A dominant second half performance saw The Harps open their Laois U-20 hurling championship campaign with a well-deserved win over Portlaoise.
The Harps 1-16
Laois U-20 Hurling Championship Round 1
Trailing by two points at half time, The Harps scored 1-11 without reply in the second half to see off a spirited Portlaoise side. A strong wind helped them to improve in the second half but so too did the introduction of Padraig Delaney and Ciaran Comerford.
The Harps had hoped to get themselves over the line without their two senior stars, with one eye on the SHC ‘A’ final this coming weekend, but they were forced to press them into the action. Portlaoise finished the first half strongly and were more than a match for The Harps at that stage, but the introduction of Delaney and Comerford saw the game swing decisively in favour of the winners.
Portlaoise had started well thanks to a free from Cormac Rigney, who knocked over a routine free from 21 yards out. The Harps were playing into a strong breeze in the first half and it took them a while to threaten the goal, but they eventually drew level with a free from Evan Deegan in the sixth minute.
Portlaoise responded quickly with a lovely score from Eddie Critchley, but Deegan again replied for The Harps after good work from Gareth Syngh to win them a free. Cormac Rigney’s second free pushed Portlaoise ahead once more, but then two excellent points in quick succession from Mikey Monahan gave The Harps the lead for the first time.
Evan Deegan then wasted a gilt-edged goal chance for The Harps before knocking over his third free of the half, as his side looked to take control of the game. Portlaoise had been playing well without being overly threatening in attack, but they best spell of the game came in the run up to half time.
Starting with a booming long-range free from Cormac Rigney they went on a run of four points on the trot. Ruairí Lewis added another with a fine score from the right wing and then Niall Carey added another to see them re-take the lead. Another free from Rigney wrapped up the scoring for the half, and Portlaoise were 0-7 to 0-5 ahead at the break.
The Harps made those aforementioned changes at the break and were much more solid at the back. Conor Delaney pointed within seconds of the restart, and then a Fionn Moore point drew them level.
They just kept picking off scores after that, with Deegan (2), Padraig Delaney and James Duggan all hitting the target before the only goal of the game arrived. Ciaran Comerford provided it, cutting in from the right wing and then placing a shot past the out-rushing John Óg Hanniffy.
Any score after that was only academic, as The Harps ran out convincing winners.
Scorers: Evan Deegan 0-6 (0-4 frees), Ciaran Comerford 1-1, Mikey Monahan, James Duggan, Fionn Whelan 0-2 each, Ciaran Burke, Conor Delaney, Podge Delaney 0-1 each.
Team: Lorcan Fitzpatrick; Thomas Walsh, Eoghan Doheny, Ben Dunphy; Tiarnach Doheny, Ciaran Burke, Rian Edwards; Mikey Monahan, Aaron Grady; Conor Delaney, James Duggan, Evan Deegan; Gareth Syngh, Fionn Whelan, Jim Kirby. Subs: Padraig Delaney for T Walsh (half time), Ciaran Comerford for Kirby (half time), Padraic Walsh for Whelan (55 mins), Billy McEvoy for Doheny (57 mins), Bill Phelan for Delaney (58 mins)
Scorers: Cormac Rigney 0-5 (all frees), Eddie Critchley 0-2, Niall Carey, Ruairí Lewis 0-1.
Team: John Óg Hanniffy; Eoin Carey, Cian Dowling-Byrne, Jamie Hickey; Eoin O’Connor, Ross Brennan, Cian Houlihan; Conor Doheny, Eddie Critchley; Michael Nerney, Cormac Rigney, Niall Carey; Eoin Naughton, Cathal Duggan, Ruairí Lewis. Subs: Ben Brennan for Doheny (47 mins), Aidan Nealon for Nerney (56 mins), Aaron Feane for Hickey (57 mins).
Referee: Adrian McCarthy (Clough-Ballacolla)