March 12 (Reuters) - As Ireland prepare for their decisive Pool B clash with Pakistan on Sunday, all-rounder John Mooney finds himself at the centre of a ‘did he or didn’t he?’ controversy that has once again put him in the World Cup headlines.
The authenticity of the bearded bowler’s pivotal catch that dismissed Zimbabwe’s Sean Williams in Ireland’s five-run win on Saturday remains up for debate despite millions of replays, complaints and even government opinion.
Zimbabwe thought they were on track to record victory as first Brendan Taylor and then Williams clubbed boundaries to all corners of the Bellerive Oval only for Mooney to step in -- or on, depending how you see it.
Williams looked set for another six but Mooney took the ball high above his head while standing just inside the boundary rope to dismiss the batsman for 96 and swing the match back in favour of the Irish, who went on to win three overs later.
While the Irishman’s hands were perfectly placed, many have questioned the position of his feet.
Countless television replays failed to conclusively show if Mooney’s trousers or foot touched the boundary rope or if he measured his stance to millimetre perfection.
Williams opted to trust Mooney and walked rather than call for a television review but Zimbabwe coach Dav Watmore could be seen complaining from the stands as his side exited the tournament.
The Herald Newspaper in Zimbabwe labelled it a “ghost catch” and said the country’s former sports minister had described the dismissal as like the “Hand of God” goal scored by Argentina’s Diego Maradona at the 1986 soccer World Cup.
The newspaper also wrote a damning character assassination of Mooney, citing a September interview where the all-rounder spoke of his battles with alcoholism that had led to thoughts of suicide.
“For a man of such a character, who has so much weighing down on his shoulders, it was very unlikely that, in the defining moment of such a big game, he could be trusted to have the honesty, let alone the decency to concede that his foot touched the boundary,” the paper said.
An incensed Cricket Ireland contacted the ICC to investigate potential “remedies” over what they described as a “vicious personal attack”.
Taylor, who said he would have to take the fielder’s word that he had not touched the rope, attempted to smooth over relations by voicing his unhappiness with the piece and apologising on behalf of the team.
The incident is just the latest headline grabber in the 33-year-old’s colourful career.
Easily recognisable with his tattoo-laden arms, bushy beard and bright green headband, Mooney was Ireland’s leading wicket taker at the 2011 World Cup and struck the winning runs as they famously beat England at the tournament.
He was part of the 15-man squad that played in the 2007 World Cup but was not picked for the breakthrough win over Pakistan and opted to take a break to finish his electrical apprenticeship upon returning home.
In 2013, he was banned for three games for posting an offensive message on Twitter following the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Prior to this World Cup he drew attention for wearing a self-designed helmet to protect his neck following the death of Australian batsman Philip Hughes last year.
He then backed up claims he felt Ireland were “world class” by smacking the winning runs in the opening victory over West Indies last month.
Win or lose against Pakistan, it seems almost inevitable that Mooney will be at the centre of the story. (Editing by Nick Mulvenney)