On Sunday Shamrock Rovers ended an incredible drought. They won their 25th FAI Cup, but their first in 32 years. League champions Dundalk made it seem as though it wasn't going to be their day when they responded to Rovers going ahead in injury time with an injury time equaliser ot their own. Eventually, the game went to penalties, and Rovers triumphed, ending one of the great hoodoos in Irish sport.
After the game, much of the talk was about Rovers' goalkeeper Alan Mannus, as you'd expect after a winning shootout in which he saved Dan Cleary's penalty to all but seal it for his team . He also made a fantastic save at the end of extra time to even bring the game to penalties.
It's penalties. But only because of a terrific Alan Mannus save right at the death. The tension is unbearable at the Aviva Stadium. Follow the shootout right here https://t.co/3OeMqqfxm4 #RTEsoccer pic.twitter.com/S7OmAr5AfU
— Soccer Republic (@SoccRepublic) November 3, 2019
But the reason for the talk about Mannus wasn't his heroics in helping Rovers end their Cup famine. It was because, before the game, he didn't turn to face the Irish tricolour during Amhrán na bhFiann. Mannus, a former Northern Ireland international, was criticised in some places for what many assumed was a political stance, though he stood respectfully during the playing of the anthem.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mannus insists the controversy wasn't something he was looking for at all and it's taken away from his experience in winning one of the biggest games of his career.
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'm not one who likes to be caught up in controversy.
I would never try to do anything to make some sort of political statement. I don't care about that sort of stuff. I have never cared in my life about anyone's nationality or religion or whatever.
Mannus insists he didn't plan the action, and was merely did what one would always do when another anthem is played.
"When everyone turned I didn’t know what to do. I was thinking ‘if I’m not Irish do I turn?’ so I thought I’d just stand the way I was originally facing which I didn’t feel was being disrespectful."