Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Alan Mannus says he never meant to cause offence after anthem row

Alan Mannus during the Irish national anthem in Dublin at the weekend
Alan Mannus during the Irish national anthem in Dublin at the weekend

By Steven Beacom

Former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Alan Mannus has insisted he did not mean to cause offence or disrespect to anyone by his actions at the FAI Cup final.

Mannus sparked controversy after not turning to face the Irish tricolour during the Irish national anthem ahead of the match in Dublin on Sunday.

Mannus was the hero for Shamrock Rovers in their penalty shoot-out success over Dundalk.

But rather than focus on his goalkeeping excellence, social media was awash with comments about him staring straight ahead while the other 21 players turned to the Irish flag as Amhran na bhFiann was played.

The 37-year-old, who was born in Canada before moving to Northern Ireland with his family when he was seven, told the Belfast Telegraph that he was sorry to anyone who saw his actions as offensive or disrespectful.

Mannus has been a popular figure in dressing rooms wherever he has played in a long and successful career and post match was hailed by Shamrock Rovers team-mates as the best goalkeeper in Ireland.

The ex-Linfield and St Johnstone ace has revealed, however, that after inspiring the Dublin side to their first FAI Cup triumph in 32 years he had a sleepless night thinking about the controversy.

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And he said he would do things differently if he had the chance again.

Some suggested that Mannus had been making a political statement but he pointed out nothing could be further from the truth.

"I'm so devastated that this happened. After winning the cup I should be on a high but to be honest I've just felt nothing but low. I couldn't sleep on Sunday night because I was thinking about it," he said.

The Shamrock Rovers goalkeeper
The Shamrock Rovers goalkeeper

"I would never try to do anything to make some sort of political statement. I don't care about that sort of stuff. In my life I have never cared about anyone's nationality or religion or whatever. I don't care what anyone is. For me we are all the same.

"All I can do is apologise if anyone has seen it as being disrespectful or been offended by it. If people think I'm trying to be anti another country that is not me.

"It would hurt me to think that some people would see me as person who would be disrespectful. That's not the person I am.

"I am not one of these people who say or do things to be controversial. I hate being in this position where people are talking about me for this and it's something I will have to deal with.

"Looking back now I guess it could be taken in a negative way. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but if could do it again I would do things differently."

Explaining what happened when the anthem was played and his thought process, Mannus said: "I didn't think anything about it before the game. I was only thinking about the match itself.

"I wasn't even listening to what was being said when the two teams were lined up before the game.

"We were facing forward and then the anthem started and people started turning slightly and I was thinking, what am I meant to do if I'm not Irish?

"I thought this was a moment for Irish people to sing their anthem. I know it was a club game but that's what normally happens in international games which I've been involved in.

"I didn't really know what to do. When it's not your country's national anthem you just stand there and let the anthem play and that's all I did. I thought I'd just stand the way I was originally facing which I didn't feel was being disrespectful.

"Afterwards when we had won the game I came into the dressing room and someone said that people were going mad at me (on social media) and I said 'what are you talking about?' Then I was told about it and I was so gutted that it had been taken that way. I shouldn't have allowed it to be taken that way. I take responsibility for that happening and allowing it to be taken that way."

He added: "My wife is Irish, I have Irish people in my family, I've lived in Dublin, I work there now and have great team-mates there. I wasn't trying to be offensive to Ireland or anyone in it as some have suggested. I've enjoyed my time at Shamrock Rovers.

"The people at the club are great and the fans have been very good to me and all I wanted after the final was for them to enjoy winning the cup."

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