Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Mannus refuses to face Irish tricolour during national anthem at final

Alan Mannus during the Irish national anthem in Dublin at the weekend
Alan Mannus during the Irish national anthem in Dublin at the weekend
The Shamrock Rovers goalkeeper
Ivan Little

By Ivan Little

A Northern Ireland international footballer is at the centre of a row over his behaviour during the playing of the Irish national anthem before a cup final in Dublin yesterday.

The incident involving Alan Mannus occurred during the FAI Cup final between Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers at the Aviva Stadium.

Mannus (37), who is in his second spell with Shamrock Rovers, was the only one of the 22 players who did not turn to face the Irish tricolour as Amhran na bhFiann was played.

Instead, the goalkeeper stared straight ahead with his arms by his side, not long after shaking hands with the Irish President, Michael D. Higgins.

Mannus was born in Canada but moved with his Northern Irish family back to their homeland at the age of seven.

At yesterday's final, the former Linfield and St Johnstone goalkeeper, who also had spells at Larne and Carrick Rangers, ended up as one of Shamrock Rovers' heroes.

He saved a penalty in a shootout after the 120 minutes of normal and extra time ended in a 1-1 stalemate against the League of Ireland champions.

Rovers won the shootout 4-2 and Mannus was immediately surrounded by his team-mates as they recorded their first FAI Cup win for 32 years in front of over 33,000 fans.

One of his Rovers' colleagues, Ronan Finn, hailed Mannus as the "best goalkeeper in Ireland".

However, on social media Mannus - who brought a young child onto the pitch after the game to join in the celebrations - was subjected to a torrent of abuse over the Irish anthem issue.

One condemned Mannus for failing to respect the anthem, adding that he "doesn't have to sing but respect costs nothing".

Some of the attacks descended into sectarian abuse.

Others said Mannus was 'one of our own' and some defended the goalie, who has been capped nine times for Northern Ireland, insisting he was well within his rights to do whatever he wanted during the playing of the anthem.

Several compared his approach to that of Londonderry-born Republic of Ireland international James McClean, who is subjected to regular criticism over his refusal to wear a poppy on his shirt at games in the Premier League in England.

One poster said: "The same people slaughtering Alan Mannus are the same people who do be up in arms when James McClean gets hate for standing up for his beliefs."

Eleven years ago a Northern Ireland under-21 international was caught up in a similar controversy over the national anthem before an FAI Cup Final, where he was playing for Derry City against Bohemians.

Sammy Morrow did not turn with other players to face the Irish flag, but he later said that he 'stood up straight with his head up' to show his respect. He said he was disappointed and disheartened by the criticism levelled at him.

There was also controversy over the pre-match ritual in the 2018 Irish Cup final.

Cliftonville FC players appeared to bow their heads during the playing of God Save the Queen before their 3-1 defeat against Coleraine.

Cliftonville officials had requested that the song not be played before the game at Windsor Park.

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