For the first time in three years, penalties weren’t needed to separate Mayo and Galway in the Connacht U20 football Championship as the home side prevailed by 1-6 to 1-4 in dreadful weather at the Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence this evening. A shootout is always a bit of a lottery but the wild card in this one was the extremely blustery and wet conditions in Bekan that made it almost impossible for the players.
Galway enjoyed whatever advantage the wind conveyed in the first half, though the wind seemed to be coming from the other side of the Dome – which was the obvious place to play the game, given the prevailing conditions – and blowing hard diagonally across the pitch.
Mayo hadn’t enjoyed a very happy time of it in the pre-season Leo Murphy Cup but they’d had to soldier through those matches without five of their best players who were all involved with the Senior panel. All of them started in this game – Ruairí Keane at full-back, Sam Callinan at centre-back, Frank Irwin and Donnacha McHugh (who was on the bench at Croke Park on Sunday) at midfield and Paddy Heneghan at full-forward. The strong spine this gave to Maurice Sheridan’s team was evident throughout.
Sam Callinan was prominent from the off and he was the instigator of our first attack which could have led to a goal. Cian O’Connell’s shot into the wind went over, though, to give us that early lead.
The halfway point of the opening period was approaching when Galway finally opened their account and then we responded almost immediately when Frank Irwin fired over for us. They scored again three minutes later and that was the scoring done for the first half.
Grainger blasted a monstrous ’45 between the sticks for them soon after the restart. It was the first and only time they were to lead in this contest.
Cian O’Connell responded quickly from us. Taking possession out on the left wing he hoisted the ball into the wind and over it flew.
We then made what proved to be the decisive breakthrough. Galway messed up an attempted clearance, which Jack Fallon intercepted, went round the ‘keeper and slipped it to the net.
That score came five minutes into the second half but a full twenty minutes would pass before the next score came. In between we attacked, necklacing handpasses carefully as the lads made their way up the field in the the howling gale until eventually we’d lose possession and then they’d proceed to do the same.
Eventually sub Bob Tuohy broke that long scoreless period by smashing over a fine score for us. Frank Irwin followed that up soon after with a free and seconds later Paddy Heneghan drew a fine save from the Galway goalie who deflected Paddy’s rasper over the bar.
Six up with just a few minutes to go, the game looked done and dusted. A scrambled Galway goal made things interesting again, however, and a Grainger free reduced the deficit to two. Despite five minutes of injury time being added, though, the young Tribesmen were unable to add to their tally and so we prevailed by two points.
Next up for Maurice Sheridan’s charges is a Connacht semi-final meeting with Leitrim. That’s fixed for Páirc Seán MacDiarmada this night week (throw-in 6.30pm), with the provincial decider down for decision back at the Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence in a fortnight’s time.
Mayo: Brian O’Flaherty; Ruairi Keane, Fenton Kelly, Alfie Morrison; Aiden Cosgrove, Sam Callinan, Conan Dawson; Dylan Thornton, Frank Irwin (0-2, one free); Tom O’Flaherty, Donnacha McHugh, Jack Fallon (1-0); Cian MacHale, Paddy Heneghan (0-1), Cian O’Connell (0-2). Subs: Mark Cunningham for O’Connell, Paul Walsh for MacHale, Conor Reid for Fallon, Bob Tuohy (0-1) for Dawson, Seán Morahan for Morrison.
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