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Talismanic Taylor leads Harps to first provincial decider

Sligo champions Eastern Harps shocked Mayo's Ballaghaderreen to book their place in the Connacht final for the first time at a wet Markievicz Park yesterday.

Eight points from man of the match Paul Taylor, added to scores from Danny O'Grady, Thomas Cryan and John Rafferty, saw Harps overcome the Mayo side, who scored only twice in the second half.

Harps trailed for almost the entire match, as Ballaghaderreen enjoyed a productive opening period. But the Sligo side deservedly took the lead with just three minutes left, and held on to secure a historic victory over their near neighbours.

It had all looked so different for Harps in the first half, as they trailed by four points early on, with Barry Kelly, Michael Solan and Barry Regan all on target for the visitors. Andy Hanley also scored two excellent points from play, and only Taylor's frees and a wonderful score from the in-form O'Grady kept Harps in touch.

Taylor's third point of the afternoon on the stroke of half-time reduced the deficit to three points, 0-7 to 0-4.

Harps made a brilliant start to the second period, with O'Grady again pointing superbly from play.

The gap was down to the minimum a minute later, when Taylor clipped over a simple free in front of the posts. And when Andy Moran saw two close efforts fail in quick succession, the momentum was definitely with Harps.

Moran's efforts were finally rewarded when he won a free in front of the posts, enabling Regan to tap over his third of the day.

Taylor cancelled this out with a long-range free and Harps had a let-off when Regan miscued a free from a good position. But the full-forward made no mistake from a similar area two minutes later, as Ballaghaderreen pulled two clear with 10 minutes to go.

Harps narrowed the gap again when Thomas Cryan pointed nicely after some brilliant fielding by Taylor, and Harps finally pulled level from another Taylor score, before the same player dramatically landed two more frees to edge Harps in front in the closing minutes.

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Harps captain Ross Donovan blocked an effort from Ballaghaderreen substitute Gavin Conway on the line as the Mayo champs fought back. But, with Regan and Moran hitting very poor wides in injury-time, it was left to Rafferty to seal the win for the hosts in injury-time.

<>Scorers -- Eastern Harps: P Taylor 0-8 (0-6f), D O'Grady 0-2, T Cryan, J Rafferty 0-1 each. Ballaghaderreen: B Regan 0-4 (0-3f), A Hanley 0-2, Gary Conway, M Solan, B Kelly 0-1 each.

Eastern Harps -- B McHugh; K Cryan, R Donovan, S King; P McGovern, B Phillips, K Gallagher; T Taylor, P Grady; M Doddy, J Rafferty, T Cryan; R Hannon, P Taylor, D O'Grady. Subs: S Dorrian for Hannon (48).

Ballaghaderreen -- O Flanagan; S Drake, P Rogers, T Regan; N Tuohy, J McCann, Gary Conway; B Kelly, J Kilcullen; M Solan, J Dillon, A Hanley; B Solan, B Regan, A Moran. Subs: D Kilcullen for T Regan (27), Gavin Conway for B Solan (48), P Kelly for M Solan (60).

Ref -- G Kinneavey (Galway).

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