Flynn finishes it from the spot for Mayo

GAA: Connacht u20 Football Championship; Mayo 0-11 Galway 1-8 (AET); Mayo 7 - Galway 6 (Penalties)

Mayo’s Ultan O’Reilly celebrates with goalkeeper Ronan Connolly after their pulsating victory over Galway in the EirGrid Connacht U-20 Football Championship semi final after extra time and a penalty shoot out at Tuam Stadium last Tuesday night.  Photo: David Farrell Photography

Mayo’s Ultan O’Reilly celebrates with goalkeeper Ronan Connolly after their pulsating victory over Galway in the EirGrid Connacht U-20 Football Championship semi final after extra time and a penalty shoot out at Tuam Stadium last Tuesday night. Photo: David Farrell Photography

The grand old ground in Tuam has seen plenty of tough battles down through the years between Mayo and Galway.

It even saw a penalty shoot out before between the two counties in the FBD League in early 2020, when the world was much different place - but it never saw a tie between the two sides come down to a penalty shoot out when it was all on the line.

It was a complete role reversal from when these sides met in the same competition last year, that was played out on a day when the heavens opened in Castlebar and the wind howled down the field and Galway edged Mayo out on spot kicks to kick-start a drive to the All Ireland title at this grade last year.

On Tuesday evening, the clouds hung over the north Galway venue, but it was a muggy warm evening, which sapped energy from the young legs doing their best for their county in front of a hugely entertained crowd at the end.

There wasn’t much to write home about in the first half, with Galway going in at the break leading by 0-3 to 0-2. Both sides found the going tough early on and they very much left their shooting boots at home as the wides tally kept ticking up for both teams.

The Tribesmen opened the scoring two minutes in with a neat finish from Conall Gallagher from 35 meters out, that was cancelled out by a finish from Ultan O’Reilly four minutes later and on ten minutes Galway edged themselves back in front through a Tomo Culhane free after Alan Greene had been fouled by Connell Dempsey.

Mayo were back on terms in the 22md minute when Jack Mahon pointed a free from close range - but both sides were still misfiring in front of goal for the most part. Tony Gill got in for a goal chance but it was well saved by Ronan Connolly and Owen McHale also had a great chance for a goal for Mayo but his effort flashed wide of the target.

Just before the half time white Matthew Cooley hit an effort that just crept inside the post to edge Galway in front by the narrowest of margins.

With no back-door and both sides entire seasons hanging on the game and with no competitive football for a lot of these players since last Summer, the slow start has to be forgiven.

Mayo had themselves back on terms inside the opening minute following the resumption through a Mahon free, but points from Ryan Monaghan a great effort and Gill had Galway in front by two six minutes into the second half.

Maurice Sheridan’s Mayo side responded without missing a beat thanks to points from Jack Carney, Mahon and Frank Irwin to go 0-6 to 0-5 up after 40 minutes and it could have been even better for them only for Conor Flaherty to pull off a fine save from Ryan Baynes after a flowing Mayo move from one end of the field to the other.

It was all square at six points each at the final water break thanks to a Tomo Culhane point from a mark and it was all to play for going down the home straight on what was turning out to be a breathless night of action.

Culhane edged Galway back in front with nine minutes to go, but points from sub Paddy Heneghan and a Connell Dempsey free had Mayo 0-8 to 0-7 up with five to go on the clock.

Galway dug deep and their own replacement Nathan Grainger levelled it up with a well-taken effort only seconds after coming on and the game was heading to extra time.

Extra time couldn’t have started worse for Mayo with the hosts awarded a penalty from the very first play and Grainger stepped up to slot the ball past Connolly in the Mayo goal. On a evening where scores were hard to come by - that looked like it could have been the winner.

But Mayo said no to that thought process and they reeled off points from Dempsey and Dylan Thornton to cut the gap back to one by the half time break in extra time. They had it level through a Mahon point from a free with seven minutes to go and it was a case of next score wins.

Both sides prodded and poked around each other's rear guards, but the defensive stood firm and managed to not give away a free in shooting range and when the final whistle was blown, it was down to penalties to decide the outcome.

Both sides slotted away their first three efforts, Grainger, Gill and Culhane netting for Galway and Mahon, Dempsey and Flynn for Mayo. Then Seoife and Heneghan missed for their respective sides with their fourth efforts from the spot. James McLaughlin put away Galway’s fifth and the pressure was on Cian McHale for Mayo - he held his nerve and it was on to sudden death kicks from the spot.

Grainger did it again for Galway with their sixth penalty, the third he’d take on the night including during actual playing time. Mahon responded in kind for Mayo and then Gill stepped up for Galway and his effort was saved by Connolly - that left the Conor Flynn with the chance to win the game for Mayo and the Knockmore man made no mistake sending his penalty right in the top corner and Mayo into the final of the competition next week.

Scorers

Mayo: Jack Mahon 0-4 (3fs ), Connell Dempsey 0-2 (2fs ), Ultan O'Reilly, Paddy Heneghan, Dylan Thornton, Jack Carney, and Frank Irwin 0-1 each.

Galway: Nathan Grainger 1-1 (1-0 pen ), Tomo Culhane 0-3 (2fs, 1m ), Conall Gallagher, Matthew Cooley, Ryan Monahan, and Tony Gill 0-1 each.

MAYO: Ronan Connolly; Sean Holmes, Ruairi Keane, Eoin Gilraine; Conor Flynn, Ryan Baynes, Aidan Cosgrove; Conor Dunleavey, Jack Carney; Ethan Henry, Owen McHale, Connell Dempsey; Ultan O’Reilly, Frank Irwin, Jack Mahon. Subs: Dylan Thornton for O'Reilly (37 ), Paddy Heneghan for O McHale (46 ), Conor Reid for Gilraine (51 ), Cian McHale for Carney (79 ).

GALWAY: Conor Flaherty; Jonathan McGrath, Eoghan Geraghty, Ruairi King; Cian Hernon, Tony Gill, Dylan Brady; Conor Raftery, Conall Gallagher; Alan Greene, Warren Seoige, Ryan Monahan; Daniel Cox, Tomo Culhane, Matthew Cooley. Subs: James McLoughlin for Gallagher (46 ), Diarmuid Kilcommins for Greene (46 ), Nathan Grainger for Cooley (55 ), Alan Morris for Brady (60 ), Conall Gallagher for Raftery (70 ), Alan Greene for Morris (75 ), Oisin Gormley for Monahan (77 ).

REFEREE: John Gilmartin (Sligo ).

 

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