The Harps Gaels travelled to Old Portlaoise GAA grounds to face Castletown-Slieve Bloom in this Minor Hurling Championship Quarter Final. The game, previously fixed for Borris-in-Ossory was switched to Portlaoise in order to accommodate another quarter final between Borris-Kilcotton and Camross that was postponed on Sunday night last. For The Harps Gaels this was their first outing in the 2014 Championship as they received a bye owing to their great success in winning last year’s competition. It was an overcast evening with a light to moderate breeze which favoured Castletown-Slieve Bloom in the opening half.
The first score of the game fell to Castletown-Slieve Bloom’s Ryan Mullanney who converted a free. This however, was cancelled out less than a minute later when Eoin O’Sullivan flicked over a point from play. CSB upped the ante firing over three unanswered points in as many minutes with Mullanney pointing from play and a free and O’Dea pointing from play all in impressive form. The Harps Gaels were jittery and struggling to settle in these early exchanges, driving a few wides in desperation to halt the CSB march. In the sixth minute, the Harps Gaels won a free which was well executed by Greg Aylward to keep in contention. This score seemed to settle the nerves and the Harps Gaels started to hurl with purpose.
Playing into the wind was always going to be difficult, but the Harps Gaels managed to pull level over the coming ten minutes – whilst vitally holding CSB scoreless in that time. Paul Simms lead the charge reeling off two very fine points from play. Indeed his shot for the second point could have easily rattled the net following a daring run around practically the whole CSB defence! Castletown-Slieve Bloom managed a point from play on the 20th minute from the midfield, but the Harps Gaels were dominant and resumed scoring duty soon after with Greg Aylward nailing a free. That was quickly followed by a Paul Simms point from what seemed an impossible angle – both sets of supporters applauding from the sidelines.
In the run up to half time, the breeze seemed to get stronger and this kept the scoreboard quiet for some six minutes as both sides missed frees which would have gone over on a calmer evening. Nonetheless, the Harps Gaels continued to work hard and Paul Simms popped up again to score yet another beauty of a point from play. Despite being surrounded by CSB defenders out on the sideline he managed to fire over a point from almost 50m! With time running out, the referee sounded the whistle to signal half time. The Harps Gaels 0-07 v 0-05 Castletown-Slieve Bloom.
The start of the second half proved a minor disaster for the Harps Gaels. Despite saving a shot on goal, the Harps Gaels keeper Liam Dunphy and Harps Gaels defender Cathal Phelan had a mix up in clearing the rebound and somehow it trickled into the Harps Gaels to give Castletown-Slieve Bloom a fortunate goal and the lead once more. Credit to the Harps Gaels though, they battled back and drew level after five minutes when Greg Aylward slotted over a free (see video below).
Three minutes later, Paul Simms picked up a fine pass from Ciaran Costigan and using quickness of mind and hands fired over a beauty of a point just before CSB got a chance to crowd him out. The Harps Gaels were back in front, but only by the minimum of margin. Castletown-Slieve Bloom battled hard to grab scores but the hooking and blocking of the Harps Gaels defence led by Richie Saunders and Shane Fitzpatrick shone through and denied the CSB side time and time again. The Harps Gaels cleared a long ball down into the forward line where Padraig Delaney was on hand to parry the ball to the CSB net to give the Harps Gaels a much needed goal.
Castletown-Slieve Bloom came roaring back though and scored two points without reply to leave two points between the sides with ten minutes left – one from play and one from a free. The Harps Gaels thought the Gods were conspiring against them when a great goal chance was blocked down and put wide for a 65, which was put just wide by Greg Aylward. Greg Aylward made up for it though two minutes later when he pointed a free from almost the same spot and the Harps Gaels had a three point cushion once more.
The final ten minutes were hard fought. In the 23rd minute Sean Downey picked up a yellow card for a late tackle and the Harps Gaels had a let off when CSB drove the resulting free wide. A few minor injuries held the game up for a few minutes before Danny Comerford replaced Michael Moran in the 58th minute. The Harps Gaels stood firm for the final minutes in which Greg Aylward fired over two great points from play to seal the victory and send the Harps Gaels into the Laois Minor Hurling Championship Semi-Finals against Borris-Kilcotton. Full Time: The Harps Gaels 1-12 V 1-07 Castletown-Slieve Bloom.
Next: Borris-Kilcotton await the Harps Gaels in the Semi-Finals following their comprehensive victory over Camross on a scoreline of 3-22 to 4-09. The date, time and venue is yet to be announced by the County Board. Please stay tuned to our Facebook Page for forthcoming details.
The Harps: 1 – Liam Dunphy; 2 – Cathal Phelan; 3 – Shane Tyrell; 4 – David Doheny; 5 – Declan Foyle; 6 – Richie Saunders; 7 – Ciaran Costigan; 8 – Shane Fitzpatrick; 9 – Michael Moran; 10 – Ciaran Comerford; 11 – Sean Downey; 12 – Greg Aylward; 13 – Padraig Delaney; 14 – Paul Simms; 15 – Eoin O Sullivan.
Subs Used: Off: Michael Moran, On: Danny Comerford (58mins)
Scorers: Greg Aylward 0-06 (0-04f); Paul Simms 0-05; Padraig Delaney 1-00; Eoin O’Sullivan 0-01.