Tuesday 23 January 2018

Four-midable Harps bring leaders back down to earth

Brian Baneham

SKERRIES Harps' Under-12 hurlers continued their rich vein of form with an impressive victory over table-toppers St. Vincent's at a blustery Ballast Pit on Saturday.

Goals in either half from Alan Joyce paved the way for Skerries' success, but they had to endure a second-half offensive barrage from the Marino lads before completing their four-game winning streak.

Harps, playing with the advantage of a strong wind in the first period, got off to the perfect start after David Graham got on the end of a long Conor Nulty clearance before firing low past James Hannon who wasa starting in goal for St Vincent's.

Adding to a Sean Maguire point and his own converted 21-metre free, Graham turned provider for Harps' second goal which arrived on seven minutes. Sean Maguire's diagonal pass found Graham who shrewdly hand-passed to the on-running Alan Joyce. The fleet-footed Joyce danced around the Vincent's defence before blasting low and true to score the first of his two majors.

Following a good move involving Clinton Opara and Malachy Woodcock, Graham superbly pulled on a high ball to split the posts after 10 minutes which opened a 2-3 no score lead.

St. Vincent's were battling against two forceful elements at that stage, the wind which was still growing in strength, and a resolute Harps backline. Harps stoppers, Conor Nulty, Eoghan Mc Donald and Robert Kenny easily dealt with Vincent's rare first-half forays as the visitors' only point came from a converted 65 by Conor O'Brien.

Skerries bombardment of St Vincent's goal continued for the remainder of the first half. Vins' replacement 'keeper Muiris Curley brilliantly saved two blistering Clinton Opara shots before eventually conceding a Sean Maguire goal which was followed up by another David Graham pointed free as Harps banked a 3-4 to 0-1 lead going into the second half.

Vincent's launched into an attack immediately after the resumption and forced Harps netminder Mikey Joyce into a fine save. The resulting 65 was lofted over the black spot by Ciaran King and so began a sustained period of dominance by the visitors.

King, who was cheered on by his dad and interim Republic of Ireland manager Noel, was moved from full back to centre-field and along with Mark Keane and James Byrne they dictated proceedings for the majority of the second period.

However, Mikey Joyce performed heroics in goal for Skerries. As Vincent's peppered the Harps goal with numerous shots, Joyce was equal to them and along with David Mellowes and Conor Nulty they kept the away side at bay.

Vincent's eventually cracked open the Skerries rearguard, however, when Dannan O'Laonsaigh found himself one-on-one with Mikey Joyce and he slammed a bouncing shot past him after 13 second half minutes had elapsed.

O'Laonsaigh offloaded a Ciaran King cross-field pass to Ross Brady whose rasping shot was blocked on the line by Joyce once again, with Vincents sensing this was not to be their day.

They did, however, find a route past Joyce for a second goal with time slipping away when Daniel O'Connor blasted an unstoppable shot high into the roof of Skerries' goal to narrow the gap to five points.

But Skerries looked dangerous on the break and with speed merchant Clinton Opara's long relieving solo runs into enemy territory, Skerries eventually lifted the siege to pull away from danger. Their first score of the second half came in the final two minutes when David Graham capped a fine display with a point from a placed ball and that was quickly followed by Alan Joyce's second goal.

Once again, Opara's long solo run along the touchline created the space for David Mellowes whose deft little cut-back fell invitingly for Joyce to blast home from 14 metres, putting the result beyond any doubt.

The win stretches Pat Delaney's Skerries unbeaten run to four matches and lifts them to the top three of the league, while Vincent's, despite the best endeavours of players like Daire Drohan, Cathal Mc Hale and Diarmuid Dignam, suffered a rare defeat, denting their league title ambitions.

Skerries Harps: Mikey Joyce, David Mellowes, Conor Nulty, Alan Joyce 2-0, Sean Maguire 1-1, Clinton Opara, Robert Kenny, Adam Wynne, Malachy Woodcock, Eoghan Mc Donald, David Graham 1-4.

St Vincents: James Hannon, Ross Brady, Ciaran King 0-1, Mark Keane, Daniel O'Connor 1-0, Daire Drohan, Cathal Mc Hale, James Byrne, Conor O'Brien 0-1, Dannan O'Laonsaigh 1-0, Muiris Curley, Diarmuid Dignam.

Referee: Jack Higgins (St Maur's)

Fingal Independent

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