The Harps Intermediate Hurlers traveled to Rathdowney on Sunday, August 17th for a high noon showdown with Ballypickas. Both teams were on their “last life” in the Championship following opening round losses to Clonad for the Harps and to Park-Rathineska for Ballypickas. Manager Paul Kelly opted to play against the breeze for the first half – despite the good sunshine, a persistent strong breeze blew in from the northwest making life difficult for both teams.
Both sides took their time to settle and it took until the sixth minute before a flag was raised. The opening score honour come from the stick of veteran Shane Brophy who collected a lovely pass from Colm Dunphy. Four minutes later The Harps extended their lead when Kieran Freeman fired over a placed ball. Ballypickas replied quickly though and using the wind advantage guided a placed ball over the black spot to open their scoring account. Freeman was again on the scorecard from the resulting puckout and his free raised the Harps third white flag of the day.
With Ballypickas settled well, they began to use their superior physicality to dictate terms and were rewarded with a goal when the Harps failed to clear a goalmouth scramble. Ballypickas buoyed on by the goal, added another point from a placed ball to go two points ahead after sixteen minutes. Kieran Freeman kept the Harps in touch when he added a free on the eighteenth minute, however Ballypickas were still in the driving seat and added two further points from play in as many minutes.
Some choice words between players of both sides got heated when JP Deegan picked up a nasty cut to the face in the twenty-second minute and he had to be blood-subbed by Cathal Phelan to receive attention. When play resumed, Kieran Freeman was on hand to score a beauty of a point from play, a good way out into the breeze. Following that score, JP Deegan resumed play with half time coming into sight. Ballypickas regained their three point advantage when they popped over a free. Greg Aylward replied for the Harps from play to reduce the deficit once more.
The referee added four minutes of injury time to make up for an earlier knock to Michael Larkin and JP Deegan. In injury time, both sides added a point from play – with Kieran Freeman the scorer for the Harps. Half Time: The Harps 0-07 V 1-06 Ballypickas.
The second half started brilliantly for The Harps as Kieran Freeman popped over two frees in the opening three minutes. This was followed hot on the heels by a point from play by Niall Brophy. Freeman again added another point from placed ball which in turn was followed by a point from play by Greg Aylward who received a brilliant pass from Ciaran Costigan. Niall Brophy completed a strong scoring spell for the Harps in the 43rd minute to extend the Harps lead to four points.
Ballypickas to their credit, stormed back into the game and in the 46th minute had a goal for their efforts. Five minutes later, Ballypickas were back level when they pointed a free. The Harps management looked to the bench at that stage to replace tired legs. Michael Larkin was called ashore and was replaced by Cathal Phelan. The game entered a barren spell for the next seven minutes as both sides drove several wides. With two minutes of normal time remaining, Paul Kelly made further changes introducing Tom Dillon and Shane Fitzpatrick who replaced Shane Brophy and Greg Aylward respectively.
The Harps got their noses back in front on the stroke of full time when Kieran Freeman added a point from a free. The resulting puckout was won by the Harps who sent the ball back in quickly. Colm Dunphy ran onto the ball and despite being well held he somehow managed to get a rasper of a shot off to rattle the net and give the Harps a comfortable four point lead into injury time. Conor Deegan suffered cramp and had to be replaced by Padraig Spencer in the third minute of injury time. The referee added four further minutes of injury time which saw Ballypickas launch wave after wave of attack. Credit to Aaron Dunne, Sean Cahill and the entire defence lines who denied Ballypickas time and time again to see the Harps emerge victors on a full time score line of The Harps 1-14 V 2-07 Ballypickas.
The Harps now qualify for the Quarter Finals of the Intermediate Hurling Championship. Details of the fixture will be published when Laois County Board make the draw for the next round.
The Harps: 1 – Peter Walsh; 2 – Sean Cahill; 3 – Michael Larkin; 4 – Aaron Dunne; 5 – JP Deegan; 6 – John Dunne; 7 – Ciaran Costigan; 8 – Kieran Freeman; 9 – Rory Moore; 10 – Eoin O Sullivan; 11 – Niall Brophy; 12 – Conor Deegan; 13 – Greg Aylward; 14 – Shane Brophy; 15 – Colm Dunphy.
Subs: 22mins 1st half blood sub Harps IH–> off: JP Deegan on: Cathal Phelan; 26mins 1st half blood sub Harps IH–> off: Cathal Phelan on: JP Deegan; 21mins 2nd half substitution Harps IH–> off: Michael Larkin on: Cathal Phelan; 27mins 2nd half substitution Harps IH–> off: Shane Brophy on: Tom Dillon; 28mins 2nd half substitution Harps IH–> off: Greg Aylward on: Shane Fitzpatrick; 33mins 2nd half substitution Harps IH–> off: Conor Deegan on: Padraig Spencer.
Scorers: Kieran Freeman 0-09 (0-07f); Colm Dunphy 1-00; Greg Aylward 0-02; Niall Brophy 0-02; Shane Brophy 0-01.