THE ROARING UNDER-20s Mayo's Conor Flynn (left) and Conall Dempsey (both from Knockmore) celebrate after Flynn's winning penalty decided Tuesday evening's Connacht Under-20 football championship semi-final at Tuam Stadium. Pic: Fiona O'Rourke
MAYO’S penalty shoot-out hero Conor Flynn said he felt ‘just pure joy’ when his sudden-death kick hit the back of the net at Tuam Stadium last night to win a dramatic Connacht Under-20 football championship semi-final.
The Knockmore defender’s perfectly-executed strike knocked Galway, the defending provincial and All-Ireland champions, out of the championship and booked Mayo’s ticket to next week’s decider against Roscommon or Sligo.
The nerve-racking shoot-out ended 7-6 in Maurice Sheridan’s side’s favour with Mayo goalkeeper, Ronan Connolly, saving two Galway penalties.
“I don’t know, I don’t really remember it!” Conor Flynn told The Mayo News when asked what converting the winning kick felt like.
“Time kinda stopped when I hit it. I remember seeing the ball going towards the net. It was just pure joy. I was just delighted to get over the line and do what we were planning to do for weeks.
“I just tried to score it, there was nothing special to it,” he added. “I was happy to do it.
“I wasn’t really nervous, I tried to stay relaxed and composed. Sure, it’s just a penalty really.”
Flynn, who scored both his penalties in the shoot-out with aplomb, has played quite a bit of soccer with Conn Rangers and is still registered with the North Mayo club.
He explained that Mayo had a very definite game-plan going into the game against a Galway team that lined out with 11 of the team that had started last December’s All-Ireland Final win over Dublin.
“We knew what our strengths were and what their weaknesses were, and we tried to just target that,” outlined Flynn.
“I was sweeper and there was a lot of counter-attacking football, the lads putting the ball through the hands. That’s basically it, we stuck to the plan and we knew it was working. It was just about getting the ball over the bar. It was tough at times but we got there.”
A tight and tense semi-final had finished level at 0-8 apiece at the end of normal time in front of 500 supporters. But despite Galway substitute, Nathan Grainger, converting a penalty in the first minute of extra-time, Mayo battled back to level through points from Conall Dempsey (free), sub’ Dylan Thornton and captain Jack Mahon (free).
This meant that the teams could not be separated at the end of the additional 20 minutes either, the game ending deadlocked at 1-8 to 0-11.
During a dramatic penalty shoot-out, the first six penalties were all scored (Jack Mahon, Conall Dempsey and the aforementioned Conor Flynn on target for Mayo) to leave it 3-3.
Then Ronan Connolly saved Warren Seoighe’s effort before, moments later, Galway’s Conor Flaherty denied Mayo’s Paddy Heneghan to restore the status quo.
The next six penalties were all scored as well (Cian McHale, Jack Mahon and Conall Dempsey converting for Mayo), leaving it 6-6, in ‘sudden-death’ before Connolly pulled off a superb save from Tony Gill’s well-struck penalty.
This meant it was down to Conor Flynn to win the match, and the Mayo sweeper duly obliged, arrowing his effort into the top left-hand corner of the Galway net.
“It’s savage, just savage,” Mayo goalkeeper, Ronan Connolly, smiled afterwards.
“There was no homework [for the penalty shoot-out]. The boys in training, that was about all. “Jack Mahon [scoring into] the top of the net in training every time. That was serious practice.
“I wasn’t really nervous,” he added. “The work was done. We came just came here tonight and played. If you can do it in Ardnaree, you can do it anywhere!” he laughed.
KEPT HIS COOL Mayo goalkeeper Ronan Connolly during the penalty shoot-out. Pic: Fiona O'Rourke
Ronan Connolly (Ardnaree Sarsfields); Seán Holmes(Knockmore), Ruairi Keane (Mayo Gaels), Eoin Gilrane (Ballinrobe); Conor Flynn (Knockmore), Ryan Baynes(Burrishoole), Aidan Cosgrove (Kiltimagh); Conor Dunleavy (Balla), Jack Carney (Kilmeena, 0-1); Ethan Henry(Mayo Gaels), Owen McHale (Belmullet), Connell Dempsey (Knockmore, 0-2,2fs); Ultan O’Reilly (Castlebar Mitchels, 0-1), Frank Irwin (Ballina Stephenites, 0-1), Jack Mahon (Charlestown, 0-4, 3fs).
Subs: Dylan Thornton (Ballina Stephenites, 0-1) for O’Reilly (38); Paddy Heneghan (Castlebar Mitchels) (0-1) for McHale (47), Conor Reid (Moy Davitts) for Gilraine (inj, 54); Cian McHale (Moy Davitts) for Carney (81).
Conor Flaherty; Jonathan McGrath, Eoghan Geraghty, Ruairi King; Cian Hernon, Tony Gill (0-1), Dylan Brady; Conor Raftery, Conall Gallagher (0-1); Alan Greene, Warren Seoige, Ryan Monahan (0-1); Daniel Cox, Tomo Culhane (0-3, 3fs), Matthew Cooley (0-1).
Subs: Diarmuid Kilcommins for Greene (47); James McLaughlin for Gallagher (47); Nathan Grainger (1-1, 1-0 pen) for Cooley (58); Alan Morris for Brady (64); Conall Gallagher for Raftery (70); Alan Greene for Morris (75); Oisin Gormley for Monahan (79).
Referee: J Gilmartin (Sligo)