O’Moore Park, Portlaoise was the venue for this first round Senior Hurling Championship game between The Harps and Clough-Ballacolla. Although it was mostly cloudy, it was warm with a light breeze making for perfect hurling conditions. There was a good crowd in attendance with the numbers swelling as the game wore on ahead of a second match due straight after this tie.
The Harps were first out of the blocks with Eoin Clancy floating over his first point of the night were close on goal from the resulting puckout which saw Brian Dunne’s effort saved. Clough-Ballacolla quickly replied and were on level terms minutes later when Aidan Corby scored his side’s opening point from play. Clough-Ballacolla added another moments later when Willie Hyland sent over an impressive side-line cut. The Harps were back level again inside three minutes when John Brophy pointed from close range that had goal written all over it. Aidan Corby for C-B continued this tic-for-tac scoring exchanges when he stole a run and cracked over a fine point. Similarly at the other end, Tadgh Sullivan leveled affairs once more as the tempo of the game notched up a gear.
Clough-Ballacolla hit a purple patch that would see them extend their lead to three points over the coming ten minutes. Picky Maher scored a free and was instrumental minutes later when he set up Willie Hyland who burst through for a point from play – tumbling the referee Anthony Stapleton to the ground in the process which raised a good-hearted chuckle from the crowds in the stand! Willie Hyland again added his trademark sideline cut to the scoreboard from under the terrace side to see the Clough-Ballacolla side lead 0-06 to 0-03 after seventeen minutes.
Eoin Clancy cut the deficit to two, but it was quickly equaled when Picky Maher pucked over a free for Clough-Ballacolla. Moments later John Prior was deemed to have fouled and picked up a yellow card and again Picky Maher floated over the resulting free to extend their lead. Aidan Corby and Canice Coonan added further points from play for the 2011 County Champions to open up a six point lead. A free near the middle of the field for The Harps saw John Brophy convert to leave the gap at five points just before half time – but disaster struck in injury time when a poor clearance saw Eoin Doyle’s clearance for Clough-Ballacolla find Willie Hyland who scrambled a pass to Willie Dunphy in the box who blasted past Kevin Galvin to the net. Half Time: The Harps 0-05 v 1-10 Clough-Ballacolla.
Whatever the Manager Tommy Bawle said to the Harps team half time worked wonders as the Harps turned this game around in the opening period of the second half. Despite Willie Dunphy grabbing the first point for Clough-Ballacolla, the Harps blazed over eight points in a row without reply to cut the deficit to just one point. A point by Ronan Delahunty followed by three John Brophy frees inside the opening six minutes got the Harps crowd in the stand vocal once again. Four further points from Eoin Clancy, Brian Dunne, Ross Young and John Brophy – all from play came in five minutes of excellent hurling by the Harps.
With the heat beginning to take it’s toll, the management sought to change things a little and Tadgh Sullivan was replaced by James Lappin. Willie Hyland for Clough-Ballacolla added his third sideline cut point of the night confirming his status as one of the best in the county at the skill. Clough-Ballacolla refused to panic and added two more points from play with Willie Dunphy and Willie Hyland raising the white flags. Eoin Clancy and John Brophy (free) quickly equaled those two points.
The defining moments of the game came when Clough-Ballacolla pointed a free by Picky Maher. Moments later a clever pass from the wing saw Picky Maher collect, turn and blast the sliothar into the roof of the net to leave the score-line at 2-15 to 0-15. Ronan Delahunty and Brian Dunne were replaced by Shane Donoghue and Pat Walsh as the management seeked to mount a re-challenge with ten minutes remaining. Clough-Ballacolla added a point from a free moments later followed by a long-range point from John Prior who made a good run along the sideline. Clough-Ballacolla’s Michael McEvoy pointed from play moments later.
A devastating blow for the Harps followed when full back Brian Galvin picked up a horrible injury to his cruciate. Over five minutes passed as physios attended Brian on the field before stretchering him off – to which the crowds in the stand showed their appreciation as Brian had given a phenomenal performance all evening on the full-back line. We wish Brian the very best in his recovery. Brian was replaced by Richie Saunders.
When play resumed, Ross Young was also replaced by Tommy Moore. After that, Barry Dunne made a good run from the midfield area to collect a loose ball and bury it to the net but Clough-Ballacolla would have the last say in this game when Willie Dunphy scored the final point of the match from play to leave the full time score reading: The Harps 1-16 V 2-18 Clough-Ballacolla. The Harps now must await the winners of the Camross V Portlaoise replay while Clough-Ballacolla will face neighbours and rivals Rathdowney-Errill in the quarter finals.
Scorers: Clough-Ballacolla: Stephen Maher 1-05 (0-05f); Willie Dunphy 1-03; Willie Hyland 0-05 (0-3sl); Aidan Corby 0-03; Canice Coonan 0-01; Mick McEvoy 0-01. The Harps: John Brophy 0-07 (0-05f); Eoin Clancy 0-04; Barry Dunne 1-00; Tadgh O’Sullivan 0-01; Ross Young 0-01; Ronan Delahunty 0-01; Brian Dunne 0-01; John Prior 0-01.
Clough/Ballacolla: Danny Hanlon; Eoin Doyle, Darren Maher, Pat McEvoy; John A Delaney, Brendan McEvoy, Canice Coonan; Shane Hanlon, Damien Bergin; Aidan Corby, Mick McEvoy, Willie Hyland; Willie Dunphy, Stephen Maher, Stephen Bergin. Subs: John Doyle for Stephen Bergin (22mins)
The Harps: Kevin Galvin; Shane Phelan, Brian Galvin, John Prior; Conor Dunne, Ross Young, Conor Brophy; Barry Dunne, Gavin Dunne; Sean Bourke, Ronan Delahunty, Eoin Clancy; John Brophy, Brian Dunne, Tadgh O’Sullivan. Subs: James Lappin for Tadgh O’Sullivan (40mins); Shane Donohue for Ronan Delahunty (49mins); Pat Walshe for Brian Dunne (49mins); Richie Saunders for Brian Galvin (61mins); Tommy Moore for Ross Young (63min)
Referee: Anthony Stapleton (Rathdowney-Errill).
Photo: Denis Byrne, via Leinster Express.