A youthful Junior Harps hurling side sprinkled with a few seasoned campaigners travelled to Ballinakill to open their ACHL4 campaign against local rivals Ballinakill. A fine morning for hurling was on offer from the weather Gods as a gentle breeze and a little sunshine shone down on the pitch. The game was delayed as the referee arrived late, no doubt he was caught up in one of the many “cows crossing” zones that pepper the rural roads to Ballinakill!
The game began with the Harps in flying form, popping over frees and points from play inside the opening ten minutes from the stick of Conor Deegan. Ballinakill could only grab a sole point from play in that opening third to leave the scoreboard reading 0-05 to 0-01. The next ten minutes however saw Ballinakill claw their way back into the game with three unanswered points (1 free) to bring the gap to the narrowest of margins. Danny Delahunty extended the Harps lead to two with a long range free against the wind. However, disaster struck at the end of this middle third when Ballinakill landed a ’65 into Liam Dunphy’s net to take a lead for the first time.
The final third of the first half saw both teams battle hard to impose themselves in the game. Ballinakill added three further unanswered points (1 free) after their major to extend their lead to four points. Credit to the Harps though as they stormed back into the game with a free followed by a smashing goal from Conor Deegan to put the game back on level terms at 1-07 apiece. Ballinakill using the slight wind advantage popped over two further points from play before Conor Deegan landed a free to leave the sides with the minimum separating them at the short whistle. Half Time: The Harps 1-08 v 1-09 Ballinakill.
The second half continued with the same tempo as the latter end of the first half with The Harps and Ballinakill trading scores in the opening seven minutes. Manager Liam Clancy then called Rory Doyle ashore and brought on James Larkin to freshen his side up. Conor Deegan scored two points from three in a dominant spell from the Harps, with the other point from Darren Maher to give the Harps a two point lead midway through the second half. Ballinakill pointed two frees while Conor Deegan scored one for the Harps to leave the slimmest of margins between the sides going into the final ten minutes of the game.
Liam Clancy once more looked to his bench to freshen up things and introduced Michael Larkin and Denis Lennon while calling Niall Donohue and Tadgh Fitzpatrick ashore. Disaster struck though moments later as Ballinakill added a second goal to go two points up with the clock bearing down. Moments later Ballinakill were reduced to fourteen men as midfielder Daniel Bergin picked up his second yellow card. Conor Deegan pointed the resulting free, but The Harps could not take advantage of the numerical advantage in the closing moments that saw Ballinakill finish strongly scoring a free and a long range point from play to grind out the win. Full time score: Ballinakill 2-15 V 1-15 The Harps.
The Harps: position 1 – Liam Dunphy; position 2 – Liam Dillon; position 3 – Tom Dillon; position 4 – Niall Donohue; position 5 – Jack McEvoy; position 6 – Rory Doyle; position 7 – Danny Delahunty; position 8 – Brian Farrell; position 9 – Darren Maher; position 10 – Shane Brophy; position 11 – Justin Brophy; position 12 – Tadgh Fitzpatrick; position 13 – Eoin O Sullivan; position 14 – Johnny Doyle; position 15 – Conor Deegan.
Subs Used: 40mins off: Rory Doyle on: James Larkin; 53mins off: Niall Donoghue on: Michael Larkin; 53mins Tadgh Fitzpatrick on: Denis Lennon.
Scorers: Conor Deegan 1-12 (0-10f); Danny Delahunty 0-01f; Tadgh Fitzpatrick 0-01; Darren Maher 0-01.
The Harps will face Abbeyleix in their next game on April 19th at 12noon in Durrow GAA Grounds.