Harps woes continue with third loss in a row
Coolaney/Mullinabreena 0-12 Eastern Harps 1-7
It's not often that the third week of group games present do or die clashes in Championship football, but that was most certainly the case in Bunninadden last Saturday evening, as Eastern Harps looked to stave off a relegation playoff against a Coolaney/Mullinabreena team trying to bounce back after a disappointing loss to Coolera/Strandhill the week before.
Barry Gorman opened the scoring for the men in blue after 5 minutes of action with a free from 25 metres out, and it was Coolaney/Mullinabreena who grabbed the initiative in the opening exchanges. In a similar fashion to the Coolera match the week previous, Barry Gorman's brother Gavin and cousin Sean both contributed points of their own to push the lead to 4 points to no score.
Indeed, the Coolaney/Mullinabreena forward line was in large part a family affair, the half forward line all being brothers, Niall, Stephan and Paul Connolly.
Perhaps as a result of the familiarity of the surroundings, with Coolaney/Mullinabreena having played their last match in Bunninadden, it was they who leapt from the gates, pouncing on opposing kickouts and creating chances aplenty, though their accuracy could be questioned.
Despite suffering a blow when wing back Shane Gormalley was black carded after 20 minutes, Coolaney/Mullinabreena were largely in control coming up to halftime, limiting Eastern Harps's output to a single converted free, courtesy of full forward Shane O'Grady.
The complexion of the contest was changed instantaneously in the 31st minute of action however, as Harps corner forward Ronan Mulligan finished a storming run with a fantastic goal, his shot going into the bottom right corner with the speed and trajectory of a well-placed arrow.
Referee John Gilmartin soon called a halt to the first half proceedings, with the score now Eastern Harps 1-01 Coolaney/Mullinabreena 0-08, and with Harps very much in the ascendancy.
The second half was a much tighter affair than its predecessor, with Eastern Harps's experience coming to the fore in the shape of Ross Donovan and Tony Taylor at midfield.
A fine display of marksmanship from O'Grady, though sometimes counteracted by frees from Darren Coleman of Coolaney/Mullinabreena, kept Eastern Harps within touching distance.
The pressure applied on the Coolaney/Mullinabreena kick out was certainly doing its bit to tighten the screws, but in truth to come out on top Eastern Harps needed more from their forward line, and were relying far too much on O'Grady for their scoring output.
Last ditch efforts from Cian O'Dowd and Stephen Barrett did much to hinder Harps in their efforts to draw the game level, but it was a few well timed, well won kickouts from Sean and Gavin Gorman that gave Coolaney/Mullinabreena the breathing room they required.
Points from Stephan Connolly and Shane O'Brien also settled the nerves, before Barry Gorman tapped over the insurance point to stretch their led to two.
The last throw of the dice for Harps, a long ball into the square, went awry, and with that the contest was brought to an end.
A demoralising defeat for Eastern Harps, who off the back of three losses in the group stages, must now begin to look down rather than up, as a path to a quarter final is difficult to see from their perspective, with a relegation playoff awaiting the two teams that fail to qualify.
As for Coolaney/Mullinabreena, they will be happy with the result, and can now plan for the far from routine task of Drumcliffe/Rosses Point, a team which drew with them in their last meeting.
COOLANEY/MULLINABREENA: Ryan McAuley (0-01 '45), Stephen Barrett, Cian O'Dowd, Eamonn Gorman (Aidan Coleman), Shane Gormalley (Anthony Walsh BC), Kevin O'Kennedy, Nathan Mullen, Sean Gorman (0-01), Declan McCormack, Niall Connolly, Stephen Connolly, Paul Connolly (0-01 Conor McCormack), Gavin Gorman (0-01), Darren Coleman (0-02 2f, Shane O'Brien 0.01 1f), Barry Gorman (0-05 3f).
EASTERN HARPS: Alan Davey, James Soden, Barry Cryan, Tomas Taheny, Bryan Molloy, Ross Donovan, Kevin Gallagher, Thomas Cryan, Tony Taylor (0-01), Evan Lavin, Shawn O'Hara, Michael Clarke, Ronan Mulligan (1-00), Shane O'Grady (0-05 3f,'45), Martin Doherty.