Harps outplay Saints

Thursday, 31 August 2017

THIS exciting and entertaining Round Two Senior tie was certainly a one-sided affair with a difference.


Harps were the better side overall and decidedly so in the first half, but they were put under real pressure all second half when Saints first choice team bar one took to the field.

Both started without serious play-makers through injury - Conor White, not fully recovered for Harps, and Ross McQuillan, still injured for Saints.

In a very dominant first half, Harps excelled.

They were confident, aggressive, full of pacy movement and co-ordinated darting runs producing great team play.

Their win the ball back was keen and their support play was excellent and their rate and quality of scoring was exemplary.

In that first half, Saints were living off scraps and showed little of the quality play they produced against the 'Tones in the last round.

Harps' opening score was the epitome of their first half play with Karl Loughran's deft pass out to Charlie Vernon sublime and set Charlie on a brief solo before he realised Ryan McShane for an extended 'mazy' defence splitting solo and a superbly driven low volleyed goal.

A brace of Tom O'Kane points flagged Harps up as likely winners inside six minutes.

Ryan McShane added two more goals in the first quarter as Harps led 3-4 to 0-2.

With two minutes to go in the half that lead became 3-8 to 0-3.

In that final two minutes, something stirred within Saints as Jason Duffy cut inside to fire to the net and he finished off the half with an excellent long range point as Harps led convincingly 3-9 to 1-4.

It was interesting to note first half that Kieran McKeever (played little all year), Sean Connell (out injured for some time) and Pearse Casey (returning from injury) started for Saints and when returners from USA Aidan Nugent, Gary McCooey, Colm Hoey and Phelim Savage all came on as subs, the effect on Saints was dramatic in the realisation by players and supporters that Saints' full strength team (still short Ross McQuillan and Michael Murray) was on the pitch for the first time this year.

Their rustiness, lack of team play was gone in an instant even though Tom O'Kane extended Harps' lead on the restart.

The remainder of that half saw Saints hold the dominant sway but not as 'one-sided' as Harps in the first.

Still, Saints were now in fluid mode, tackling hard, tough and aggressive and they were pressing very effectively a Harps team now on the back foot.

By the end of the rest of the half Saints had outscored a Harps team (who never gave up or surrendered) by 3-5 to 1-4.

A measure of Saints' comeback as they secured midfield was that a 13 point deficit was whittled back to five by the game finish.

Shea Hoey (2) and Kieran Hoey bagged Saints' goals, while Ryan McShane hit his fourth for Harps.

In the first half, Harps had re-established themselves as a very solid contender for the Senior title but Saints' ability to rattle Harps somewhat in the second half leaves the Harps' depth of contention open for judgement.

For me, Harps are still well in the mix as are Maghery, Cross' and St Patrick's and the fixtures drawn as the championship progresses will fascinate one's interest.

For Harps, they've discovered they could perform at the highest level of quality and intensity - all they need now is to sustain it.

For Saints, they've discovered their strongest team is back in harness, yet they must work very hard to build up their team play to the highest quality and intensity in very quick time.

Harps' scorers: R McShane (4-1), T O'Kane (0-4), U Lennon (0-2), C Murphy (0-2), J McElroy, S McCoy, R McGrath, G Swift, C Coulter (0-1 each).

St Pat's scorers: S Hoey (2-2), J Duffy (1-2), K Hoey (1-0), E Casey (0-3), A Nugent (0-2).


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