This was much more of a contest than the scoreline might suggest, with the Gaels only finally taking the game away in the final twelve minutes or so. That said, they were clearly deserving winners and are a very impressive team. From our point of view, it was firstly about competing to win, and competing to the end, filling the jersey so to speak. Happily for the Harps, the lads did that very well. Acknowledgement at the outset for referees supremo Noel Davis who took this fixture on at short notice following an SOS call, drove over and reffed the game well.
The Harps had a significant breeze in their back in the first half, and they knew that they had to make the most of it. They conceded an early score to Conor Love, but thereafter the Harps got a good grip of the game in key areas. They took the next four points over a twelve minute period through Odhran McBrien from a free, Gavin McGovern from play plus two very well worked points from Aidy McKenna and Aaron McGlone. These were excellent scores in particular, but the Gaels had a very valuable wee three point burst in reply from Ronan Quinn (2) and Conor Love. Aaron McGlone had a great goal in the twentieth minute, fielding, turning and finishing intelligently, he was fouled for an Odhran McBrien free, before he pointed again from play. The Gaels struggled with Aaron’s excellent play in the first half. Nonetheless, another Conor Love point saw them only 4 down at half time on a 1-6 to 0-5 scoreline. You would have fancied them, given the breeze, and they did look sharp upfront through Ronan Quinn and Conor Love in particular. The Harps had worked very hard in the first half, and managed to gain plenty of turnovers and force plenty of errors.
They made a decent enough start to the second half, but were guilty of kicking a bit aimlessly into the breeze, when maybe try to work it, or hit the ball low and crossfield would have worked better. However, a massive blow came in the fifth minute, when Conor Love got an absolutely brilliant goal for the Gaels. With very little space and under pressure, he fired bullet finish into the top corner. The best score of the game. The next ten or twelve minutes continued with the Gaels punishing the Harps when they didn’t retain possession, and pressurizing our kickout into the wind. Scores followed from John Rehill from play and frees, maybe five points for him. Cahal Beacom had a good distance point as well, while Ethan Beresford got on the end of a ball over the top for a tap in goal late on. Still the Harps persevered, but they tired a bit as well. A good win for the Gaels in fairness. Their best players were Conor Love, Ronan Quinn, John Rehill and Johnny Cassidy. Quinn and Love were very sharp, while Rehill had a very influential second half in particular. Cassidy won a few hard balls and covered very well defensively throughout, with help from Brandon Horan as the game wore on.
The Harps had a lot of great efforts from younger players like Ronan McHugh, Rian McGovern and Leigh Green, both of whom kept playing against the odds and significantly older players. Aidy McKenna, Aaron McGlone, Gavin McGovern and Odhran McBrien worked very, very hard throughout and were involved in a lot of good play, but Oisin Smyth in particular kept working all the time, and chose the right option all the time in a very good performance. The group generally gave its supporters what we wanted, an indication that they understood what wearing the Harps jersey means: togetherness, workrate, and good attitude.