The Junior C hurlers welcomed Graiguecullen to Durrow this evening for the championship quarter final following the host’s opening round win against Castletown. The visitors Graiguecullen meanwhile had accounted for Ballypickas in their opening round and like The Harps they also had five points to spare in their win. It was a cool but sunny evening following a spell of rain with a brisk northwesterly blowing which the visitors opted to play with in the opening half.
Straight from the throw-in Graiguecullen won a free which was converted by the keeper – making it one of the quickest points ever scored in Junior C hurling, and while there was a nice crowd in attendance unfortunately there was nobody from the Guinness Book of Records to verify that one. Clearly buoyed on by their lightning fast start the Graiguecullen forward unit responded positively with a point from play moments later. 0-02 to 0-00 after two minutes.
The home side settled though and in the third minute Freddie Townsend popped over a fine point to give the home crowd something to cheer. It would though be ten minutes before the next score would be registered as both teams looked to stamp their authority on proceedings and shape the game going forward. However, both sides were guilty of hitting wides when rare scoring opportunities presented themselves. Graiguecullen claimed the third point of the night from a placed ball before another scoreless drought ensued.
Graiguecullen though could thank their goalkeeper for pulling off a great save in the nineteenth minute when Alan O’Connell pulled the trigger for what was a sure goal. Evan Deegan fired over a free in the 20th minute to cut the visitors lead to the minimum before Brian Farrell scored another beauty of a point to level the game in the 23rd. Farrell landed that point of the night from midfield following Joe Ryan’s long burst out of defence and had to work the ball back to Farrell who made no mistake.
With half time approaching, The Harps were beginning to get on top in this quarter final and in the 27th minute Kevin Madden was on hand to pounce and drill the ball to the net following a scramble in the square. Graiguecullen were behind for the first time in the game and went hunting for a reply and they cut the deficit to two on the stroke of half time with a fine long range point from play. Half time: The Harps 1-03 v 0-04 Graiguecullen.
The second half opened with The Harps smashing a superb goal from the stick of Albert Townsend in the thirty third minute – Albert made a fine run cutting through the Graiguecullen defence and burying the ball low and hard into the net leaving the Graiguecullen keeper no chance. Whatever Henno said to the lads at half time certainly worked as The Harps put the foot on the gas and clocked up further scores – Tom Dillon and Evan Deegan all landing points from out the field to push the home side seven points in front by the 36th minute.
The management looked to the line in the 37th minute and introduced Diarmuid Irwin for Joe Ryan. Graiguecullen to their credit arrested the slide and in the fortieth minute scored a fine long range effort. 2-05 to 0-05. Following Albert Townsend’s point from play in the 45th minute the management made their second substitution of the night introducing Shane Keown for Tom Dillon. Graiguecullen responded two minutes later with a pointed free to leave six between the sides again.
A facial injury to Emmett Fitzpatrick forced him off temporarily as a blood sub in the 51st minute. Graiguecullen to their credit kept fighting despite their six point shortfall and a clock careering towards the finish and The Harps proved strong to breakdown in the closing stages with all back lines and midfield alike keeping the men from the southeast of the county at bay. In the 55th minute, Evan Deegan landed a free from out on the wing to grab what was surely the insurance point.
But, Graiguecullen stuck to their task and were duly rewarded in the 58th minute with a goal that was all too similar to the Harps opening green flag almost an hour earlier. The Harps introduced further subs with Tomas Woods and Chris Dalton replacing Albert Townsend and Alan O’Connell respectively. The subs almost had goals each in the injury time spell – Dalton’s rasper went inches wide and almost took the head off the umpire in the process while Tomas Woods was unlucky not to have a green flag following Freddie Townsend’s pin-point pass.
Graiguecullen were refusing to give up and throughout the five minutes of added time they hunted in packs seeking a goal but the Harps defence was resilient. In the 64th minute the visitors won a free in front of goal and their keeper made the trek up to have a go – but the Harps defence deflected it over for a point leaving just a goal between the sides. However, there was no time left for Graiguecullen as the referee sounded the long whistle in the 65th minute and The Harps march on to the semi finals. Full time: The Harps 2-07 v 1-07 Graiguecullen.
The Harps now enter the draw along with the other quarter final winners: Rosenallis, Clonaslee and Mountmellick-or-Clonad.