Mayo’s U20 Championship season for 2020 began and ended on the same day in the wind and the wet at MacHale Park this afternoon. Their elimination from this year’s U20 Connacht Championship happened in the cruellest possible way, as they lost out on a penalty shootout after the teams had finished level after extra-time.
The adverse weather was always going to have a major bearing on this contest. Our lads had the wind behind them in the first half and they made decent use of it too, as they led by eight points to two at the break.
Paul Towey was our main marksman in the first half, notching four points, all but one of them from play. Frank Irwin bagged two, while James Jennings (from a mark) and Paddy Goldrick got one each.
Galway started to reel us in straight away after the restart. With twenty minutes to go they had cut the gap back to two but, from then on, they struggled to get back on terms. In the event, it took a point from Cathal Sweeney deep in stoppage time to force extra-time.
The score at the end of normal time was ten points apiece. Paul Towey got both of our second half points, one from play.
The young Tribesmen had the wind advantage in the first period of extra-time. With half-time in extra-time approaching the sides were still level – we’d both added a point, ours a Paul Towey free – and so it was starting to look good for our lads once more. But then Matthew Tierney goaled for them to put Galway ahead for the first time.
That was the visitors final score of the game. Ciaran Gavin cut the gap back to two before the teams switched ends again and two further points from Paul Towey brought the game back level once more.
Neither team were able to break the deadlock before the end and so, for some utterly insane reason, the tie was then decided by a penalty shootout. Galway won the shootout 3-2 and so they go forward to next weekend’s Connacht semi-final while our lads’ U20 football year is over.
It was insult enough that today’s match went ahead with a severe weather warning in place. To compound this by deciding a Championship tie on penalties was, though, beyond stupid and utterly unfair to both teams.
While it’s okay to use this kind of nonsense for a light-hearted pre-season FBD match, there’s absolutely no way it should be used to determine the outcome of a knockout Championship tie.
Shifting the U20 Championship to early spring and squashing the whole thing into a few weeks in February and March hinted strongly what the GAA really thinks about its importance in the scheme of things. Using a penalty shootout to decide ties leaves no doubt in this regard. If this is the best the GAA can do for the U20 grade they’d be better off getting rid of the Championship altogether.