Joe Brolly had gone “slightly over the line” with his comments in a newspaper column after the game.

Hennelly fumbled a dropping ball early in the second-half and was then black-carded after conceding a penalty as he attempted to gather the loose ball at Paddy Andrews’ feet: “It was a mistake and that’s it. It’s not a life or death scenario. I think some of the coverage around it and some of the language used was something I’d be disappointed with, to be honest,” O’Mara told The Irish News.

“As an inter-county player, you know that, on those big days, people will rate you and that’s part and parcel of it. But one post really irked me when I saw it. I thought it was uncalled for. That piece and Joe Brolly had a piece on Sunday morning that there were a few lines and paragraphs that were a bit borderline, if not slightly over the line.

“The Mayo management team made a decision to change the goalkeeper, but some of the media coverage had made out that they’d pulled some lad out of nowhere just to play this game. On the day, it didn’t happen and Rob would put his hands up and admit that. But Joe wrote an article that made out as though they’d pulled some lad onto the bus on the way up and said ‘let’s give this lad a game’.”

The Mayo goalkeeper released a statement via social media on Monday in which he thanked those who had sent messages of support since the game, including players from other counties. O’Mara praised the Mayo players for visibly rallying around their stricken goalkeeper at the final whistle, despite their own devastation at the one-point loss to Dublin.

“As goalkeepers, you’re a little bit more out there and any mistake you make is normally a goal. Paul Mannion turned over three balls in the first-half, but no-one remembers that. Anyone who signs up for goals knows that.

“That’s part of the heartbreak. The highs tend to be very high and the lows can be quite low. Hopefully, he just moves forward and I’ve no doubt he’ll be a stronger, better, more resilient goalkeeper and individual for that incident.”

With the increase in media coverage of Gaelic games in recent years, the pressure on the players in such an occasion has risen to new levels as well. Around one million people across Ireland viewed Saturday’s final and O’Mara believes it’s inevitable the game will have an impact on players’ lives.

“An All-Ireland final, someone makes a mistake, if your life’s going brilliant or if it’s not, that’s going to affect you," he said.

“Mayo are playing Dublin, these guys are probably training from November for that day. That’s nine or 10 months of their year working towards that day. Players aren’t robots. They’ve invested a huge amount emotionally, physically, mentally to try and win an All-Ireland. When you come up short, it obviously affects you.

“It’s important to remember that it is just a game of football and there’s other things going on around you. That’s the nature of sport, there has to be a winner and a loser, that’s just it. The GPA is there to support lads and, if someone does need it, it’s important that they know that’s there for them.”

GAA Football

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