The Harps travelled to O’Moore Park on Saturday evening, August 30th for an early evening Championship Quarter Final date with Abbeyleix as the first installment of a double-header. Abbeyleix, who won the Senior B Hurling Championship last year have adapted well to the top flight of Championship hurling having seen off Castletown-Slieve Bloom in the first round by six points. They were only five points off last year’s county champions Camross in the second round to set up this Quarter Final clash.
The Harps, who traded in Division 1B of the league and survived a relegation scare against Ballinakill last year have also had a mixed Championship campaign in loosing the first round to Clough-Ballacolla and then beating Portlaoise to advance to the quarter final stage. It was a fine mild evening for hurling in O’Moore Park with a stiff breeze blowing into the country end. After the toss, The Harps were faced with playing into the breeze.
Abbeyleix were quickest of the mark when Ryan Peacock opened their sides account with a well taken point from play. From the resulting puck-out Abbeyleix won a free which was put wide by goalkeeper Enda Rowland. John Brophy had a chance to draw level moments later but his free tailed just wide, but Ryan Peacock made no mistake when he pointed a free minutes later to extend the lead to two. In the fourth minute, John Brophy made up for his earlier miss by converting a free to open The Harps’ account. Boggy was unlucky to see his snap shot drift wide moments later.
Eoin Clancy had goal on his mind in the fifth minute but was fouled on the way through and John Boggy Brophy was on hand to convert the free to bring the scores level. The opening minutes were full of drama as both sides tried to stamp their authority on the game and Abbeyleix were denied a sure goal in the seventh minute but for the sure hands of Kevin Galvin who turned the piledriver out for a sixty five. The 65 was converted by Eoin Reilly, his first score of many to come.
The following eight minutes were a fruitless period for both teams as wide after wide was registered. Rory McEvoy from play and Eoin Reilly from a free and a sideline were both unsuccessful for Abbeyleix whilst Sean Bourke, Ronan Delahunty and Eoin Clancy missed their chances for The Harps. The deadlock was broken in the sixteenth minute when Eoin Reilly converted a free to double the Abbeyleix lead. Moments later, Kevin Galvin was on hand to deny Abbeyleix another pop at goal and the counter attack saw Brian Dunne’s effort tail off wide. Eoin Reilly was imposing himself on the game at this stage and found the target again with a fine point from play as the last ten minutes of the game came into sight.
Sean Bouke and Brian Dunne had further misses as The Harps tried to gain a foothold in the game, but Abbeyleix were resilient and kept piling on the pressure. In the 24th minute Packie Flynn picked up a yellow card when his tackle was deemed out of order with Eoin Reilly converting the resulting free. The Harps were lucky in the resulting puckout that went wayward into the hands of Eoin Reilly who snapped it back wide. Brian Dunne made amends for his earlier misses in the 27th minute when his puck split the posts to give The Harps a much needed boost.
His point should have spurred on the Harps, but it was Abbeyleix who reacted and stormed ahead in the minutes leading up to half time. Rory McEvoy collected the resulting puckout and blazed it straight over The Harps bar to register their seventh point. Sean Bourke (Harps) and Eoin Reilly (Abbeyleix) both registered wides from play before Rory McEvoy found space on the 20m line and blazed a piledriver into the Harps net – there was nothing Kevin Galvin could do to stop the bullet. Half Time: The Harps 0-03 V 1-07 Abbeyleix.
The start of the second half saw The Harps make two changes with Ross Young making way for Rory Moore and Ronan Delahunty making way for Shane Donoghue. Boggy registered the first score from a free to narrow the gap to six which was followed up by a Sean Bourke wide. Abbeyleix got the next two scores with Eoin Reilly from a free and Steven Reilly from play to stretch the lead to 8 points. Abbeyleix made a substitution of their own in the 40th minute with Conor Bergin replacing Joe Bergin. Conor Bergin was unlucky with his first touch of the night when his effort floated just wide against the breeze.
The next few minutes saw John Brophy pop over two frees to claw back some of the Abbeyleix lead as Pat Walsh made way for Kieran Freeman. Abbeyleix’s Eoin Reilly refused to miss when he pucked over a free in the 43rd minute. Sean Bourke was again unlucky from the resulting puckout when his effort dribbled wide. At the other end moments later, Packie Flynn blocked Abbeyleix’s run on goal to go out for a 65 which was converted by Eoin Reilly. The Harps began a fight back and in the 47th minute John Brophy drove over two frees to reduce the lead to six once more. But it was a case of two steps forward and one step back as Eoin Reilly won the puck out and drove it over the black spot to restore Abbeyleix’s seven point lead that they had at half time.
Abbeyleix then made their second change of the evening when Dayne Peacock made way for Aaron Carroll. John Brophy was unlucky to see his free go just wide in the 51st minute (see video below). Eoin Clancy got his name on the scoreboard in the 52nd minute with a fine point from crowded conditions. This point was equalled at the opposite end seconds later with Conor Bergin for Abbeyleix popping over a point from play. Eoin Reilly had a rare miss when his free went wide a minute later, after which Abbeyleix made their third change of the night as Dan Coffey replaced Eugene Kerns. Similar to Conor Bergin before him, Dan Coffey’s first touch of the night drifted wide.
The Harps, seven points down and with just five minutes of normal time remaining began to up the ante as a Championship exit was in clear view. Their efforts were rewarded moments later when Brian Dunne pulled on a ground stroke to the net following a goalmouth scramble. The Harps had cut the deficit to four and there was a sense of “something salvageable” in the air. The Harps crowd in the stand responded and roared their team on. But it was Abbeyleix who would draw next blood as Eoin Reilly scored his second point from play of the night to stretch the lead to five.
The Harps had no option but to go for goals and after winning a 65, the dropped short puck was unable to find a Harps man. The Harps were fruitless in their attempt for goals in the remaining minutes in which Abbeyleix made their fourth change of the night when Ryan Peacock made way for Matt Thornton in the 59th minute. With two added minutes of added time, The Harps had to make do with a solitary point which was struck over from play by Sean Bourke. The full time whistle followed and so did the full time on The Harps Championship campaign. Full Time score: The Harps 1-10 V 1-14 Abbeyleix.
The Harps: 1 – Kevin Galvin; 2 – Shane Phelan; 3 – Packie Flynn; 4 – John Prior; 5 – Ross Young; 6 – Conor Dunne; 7 – Barry Dunne; 8 – Ronan Delahunty; 9 – Sean Bourke; 10 – Gavin Dunne; 11 – Pat Walsh; 12 – John Brophy; 13 – Eoin Clancy; 14 – Brian Dunne; 15 – Tadgh Sullivan.
Subs: 30mins – off: Ross Young on: Tommy Moore; 30mins off: Ronan Delahunty on: Shane Donoghue; 43mins off: Pat Walsh on: Kieran Freeman.
Scorers: John Brophy 0-07 (0-06f); Brian Dunne 1-01; Sean Bourke and Eoin Clancy 0-01 each.