Penalties were central to the contrasting fortunes of Lahardane MacHales and Kilmeena today, who were both in action against Galway opposition in provincial club semi-finals. The afternoon ended in joy for Lahardane, who prevailed in a penalty shootout, while a missed penalty for Kilmeena in the dying seconds of their game was central to their defeat.
Lahardane were up against Menlough of Galway in today’s Connacht Junior football semi-final at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park. The Galway team were to the fore early on, and they had 1-2 on the board before Lahardane got going at all.
At half-time, Menlough looked comfortably in control as they led by 1-5 to 0-3. The Mayo champions got moving after the break, however, with pointed frees from James Maughan (two) and Shane Loftus making their task a more manageable one.
Three points without reply, two of them efforts from play by James Maughan, pulled Lahardane level with six minutes left on the clock. Menlough got their noses back in front once more but that score was cancelled out by one at the other end and so the match finished all-square at the end of normal time on a scoreline of 0-10 to 1-7.
With five minutes played in extra-time Lahardane took the lead for the first time. It was back level at half-time in extra-time and Menlough edged in front one last time after the break but Lahardane got a levellver for that one to send the tie to penalties, with the scores tied at 0-12 to 1-9 at the end of extra-time.
Now it was all about who kept their nerve best in the high-octane surroundings of the shootout. Menlough missed their second spot-kick, while Lahardane converted four from four. This then gave Mickey Murphy the chance to seal it with their fifth and he made no mistake – video here – as Lahardane won the shootout 5-3.
Lahardane can now look forward to a Connacht final appearance and the chance to land a second provincial title at this level. In that decider they’ll face Sligo’s Owenmore Gaels who got the better of Glenfarne-Kiltyclogher of Leitrim by 0-14 to 1-8 in this afternoon’s other Junior semi-final.
Kilmeena, who looked well set for a serious tilt at provincial honours in the Intermediate Championship, will surely have major regrets tonight at how their Connacht semi-final against Monivea Abbey of Galway slipped from their grasp. This was also a close-fought contest but Kilmeena will know that it was a game in which they had sufficient chances to win it.
The game was played at Tuam Stadium, a final match-day for the old stand which has stood witness to many stirring battles at this storied venue. Today’s game was a proper contest too but it was one in which Monivea had the initiative for most of the hour.
Kilmeena opened the scoring, via John McGlynn, and they led again on ten minutes when Caolach Halligan pointed but those were the only times in which they were in front. After Monivea got two points to squeeze ahead for the first time, they then bagged the game’s only goal and they led by that goal at the break.
When Monivea stretched their lead to five early in the second half, it appeared that an unexpected trimming for Kilmeena might be in prospect. The Mayo lads battled back, however, with two Darragh Keaveney frees and a score from play by Caolach Halligan reducing the gap to just two points.
In those tense closing minutes the teams traded points, a free from Darragh Keaveney cutting the margin between the teams back to the bare minimum.
Then came the game’s decisive play. Seán Ryder was hauled down in the square but Darragh Keaveney’s penalty was saved and the follow-up chance went wide.
With that missed chance went Kilmeena’s hopes of another Connacht title, as they lost out after a brave battle by 1-8 to 0-10. Monivea Abbey will now face Castlerea St Kevin’s in the provincial IFC decider.
Match report by Michael Gallagher for the Mayo News is here.
Our Final Whistle podcast show from Tuam is up now on Patreon. In it, Mike gets match analysis from Colm Boyle and there’s post-game reaction from Kilmeena’s manager John Reilly. The podcast is available here.