The Harps Senior Hurlers welcomed Portlaoise to Durrow on a bitterly cold Easter Sunday afternoon for a 2pm throw-in. The weather remained dry throughout the game but a bitterly cold east wind made it rather unpleasant for players, officials and supporters alike. However, to their credit – supporters came in good numbers to cheer their respective sides in what was an entertaining and keenly contested challenge.
Just like in their previous game, The Harps allowed the opposition to get the better start and stern pressure from Portlaoise earned themselves a ’65 in the first minute of the game which they converted with the assistance of the breeze. It didn’t take The Harps long to get on the scoresheet though and Ciaran Comerford showed class in popping over a lovely point from out on the wing into the breeze to level affairs after four minutes.
Portlaoise though established a two point lead in as many minutes with a free followed up quickly with a point from play. Ciaran Comerford though was starting to prove a thorn in the side of Portlaoise and he converted a free which was awarded from a foul on him in the ninth minute. Portlaoise though were keen to continue their dominance of this opening period to the game and scored two quick fire points in the tenth minute to push the visitors three points out in front – The Harps 0-02 v 0-05 Portlaoise after ten minutes.
In the twelfth minute, Podge Delaney converted a long range free to give the home side a boost – but then disaster struck when Conor Dunne pulled up with an injury and had to be replaced by Daniel Comerford. Portlaoise though regained their three point advantage from play shortly after the substitution was made. The Harps began to settle in the fifteenth minute with two points, one a huge long range effort from Ronan Delahunty which was followed up with a free from Ciaran Comerford. Portlaoise then scored two points – either side of a great point by John Prior – one a free and the other from play to leave the scoreline on 0-08 to 0-06 at twenty minutes in.
The end of the first half saw John Brophy score a fine point following a Portlaoise point from a placed ball. Indeed Portlaoise restored their three point advantage with a long range point from play as half time drew nearer. However, on the stroke of half time, Pat Walshe found himself at the end of some clever passages of play to burst through the Portlaoise defence and kick the sliothar to the net to bring the home side level for the first time in the match. Half Time – The Harps 1-07 v 0-10 Portlaoise.
Manager Fintan Deegan brought his side into the dressing room for the interval and whatever was said must have been very inspirational – within fifteen seconds of the starting in the second half, John Brophy had the ball in the back of the Portlaoise net, much to the delight of the home support. Portlaoise replied with a pointed free, however Ciaran Comerford hit a purple patch and popped over four unanswered points, two from play and two from frees to open up a six point lead for his home team.
The Harps continued their brilliant spell with a third goal in the 38th minute – Brophy’s second major of the day – to give the home side a strong nine point lead making it a twelve point turn around from before Walshe’s major just on the stroke of half time. The Harps dominant spell though came to an end as the tempo of the game seemed to ease up and this allowed Portlaoise to chip away on the nine point gulf that had opened up before them. Portlaoise to their credit worked hard and were rewarded with frees, three of which they converted in the following ten minutes.
With the cold weather taking it’s toll on the players, manager Fintan Deegan looked to the bench to freshen things up and brought on Eoin Clancy and Richie Saunders for Michael Lanigan and Conor Brophy respectively. The Harps then scored two further points from play over the following ten minutes from the sticks of Ronan Delahunty and Ciaran Comerford while Portlaoise could not find any way back thanks to the excellent defensive work of Podge Delaney and John Prior who worked tirelessly to snuff out any way through.
In the final few minutes of the match, The Harps management made further substitutions with Niall Brophy and Owen Doheny replacing Ciaran Comerford and Padraic Dunne respectively. The Harps added two further points with Ronan Delahunty driving over a monster long range point from play whilst Ciaran Comerford capped off an excellent afternoon with another pointed free to give the home side an emphatic ten point win: The Harps 3-15 v 0-14 Portlaoise.
The Harps: 1 – Peter Walsh; 2 – Shane Phelan; 3 – Conor Dunne; 4 – David Doheny; 5 – John Prior; 6 – Padraig Delaney; 7 – Conor Brophy; 8 – Shane Fitzpatrick; 9 – Ronan Delahunty; 10 – Pauric Dunne; 11 – John Brophy; 12 – Conor Deegan; 13 – Ciaran Comerford; 14 – Pat Walshe; 15 – Michael Lanigan.
Subs: 12mins – off: Conor Dunne on: Daniel Comerford
45mins – off: Conor Brophy on: Richie Saunders
47mins – off: Michael Lanigan on: Eoin Clancy
58mins – off: Ciaran Comerford on: Niall Brophy
58mins – off: Padraic Dunne on: Owen Doheny
Scorers: Ciaran Comerford 0-08 (0-04f); John Brophy 2-01; Ronan Delahunty 0-03; Pat Walshe 1-00; Padraig Delaney 0-01f; John Prior 0-01; Richie Saunders 0-01f.
The Harps travel to Castletown next Sunday, April 8th for a 2pm throw-in as they meet the home side there in the third round. Overall The Harps will be well pleased to be joint top of the table following their two wins.