Tuesday 24 October 2017

Harps book place in final

Belfry Senior Championship semi-final: Eastern Harps 1-10 St Mary's 1-9

Stephen Coen of St Mary’s in possession as Ross Donovan, Eastern Harps defends. Pic: Tom Callanan
Stephen Coen of St Mary’s in possession as Ross Donovan, Eastern Harps defends. Pic: Tom Callanan

Emma Gallagher at Markievicz Park

Eastern Harps are into the final of the Belfry Senior Championship for the first time in seven years after a never-say-die battle with St Mary's in Markievicz Park on Sunday.

With St Mary's demolishing Coolaney/Mullinabreena in the quarter finals, Glenn Young's charges were favourites to book their place in the final.

They were comfortably leading by five points in the second half and could have gone further in front but Eastern Harps keep fighting and were rewarded for their efforts in the closing stages.

The drama unfolded when Harps struck 1-4 without reply, swiftly turning around St Mary's lead and went two points up with three minutes remaining.

St Mary's tried desperately to claw back into the game and two chances to level were squandered with Harps' keeper Stephen Herrity pulling off two fine saves on attempts from Kyle Cawley and Mark McGoldrick with a minute left. Harps, with the likes of midfielder Tony Taylor putting in an immense performance, hung out despite a late attack from St Mary's and book their place in the Belfry Senior Championship final for the first time since 2010.

St Mary's had to do without keeper Fintan Ruddy who suffered an injury in the warm-up and was replaced by Alan Sheerin.

The match began with Harps showing dominance in possession.

With only 23 seconds on the clock they went on an early attack but the shot sliced wide of the post.

It was followed by another Harps attack from the kick-out but again the attempt sailed wide with only one minute played.

It was 19-year-old Shane O'Grady, the Harps' full-forward, who got the game's first score with six minutes played.

Mary's were attempting to get their first score but were guilty of a number of wides, seven in total in the first half as Harps were taking advantage in the opening 15 minutes.

Michael Clarke, the hardworking Harps' half-back sent over a fantastic score on ten minutes in a quick move, Tony Taylor also involved in the link-up play as Mary's were struggling in front of the posts.

Johnyn Martyn went on an attacking run and linked up with Rory Guinan but his shot also went wide of the posts as Mary's still had to get off the mark.

Harps were moving the ball well and Kevin Gallagher looked set to add another point but good defending from Mark Breheny saw his chance go wide of the post.

Harps were more decisive driving forward and a good move involving Declan Hannon, Kevin Cryan and Kevin Gallagher, saw Hannon point their third with 12 minutes played.

Then Mary's were somewhat fortunate to find the Harps net on 16 minutes.

The move began with Christopher Kelly and Stephen Coen finding the lively Kyle Cawley and he sent a dangerous ball towards the Harps' goal.

The Harps keeper Stephen Herrity slipped while going for the ball and the ball bounced into the net, bringing Mary's level.

Harps to their credit fought back, Evan Lavin and Donovan linked up to find Declan Hannon who sent over another brilliant point, his second, to edge them in front again.

Two minutes later and it was all square again, the hardworking Niall McManus went on a long solo run and slotted over.

From here it was Mary's who were going to exert more dominance.

Coen was unlucky to see his shot from a difficult angle come off the post but he made up for it on 22 minutes with a good point from play,Cawley and Breheny involved too.

Mary's were looking more confident as the first half was coming to an end, as the Harps' intensity seemed to have waned slightly following the goal.

They should have been more in front as they didn't convert a number of scoring chances. It was the excellent Clarke who brought it back level on 28 minutes, a solo run seeing the half-back slot over.

Breheny pointed a free in injury time to give Mary's the slightest of advantages at the break.

A quick move after the resumption saw Coen pass to Cawley who was fouled and Breheny pointed the free with 50 seconds on the clock.

The 2015 champions were two in front on 33 minutes, again midfielder McManus found Guinan who slotted over to put three between them.

It was Guinan again who converted a free three minutes later after Cian Breheny was fouled.

The hardworking Guinan added a third point on the trot and gave Mary's a five point cushion with 20 minutes remaining as Harps needed to score.

Taylor pointed a fantastic point from play on 42 minutes before Guinan responded for Mary's with a converted free after Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch was fouled.

From here the Harps revival was about to begin, Shane King's men would score 1-4 without reply in the closing ten minutes.

Clarke was fouled with O'Grady stepping up to do the honours on 49 minutes, before he added another fine score from distance to leave only three between them with ten minutes to go.

The Harps' support were rallying behind their side and when Taylor sent over a fabulous point there was only two between them with five minutes to go.

It was anybody's game and Harps were by no way done just yet.

A long high ball was sent towards the Mary's goal by Taylor and the goalmouth scramble saw Harps' James O'Hara swiftly grab possession and slam the ball into the back of the net.

To say the Harps' support were delirious would be a slight understatement,

They were now a point in front and with four minutes to go, it was looking ominous for a struggling Mary's, who hadn't scored since the 45th minute.

It was O'Hara who was involved again in the next move, with the minor player earning a free, which was converted by Michael Lennon but the drama wasn't over yet.

Nathan Rooney found Cawley and he went bounding towards the Harps' goal, Herrity pulling off a sensational save in the 58th minute.

Then Mary's had another goal chances saved again by Herrity on 59 minutes.

This time it was Rooney finding Mark McGoldrick but again Herrity was on hand to pull off a brilliant save. Mary's were running out of times and options and although Breheny converted a free on Coen, it was too late as referee John Gilmartin signalled the end. The green and white brigade of Keash, Gurteen, Ballinafad and surrounding townlands invaded the pitch to congratulate their stars, who fought defiantly right until the end, and now are into the Belfry Senior Final for the first time since 2010.

EASTERN HARPS: S Herrity, G Horan, K Cryan, D Madden, M Clarke (0-2), R Donovan, C Higgins, T Taylor (0-2), K Gallagher, C McGill, T Cryan, D Hannon (0-2), E Lavin, S O'Grady (0-3, 1f), M Doherty, Subs: J O' Hara (1-0) for Doherty (16), M Lennon (0-1, 1f) for McGill (38),

ST MARY'S: A Sheerin, K Coen, L Nicholson, J Martyn, C Kelly, B McGarry, G O'Kelly-Lynch, N McManus (0-1), P Kilcoyne, D Kilgallon, M Breheny (0-3, 3f), K Cawley (1-0), S Coen (0-1), R Guinan (0-4, 3f), C O'Grady. Subs: C Breheny for Kilgallon (inj 19), N Rooney for Martyn (42), N McDermott for Guinan (51st),M McGoldrick for Kelly (58). REFEREE: J Gilmartin.

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