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Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly the victim as social media morphed into anti-social behaviour

By Declan Bogue

Published 05/10/2016

Tough day: Mayo goalkeeper Robert Hennelly is consoled by Andy Moran and Kevin McLoughlin
Tough day: Mayo goalkeeper Robert Hennelly is consoled by Andy Moran and Kevin McLoughlin

It was while reading Joey Barton's autobiography last week that a thought struck. The bad boy of soccer offers mitigating circumstances for his sometimes cruel and often bizarre bullying behaviour. But like any bully, there is a repressed sensitivity too. He admits to spending 'crazy' amounts of time searching for his name on Twitter for people abusing him.

Before he could contextualise it, it stung. But at least he had the phenomenal footballer wages to console himself. While at QPR, he was on £70,000 a week.

Rob Hennelly, Mayo's goalkeeper, had some scandalous stuff directed towards him on social media after his errors in the All-Ireland final.

Here we present a section of some of the comments from Twitter.

Niall McCauley: "I've never laced a pair of football boots in my life but I'd honestly have put in a better shift than Rob Hennelly did today."

Rob Flynn: "That's two finals you've f***** up Hennelly."

Ricky Power: "Rob Hennelly you are a joke."

On Monday, Hennelly himself posted up a picture of that fateful moment when he was shown a black card by referee Maurice Deegan after conceding a penalty. In an Instagram post, he admitted: "What I was expecting to be one of my best days turned out to be the opposite, and it breaks my heart I didn't come through for my team and county.

"I don't know where I'll be in a year's time, but I do know that I'm not going to give up. I love Mayo and this team too much to do that."

He got a lot of support too. Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern came out for the Goalkeeper's Union and tweeted: "Hard luck yesterday Rob. Days like that make success taste even sweeter when it comes."

By now a mini-industry of books and academic studies have been written on how technology and social media are changing how our brains are wired.

The stimulus of 'likes' and 'retweets' are highly addictive for people who are attention junkies.

Even our phones have become too pervasive in everyday society. Even though I don't use a smart phone, I have been pulled up enough on the bad habit of answering a text message instantly while in company.

The Olympic boxer Kenneth Egan was on radio last Thursday discussing addictions and made the point that the next epidemic is literally in our own hands. We feel we have never been more connected, but for many, they are growing isolated.

A shortcut to a bigger social media following comes with outlandish tweets and posts. It becomes an arms race when nothing is unsaid.

But others know better. Like Rob Hennelly. A few months ago Anthony Casey had a tough day in goal for Cork against Mayo in the All-Ireland Under-21 final. Hennelly tweeted that day: "It has to be said Anthony Casey is a fine keeper with a big future and today won't define him or his career by any means."

Ultimately, the greatest text written on the nature of criticism, and the willingness to take on a challenge, is the famous 'The man in the arena' speech by Theodore Roosevelt in Paris, April 1910.

Anybody would benefit from looking up the full text, but the closing lines are particularly poignant.

"…Who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Hennelly knows defeat and victory. And he will be back. Everything else is just hanging around.

Belfast Telegraph

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