U20s through on penalties

In early February last year, in conditions that were so bad you’d hesitate to put the dog outside, our U20s were eliminated from the Championship when they lost to Galway in a penalty shoot-out at MacHale Park. Tonight’s Connacht U20 semi-final at Tuam Stadium also went to penalties and so there was some grim symmetry in the fact that this time it was our lads who prevailed.

In truth, though, it should never have gone to that. As the game moved towards the end of normal time we were the dominant team but just couldn’t make that count on the scoreboard. Then, in extra-time, we owned the ball for large stretches but couldn’t break down the shawl the home side had spread out across their backline.

Had we lost it in the shootout, then, it would have been a rueful defeat. Penalties are in large part a lottery but our lads held their nerve that crucial bit more as the shoot-out went to sudden death to prevail 7-6.

I still haven’t calmed down after that shot of adrenalin and I was only watching it on TV via the Connacht GAA live stream. But there’s the story of a game to be told so let’s tell it.

The first half was a very cagey affair. Both sides sat deep, clogging up the central channel, waiting for the chance to break on the turnover. It didn’t make for a pretty half an hour of football.

At the break the home side led by three points to two. Galway scored first, Ultan O’Reilly replied for us and then Culhane from a free put them back in front before the water break. A Jack Mahon free levelled the contest before, on the stroke of half-time, Cooney hit a great score from distance after we’d gone long from the restart.

Both sides upped the pace in the second half and the game finally began to open up. Another Jack Mahon free, after a foul on Eoin Gilraine, drew us level but Monaghan scored for them right from the restart.

Culhane’s free from fifty yards out went wide off the upright but Gill, leading by example, raided forward to push Galway two in front.

We then hit three on the spin. Jack Carney got the first, after a super fetch inside by Jack Mahon. The Charlestown man followed this by knocking over a lovely score off the left. Frank Irwin then pointed from distance, the score prompting a throaty roar from the big Mayo support in attendance at St Jarlath’s Park.

Galway then hit two wides before we had a goal chance. Ruairi Keane made a barnstorming run upfield, offloading to Eoin Gilraine who saw his shot blocked by the ‘keeper.

Culhane claimed a mark and bagged a much-needed score for the home team, who had recorded three wides in succession before that. That left it level once more at the second water break.

A Culhane free put Galway back in front but Mayo had their tails up as the end of normal time approached. Sub Paddy Heneghan landed an inspirational score from out on the right wing and then a Connell Dempsey free, off the floor, put us back in front.

Galway levelled straight away and while there were no further scores before the end of normal time there was plenty of excitement, as the tension mounted all the while. Both sides had their chances but neither could take them and so the contest went to extra-time.

Galway grabbed the initiative straight away when the game restarted. I don’t see a whole load wrong with the tackle on the Galway forward but the ref – who, in fairness, was excellent throughout and who was far closer to the action than I was – did and he spread his arms for the penalty. Sub Grainger sent ‘keeper Ronan Connolly the wrong way from the spot.

We responded well to this blow. A pointed free from Connell Dempsey and a super effort from out on the left from Dylan Thornton brought the margin back to one. We were a man up now, as Galway had a player ordered off on a black card but we rushed a few chances to level it up before the half-time mark in extra-time.

We had a goal chance on the resumption as Conor Flynn, storming upfield, took possession and let fly but the goalkeeper pawed it away brilliantly. Connell Dempsey miscued the ’45 but Jack Mahon grabbed it and was promptly fouled. He got up and stuck the free over the bar to level it up.

The closing seconds were fierce and frantic. We lost both Conor Reid and Conor Dunleavy to black cards but Galway were unable to make their numerical advantage count and it finished level after extra-time.

So it was on to the travesty that is the GAA penalty shootout. Galway got first blood here as they won the toss to go first, making it that little bit more likely they’d prevail.

Grainger scored for them and Jack Mahon responded for us.

Gill and Connell Dempsey were both on target.

Culhane and Conor Flynn likewise.

Then Seoige missed but so too did Paddy Heneghan.

McLaughlin buried it leaving Cian McHale having to score to keep us in it, he was coolness personified as he did just that.

Gilraine again, Jack Mahon again, both on target.

Culhane and Connell Dempsey both converted.

Then Gill’s hesitant effort was saved by Ronan Connolly and Conor Flynn, having had to walk to the corner flag to retrieve the ball, strolled back pensively, put the ball on the spot and stuck it in the net.

Regardless of the result, penalties are still a rubbish way to settle a Championship match. It was rubbish last year and it was equally rubbish tonight.

But there was nothing rubbish about the spot kicks taken by those brave young men from both teams who took on the responsibility of settling this contest. The same goes for the two equally brave goalkeepers who faced them. Fair play to each and every one of them.

Commiserations too to Galway – we know from last year how cruel it is to get eliminated in a shootout. That defeat was tough for us to take and tonight’s one will be equally so for them.

So, after this close encounter with a sudden-death end, Maurice Sheridan’s team can now look forward to a Connacht final in a week’s time. That will be against either Roscommon or Sligo, who meet in the other semi-final tomorrow evening.

Mayo: Ronan Connolly; Seán Holmes, Ruairí Keane, Eoin Gilraine; Conor Flynn, Ryan Baynes, Aidan Cosgrove; Conor Dunleavy, Jack Carney (0-1); Ethan Henry, Owen McHale, Connell Demspey (0-2, frees); Ultan O’Reilly (0-1), Frank Irwin (0-1), Jack Mahon (0-4, three frees). Subs: Dylan Thornton (0-1) for O’Reilly, Paddy Heneghan (0-1) for McHale, Conor Reid for Gilraine, Cian McHale for Carney.

43 thoughts on “U20s through on penalties

  1. Good win although always a bit of a lottery when it goes to penalties. I have to say something critical here. The constant jeering of the Galway lads if they shot a wide from the Mayo fans in attendance was out of control. And this wasn’t both sides at it. It was most definitely the Mayo fans at it almost exclusively. These are young lads doing their best and this sort of carry on has been creeping into games in recent years and should be strongly discouraged.

  2. Mac your absolutely spot on. I picked that up on commentary and was extremely dissapointed from the Mayo supporters.
    On a more positive note what a gutsy performance from Mayo. They worked their socks off and made up for their lack of scoring ability by a great showing of desire, intensity and courage.
    From 1-9 we were excellent, we will need huge improvement up top if we are going to go all the way and win it. Well to done to Maurice Sheridan and his management team who got their tactics spot on and nuliffied Galways attacking threat. A horrible way to lose it for Galway but we lost it the same way last year so I’m finding it hard to sympathise with them.

  3. Mac I agree on the jeering.. Jesus I saw two Mayo men in their 50s I’d say booing Tomo taking a free …
    The game itself was a disappointment. Very negative from both sides in the first half especially..
    It got a little better.
    Fair play to Mayo they never gave up .. But the penalties is just a terrible way to decide it.. We got our luck last year and went on to win the All Ireland, time for Mayo to do the same..

  4. Agree that kind of treatment of opposition players makes us look terrible.
    Remember Roscommon jeering Andy Moran…..we didn’t like it then…these guys are teenagers

  5. Embarrassing have to listen to all that. Afraid some Mayo supporters let the County down this evening.Not like the boys out on the field who gave it all. This jeering young men when they kick a wide ball Should have no place in the Gaa.

  6. Despicable actions from the supporters but tonight is about this group of lads. Brilliant stuff. Not to look too far ahead of ourselves but does anyone know is it a Munster/Ulster/Leinster team we face if we get over the line the next day?
    Bizarre low scoring return as the forwards are very talented

  7. Well done to the U20’s. Great to get through.

    Shame on anyone that would go to a football match and boo a young lad taking or cheer him missing a free. Its one of the lowest things that a person could do. Definitely not sports fans and an utter embarrassment to decent Mayo fans.

    Well played to the Galway lads too and hard luck. An awful way to go out on penalties.

  8. There was a lot of jeering for both freetakers Mac.A bunch of Galway heads near me were constantly at it.

  9. Good to get the win which now gives Mayo a great opportunity to win a 2nd Connacht U20 title in 4 years

    Awful way to win or lose a championship game, if this game was played in the afternoon you could play another 10 period of extra time.

    The jeering all the more worse when you consider the majority of “supporters” in attendance was family members who should have a bit more cop on with teenagers in action.

    The gamble to play defensive paid off, playing an open game would have suited Galway. Fair play to those working on strength and conditioning as that Mayo team has some fine physical units.

  10. Agree with Mac the jeering of Galway players was an embarrassment. The same thing happened against Donegal in the super 8s game in Castlebar a few years ago. Very few supporters- outside of Dublin- engage in this disgusting behaviour towards amateur players.
    While it was a good win this evening- it was a very poor game overall. Our backs were excellent but our forward play was poor. Too many times forwards took the easy option of recycling the ball rather than take on thier marker.
    Still its good to be in the final. Well done players and management.
    I can’t understand how that game could not have gone to a replay next Tuesday in Castlebar. Why the big rush. If these lads are to develop it’s more games they need – not to be taking penalties to decide a game.

  11. Great gutsy performance.I thought our defence was outstanding.Our FF line didn’t click,but I thought our subs really worked.Best wishes for a soeedy recovery to Eoin Gilraine-a really stylish player.

  12. Just on another note myself and a few shams were talking this evening at the game. Settle a bet..
    I believe Jarlath Burns walked on a pitch up north a few years ago in his capacity as Ulster chairman or some status, and after both teams were still even at something like 9 all on pens , took the ball and told the ref it was unfair on both teams to continue. He said they would replay it the following week..
    Or was I dreaming again?

  13. Agree that penalties are daft, but I really enjoyed the win. Mayo a bit overawed early on, but outclassed Galway for most of it. Got a few superb scores, but had some bad misses at crucial times. But so had Galway, particularly frees in the first half. Galway keeper very impressive, Jack Mahon my MOTM, and defence really solid.
    Hats off to Maurice – he’s shaping up well.

  14. Congrats to Mayo. Same as our win last year a awful way to lose. Maybe Mayo can push on and win the AI. I have to say and im glad to see it raised but the Mayo fans constant booing and jeering of the young Galway players really grated there lads and lassies. Its a poor reflection on the Mayo supporters there and the booing was sizeable not just one or two cranks.

  15. Not sure if it also happened with Jarlath Burns Tuamstar, but it happened in the 2019 Antrim senior club semi final between Lamh dearg and Portglenone. It took 3 games to separate them and in the second game there was a free-kick contest after extra time. With the sides level on 4 free kicks each, the Antrim chairman Ciaran McCavana stepped in and called a halt to it saying they’d go to another replay and both sides were happy with that at the time.
    A great trilogy of club matches – has always baffled me how antrim could never convert their very strong club scene in football and hurling into county success

  16. Regards the unsporting booing of players this evening [I’m afraid I didn’t see the game being on the road at the time] but I would suggest that those who can be proved guilty should be banned from future intercounty games for at least two years. Identification might be a problem but pictures could be published on social media inviting people who can identify them to come forward. Even if it were not possible to get somebody to come forward having their pic published might be discouraging. Somebody might sue for libel? They might but they would need either great courage to deal with the publicity and deeper pockets than the GAA. People have been banned under the “causing disrepute” charge for less.
    Re our full forward line not functioning, I recall seeing Frank Irwin in Ballinamore v Leitrim at minor level a few years ago. It was only when he was moved out from full forward that he cut lose and Mayo went on to a big win

  17. Fair play to Maurice Sheridan,that was a huge ask tonight and his team delivered.He’s very astute during games regarding changes etc… something we have lacked over the years.The Mayo fans antics were despicable and this is not the first time.Coming from a county that has never delivered on All Ireland Final day it’s quite embarrassing.Most of these Wouldnt be seen at a game 10 years ago.Time to call them out.

  18. @done deal no the U20 final is penciled in for next Wednesday, if against Roscommon it will be played in MacHale Park if v Sligo the final will be played in Markievicz Park.

  19. Some of our fans are pure head the balls. In me experience really GAA people, those involved in their clubs and teams would never do this. It’s shameful and has to be called out.

  20. Penalties and booing the main talking points after what was a very poor game. No place for either in GAA as far as I’m concerned.
    What seems to have got lost is Mayo made it a poor game, it was our tactic. Why? Because Galway supposadly had the better team,we were underdogs. Its not nice to watch but you do what you have to do, and that includes the 2 black cards near the finish. Of course penalties are a lottery but tactics got us that far. Win at all costs, well done to Maurice and all the management team.

  21. Just in case anyone is wondering, the podcast won’t be out until tomorrow. We were due to record it last night but time was against us in light of the extra-time at Tuam. We’re recording it tonight and are planning to cover the U20 game on it.

  22. Sherdian was cute enough to get McHale on near end, knew he was a proving penalty taker. How many mayo managers down the years would have done that ????

  23. Not to rain on our parade. But I think there’s a valid point. As I seen it, we had roughly half our players had a lot of work done and had developed since u17. By contrast some of our players looked fitter at u17 and some had barely put on any muscle since u17.
    Can you imagine the planned development that is going into the Kerry u20s?

  24. Was at the game in tuam last night. As people have already said, I felt we deserved to win in normal time and thought we had when umpire was about to flag a point and then changed his mind! Penalty shoot outs should have no part in this game.

    Secondly, people are correct to address the booing. I would argue that we’ve become the worst in the land for it. Worse than Dublin. Someone alluded to the donegal take in super 8s a few years ago. One of the odd times I was mortified to be a fan there.
    It needs to be stamped out. Roar louder for points you score but don’t shout when others miss. Really disappointing behaviour.

  25. I could be wrong here, but weren’t Mayo fans just cheering everytime Galway hit a wide?. I know this alone was wrong and embarrassing, but I didn’t hear booing when they were lining up a free or when they were in posession. The majority of the Mayo fans there would have been the players parents and family members, thats the scary part! Not like it was a gang of 13yr olds or anything. All should be ashamed of themselves…and we wonder then why some Counties hate us.

  26. Mayo Co Board should apologise to the Galway players and their parents on the disgusting behaviour of some Mayo supporters in Tuam yesterday evening. We Mayo supporters condemned the action of Roscommon supporters who booed Andy Moran in the match in Croke Park a few years ago. . Like someone has said most of the Mayo supporters would have been family members. . If the shoe was on the other foot,how would they feel.?

  27. Have to say I was not impressed by the standard and style of play of Mayo. Both teams employed the horrible and outdated blanket tactic. This is the complete opposite of how the senior team approach a game. It is hard to watch and extremely frustrating.

    Free taking is a huge issue also. Who is in charge of instruction and technique for free takers? Can a player not just put the ball down, take a few steps back, run up and kick it over the bar. Simple. It shouldn’t be turned into some sort of performance art. Too many moving parts.

    We were guilty of taking on pot shots from impossible angles resulting in awful wides with the game on the line. Galway were just as bad. We were in control of the game for long periods with little return on the scoreboard.

    A game of football decided on penalties is a joke and the sooner it is done away with the better. Why not decide it on next score wins after extra time.

    Rant over! There were some excellent individual performances and budding future stars for the county. We move on to the Connacht final after beating the reigning champions. Best of luck to the lads going forward.

  28. Disappointed to hear about the booing. Heard most of the game in the car on Midwest and Galway Bay and neither commentator passed comment as far as I aware. I thought it was a crowd of youngsters behind the goal being a bit loud. Didn’t realise it was in bad taste. Takes the gloss of the win if it was out of order

  29. Great to get the win .Disappointing to hear about the booing but let’s hope people learn from it.
    Let’s move on and hope the team progress and give Connaught a rattle…

  30. Those booing and jeering supporters should not be allowed attend the final. All names gathered from booking tickets online so the powers to be should act accordingly.

    Mayo now have won and lost championship matches at this level, it is not the right way to decide a GAA contest. Those that voted this into place need a right clip around the ears.

  31. Think the team could change things up a bit go focus more on what their strengths are:
    – Put in another tall player in the middle Conor Reid. He caught plenty ball, carried well.
    – Frank Irwin has never played well in the inside line. Move Frank Irwin out to 11.
    – play two shooters inside Jack Mahon + one more
    – Move Owen McHale back to defence
    – Move Ruari Keane out to 6 with a licence to drive forward regular
    Simply aim to dominate kickouts with a mixture of tall players and punchy fast wingbacks plus Conor Dunleavy able to drive in under breaks

  32. Well done u20’s. We were better team in last years final and thankfully it fell our way last night. Sheridan did well on the line.

    Heaps of improvement left in these lads though. Many will be disappointed with personal performance levels, particularly in attack.

    But we showed the right spirit and determination. Key to success. And credit to the penalty takers. Our boys had far more pressure knowing that a miss meant we were out.

  33. Great win for Mayo and it always helps to have a bit of luck on your side. Mayo were a linesman intervention away from taking their best penalty taker off the field in the dying seconds of extra-time. Had the substitution gone ahead, then we might have been looking at a different result. Obviously, the penalty takers had not been considered by management, which is very surprising at this level. Would really question the selection of Irwin and O’Reilly in the forward line. Neither are naturals in the forward line and it shouldn’t have came as a surprise to anyone to see changes there as the game progressed. Defensively, we looked to have a great shape, senior team take note please, but a lot of work needed in the forward play, which was average at best. Plenty of scope for improvement too, so hopefully that will come, now that they have the first win under their belt. Hopefully there are a few great weeks ahead, for all of the Mayo teams at every level. Well done to all concerned.

  34. Thanks wideball
    Be happy enough with facing an ulster team in the semi final to be honest

  35. A fantastic statistic
    11 of the 15 Galway players played in the All Ireland U20 Senior Final last year
    While only 2 out of Mayo’s 15 played in the penalty loss last year, Jack Carney and Frank Irwin.
    Young team, and with the likes of Paul Towey, Enda Hession and Oisin Mullin pushing forward from last year, hopefully a few on this team make their mark and express themselves in the upcoming games

  36. Just as well to be reminded of the Connacht final next week, ‘before we take on the Ulster champions’.

    Nice gestures by Galway posters here, urging us too to go on and win it. Not as simple as that however. Galway looked to be odds on with a lot of last year’s brigade, but it doesn’t necessarily translate. All on the day, and the margins are very fine.

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