Harps Exit Ulster Club at First Hurdle

posted 21 Oct 2018, 14:36 by Derrygonnelly Harps
Ulster Club Senior Football Championship
Preliminary Round
Scotstown 2-17 Harps 1-11

Played in glorious sunshine, St Tiernachs Park Clones was to prove to be an unhappy hunting ground yet again for the Harps at Ulster Club level, with the Harps well beaten in the end by a very impressive Scotstown outfit.

We started brightly enough with Mugs opening the scoring from play after Ryan showed his intent with a typical bit of graft.  Scotstown showered a few early balls into the corner which Eamo relished, while Decy and Ryan were coming in for some special attention around the middle third of the pitch.  There was a bit of probing from both sides.  Orin Heaphey got Scotstowns first score although Jack had to stretch to push his shot over the bar.  Shane caught the responding kick-out and fed Ryan who pointed, while at the other end the pace of Scotstowns half forward line, particularly Francis Maguire and Conor McCarthy was causing problems, Kieran Hughes coming off McCarthy's wing for the point to level things.  Nip and Tuck.  Shane Carey danced his way around several Harps defenders to point and give Scotstown the lead again, followed up with a good point from Heaphey again and their lead was doubled.
Then came the first turning point.  Leigh Jones delivered an awesome ball in front of the incoming Shane McGullion, he was clane through, he pulled the trigger and was fouled by Shane Carey and was hurt.  Badly hurt.  He had to go off, while Conall stood over the spot kick against Rory Beggan.  He hit her low and to the left and past Beggan - Goal!  We went 1-2 to 0-4 ahead.  But Scotstown didn't panic.  Very patiently they built up, across the pitch and back, probing and eventually Carey popped through the line and got the point to level things again.  Garvan and Conall did a bit of one-two with each other under pressure before Garvan broke free to fist over the bar 1-3 to 0-5 and Ryan followed this up with an absolute monster after Tiarnan broke the kick out to put us 1-4 to 0-5 up.  Scotstown responded with a brace from Damien McArdle and McCarthy to level things up.  Rory Beggan stepped up to take a free at least 55 yards out and struck it beautifully over the black-spot to put Scotstown one up.  Mug caught the kick-out, fed Wardy who saw Leigh with a neat pass to point and it was level again.  Wardy won a 45 which Conall struck short and Garvan won an easy free to put us 1-6 to 0-8 ahead, the last time we would hold the lead.  Ryan O'Toole came off Hughes shoulder to level her with a nicely struck point.
Half time 1-6 to 0-9

The start of the second half saw referee Padraig Hughes start as he meant to go on, booking Decy for an innocuous enough incident at half time.  Scotstown came flying out of the blocks with Kieran Hughes hitting a superb score on the left, followed by two points from McCarthy (one a free) and Jack McDevitt.  Four points rattled off within 4 minutes.  Eamo and Tiarnan getting yellow cards.  1-6 to 0-13 and we looked like we were floundering a bit.  Decy with a quick free released Wardy who pointed to keep three between the teams.  Scotstown won another free, it was missed but referee Hughes ordered it to be retaken (maybe the lads weren't far enough away from the kicker, dunno) and it was wide again, but its fair to say we were finding it a lot harder than Scotstown to get any jam outta the ref.  And even though we were a bit like the boxer on the ropes, we came back again with a classy score from Garvan to leave it 1-8 to 0-13.  We were still hanging in there!  We missed two scorable chances and then Wardy got a yellow for a high-ish tackle.  It was one of those days where you wondered if we were ever going to get the rub of the green.  McCarthy pointed a handy free but again we came back when Conall swung the boot and pointed to leave it 1-9 to 0-14.  We were still hanging in there, but the frustration at some of the calls could barely be contained.  Beggan dispatched another long distance free to put three between the teams but Conall again replied with a great point to leave two in it.  You got the sense that we needed that wee bit of magic to appear from somewhere, Ryan Jones who so many times has taken the game by the jugular found himself totally suffocated around the middle.  There was one of those hold-your-breath moments though, Scotstown were playing keep ball at the back and Wardy nipped in and almost stole her (if he'd got her, he'd have been through!) but instead Scotstown went up the field, Carey feeding McCarthy who fed substitute Ross McKenna and he beat Jack with his shot and the knife was plunged into us.  Garvan struck a beauty from 45 yards out but Scotstown went at us again, McKenna running 30 yards with the ball before feeding Damien McArdle who netted again to twist the knife.  There was a bit of a kimsey, Ryan was on the ground, Decy got a red card, Conall got a black.  Carey and McCarthy pointed two frees and she finished up 2-17 to 1-11.

God these days are rough. 
The Ulster Club is manic, it's intense and it's exactly where you want to be.  It's a step-up and a learning curve.
There's disappointment obviously, but there's positives too.  We hung in manfully and with five minutes to go we were still there, only two points in it.  The final scoreline probably didn't do the thing justice.  The effort levels of the lads was just outstanding.  There were no hiding places on that pitch and the boys surely put it up to Scotstown for 56 minutes.  The two goals were killers but in truth Scotstown were quite a bit more convincing overall.  They took the game by the throat in the first five minutes of the second half, and the last five minutes.  They have some superb ballers and Kieran Hughes could lift the thing to another level altogether.  They're a quality side and it'll be interesting to see how they progress.  They're playing a pacy and powerful style of quality football.  Hard to bate and the best team won #NoComplaints
We were hampered by some overly pernickety calls from Hughes with the game in the melting pot, men on yellow cards not able to go at the thing full tilt, and Scotstowns ability to win nearly everything around the middle while choking the life out us.  Shanes injury was a blow, we missed his workrate and we wish him a speedy recovery.  And the Ulster Club dream is as far away as ever. 
But we do what the Harps always do; we assess it, we adjust, we go again.  And we don't step back.  Not an inch.