On last Sunday 10th Nov. Skerries Harps Minor Hurlers welcomed Ballyboden St Endas to Skerries for the second time in as many months, as these two as yet unbeaten Championship teams, renewed their rivalry, this time in the Semi final of the Minor C Hurling Championship. Both teams were able to pick from strong panels and sure enough this encounter was to surpass their previous meeting , in terms of skill and high drama, as the two teams fought it out for a coveted birth in the 2013 County final.
The match started at a high tempo, with both teams going at it like their lives depended on it. Such was the intensity that chances were few and it took quite a while for the first score to be registered; a point from Boden. Harps were not led for long however as Liam Smart pounced on his first chance following a bat from the Boden keeper, when he finished to the net to give the home team an early advantage. Boden were quickly back into their stride however and replied with a tidy point from the half forward line. Harps were working hard all over the pitch as Boden probed time and time again, trying to carve open the home defence, with piercing runs down the wings. The harps half-back line stood firm during this period with Robbie O’Connor, Kian Coleman and Captain Eoin Hickey all sticking to their task , to a man and as a unit. Eventually Boden tagged on two further points, one from a free and one from play, while talisman Shane Rice replied for the Harps to tie things up heading into the 2nd quarter. Early harps goal scorer Liam Smart then tagged on a point to grab a slender lead, but with Boden looking sharp and dangerous it was no surprise when they tied up the match at 1-2 to 0-5.
Boden were looking to put distance between themselves and the home side and were regularly threatening the Harps goal, but time and time again they found the harps netminder Daniel Graham and the harps back line of Cathal Azzopardi, Johny fay-watt and Ciaran Furlong, in unyielding form as attack after attack was thwarted, as the home team met the visitors challenge head-on by this stage.
The hugely experienced and pivotal harps Midfield of Jack Carroll and Ian Furlong were working at full stretch at his stage, to maintain parity and create space and opportunities for the half-forward line and resulting scores did come, with a fine point from Kevin Gilmore and a pointed free from the harps free-taker Ciaran Joyce. Then to the visitors credit Boden mounted a late first half repost, with two quick scores to tie things up at 1-4 to 0-7 points, going into the break.
So at the break with nothing between the two sides and much speculation amongst the large attendance as to which team would start the 2nd half the brighter and sharper, it quickly became clear from the throw in that it was the Harps that would kick on and put distance between themselves and their south-side rivals, with the sea-siders tagging on 2 early unanswered points, the first a fine point from Sean Rocks and the second from a Joyce penalty , which was expertly deflected over the bar by the exceptional Boden netminder, the penalty having come from a determined run, from out on the left by Gilmore, which caught the boden backs in two minds as he broke through into the square. Boden were rattled and the Harps took full advantage during this period by piling on the pressure, capitalising on a purple patch which culminated in a second goal which Gilmore finished to the net, following great work by both Rocks and Smart; the gap now out to 5 points.
Queue a strong revival from the southsiders who ripped back into the harps with purpose and determination, to close the gap considerably, firstly from a well taken goal, from a long delivery which the harps rear guard failed to clear. Another Boden point quickly followed to leave the minimum between the two sides. Then came a key moment in the game when Boden were awarded a penalty, which was dispatched towards the roof of the net, only for the harps netminder Graham to get a touch on the rasper, turning it onto the bar, where it rebounded out into open play. Boden slotted the point but momentum swung back to the harps and two successive attacks drove them back into a 2 point lead, with 2 great scores from substitute full-forward Andy Davis and wing forward Donal McIlgorm.
Boden to their credit fought back yet again with two excellent points of their own; the game now seemingly heading into extra time. However there was to be one final twist when, following another pin-point puckout to the half forward line from the Skerries keeper, the ball was won and delivered into the full forward line, where Davis was again on hand and this time he finished with his boot to the net, to break Boden hearts. From the resultant puckout boden worked the ball to the harps 45 but the referee called time on what can only be described as a classic contest.
Final score Skerries Harps: 3-8 , Ballyboden St Endas 1-11.
Huge credit to both teams for a hard and fair contest full of commitment, flair and passion. Its terrific to see these games out in the north county and the hope is that there will be many more great hurling occasions like this, in the future. The future for boden remains very positive with the depth of talent at their disposal while for Skerries Harps there is the small matter of a Championship final , where opposition will come from either Cuala or Na Fianna; but thats a story for another day.
Skerries Harps Team: Daniel graham, Cathal Azzopardi, Jonathan Fay-Watt, Ciaran Furlong, Robbie O’Connor, Kian Coleman, Eoin Hickey©, Jack Carroll, Ian Furlong, Ciaran Joyce, Kevin Gilmore, Donal McIlgorm, Liam Smart, Sean Rocks, Shane Rice; Subs: Jack Fitzpatrick, Andrew Davis, Cian Coleman, Kevin Brennan, Sean Graham.
Skerries Mentors: Dave Horan, Jose Azzopardi, Paul Graham.