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'It was a penalty shootout and I refused to take one. Never again'

Matthew Tierney scored the winning penalty in Galway’s dramatic victory against Armagh.

Image: Evan Treacy/INPHO

THERE WAS NEVER any doubt that Matthew Tierney was taking a penalty. In the dramatic All-Ireland quarter-final win over Armagh, he went fourth and iced it.

Galway’s vice-captain had been burned in a penalty shoot-out once before. A formative experience.

“We’d be practising them away so I had to put the hand up,” he explains.

“I remember I was playing soccer a long time ago. It was U14 Kennedy Cup, semi-final. We lost. It was a penalty shootout and I refused to take one. I was one of the better kickers on the team. Never again – you have to step up.”

matthew-tierney Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

In a team that included Irish international Aaron Connolly and Galway United’s Ronan Manning, Tierney was captain. They lost out to a Dublin & District Schoolboys League side who went on to win the competition.  

“He had the respect of every player. He had the mentality and had a winning attitude, everything no matter what came at him. It was just in him. He was a champion boxer at the time,” recalls then manager Tommy McClean.

“When Matthew took that penalty for Galway, I was watching him like he was my own young lad. That Kennedy Cup game, it went to extra time. Aaron actually got sent off and we were down to ten.

“There was a huge crowd there because most of the games don’t go to extra time. They were cheering for us because they didn’t want to see a Dublin team win again.”

Ever since Tierney has gone on to become a set-piece specialist. Frees, 45s, penalties. For club and county, he has kicked them all.

In 2019, his club reached an intermediate county final against Micheal Breathnach. Tierney forced a replay with a last-gasp 45 to level it. The sides could not be separated the next day out and penalties were required. 

Fast forward to Croke Park last month. While Tierney wheeled away jubilantly and the Galway fans danced in the stand, his parish nodded knowingly.

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“An absolutely incredible feeling. Everyone from Oughterard knew where I was going anyway. If you watched the county final, I put it bottom left as well.

“So, they were calling it. It was an incredible moment and the stand went crazy. It was class to have the stand there as well. With Covid last year, it wasn’t half as enjoyable. But a full packed-out Croker, it was class.”

Did he have the spot picked before the long walk to the penalty spot?

“I’d the spot picked a long time before that. Just five steps back, tell the umpire to raise the green flag!”

Tierney wasn’t born when Galway won in 1998. The 200o disappointment and 2001 delight were finals he was told about and reared on. He knows them intimately, and he knows what outcome he would like to see come Sunday.

I’ve watched them 100 times I’d say. Hopefully, it’s not a repeat of 2000.” 

About the author:

Maurice Brosnan

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