Home Sport GAA Bright start key as Castletown see off The Harps in epic encounter

Bright start key as Castletown see off The Harps in epic encounter

Castletown v The Harps

Castletown 4-15 The Harps 1-23
Laois SHC Round 2

The meeting of the 2020 Premier intermediate champions and the side that just avoided relegation was always going to be a key game in this group.

And it turned out to be a cracking encounter, with Castletown racing into a nine-point lead after just 20 minutes, The Harps clawing their way back to be level by the 45th minute – and Castletown finishing strongly to claim the two points on offer and book their place in the knockout stages.

It was an epic battle with The Harps fighting back heroically – but a hat-trick from Martin Phelan was crucial for Castletown. Joe Phelan was also immense with five points from play while Shane Phelan hit three points, including a peach of a sideline cut late on.

For The Harps, Michael Lanigan was flawless from frees, finishing with 14 points while James Duggan was also in fine form, Eoin Clancy hit 1-1 and Richie Saunders put in a powerful performance after coming on midway through the first half.

Playing their second game in six days, The Harps got off to an awful start – though Castletown were excellent in those early stages despite the teeming rain.

They got the first three points, two Joe Phelan and one from Martin Phelan, before James Duggan got two in a row to get The Harps off the mark.

Joe Phelan’s third pushed Castletown two clear again and a monstrous Ryan Mullaney free and then Martin Phelan’s second point extended them further out.

They then got the game’s first goal when Brendan Reddin found Martin Phelan in behind the defensive cover and he finished well past Peter Walsh.

Michael Lanigan replied with a free to open his scoring account – but at the first water break it was 1-6 to 0-3 to Castletown.

Lanigan pointed from play on the resumption but a Ryan Mullaney goal from a penalty after Podge Delaney hauled down Martin Phelan gave Castletown their second goal. With 19 minutes on the clock they had a 2-7 to 0-4 lead.

Tadhg Cuddy added a free but The Harps began to pick it up a bit and they got four of the remaining five points of the half – and missed a hatful more – to trail 2-8 to 0-8 at the break.

Shane Phelan pointed straight away on the restart to put Castletown seven up, but The Harps dominated the rest of the quarter and with Lanigan’s unerring frees and points from Duggan, Comerford and Saunders, they were level by the 45th minute.

The problem was Castletown took the lead again on the stroke of the water break, Martin Phelan again showing a clean pair of heels and blasting to the net from close range. It was 3-10 to 0-16 as the sides paused to catch breath – and get a sip of water. Lanigan pointed twice from frees and once from play and Daniel Comerford also fired one over.

A Ryan Mullaney free broke that run of scores up and they soon had their fourth goal when Phelan hit the net again.

A Cuddy free and another Shane Phelan had them five up and with a bit of breathing space.

To The Harps’ credit they came back battling again. Lanigan’s 12th point reduced the gap, Eoin Clancy goaled after a pass from Duggan and then Lanigan levelled things once more.

But Conor Phelan popped up to put Castletown back into the lead and then Shane Phelan landed a gem of a sideline cut.

Lanigan responded with another free but they ran out of time.

Castletown held on and now have two wins from two games. They are through to a quarter-final at least and will have a shot at county champions Clough-Ballacolla to top the group and go straight though to a semi-final.

The Harps are zero from two – but can take a lot from this performance.

They will play Rosenallis in two weeks time where a win would put them through to a quarter-final but a loss would send them to a relegation playoff.

SCORERS – Castletown: Martin Phelan 3-2, Joe Phelan 0-5, Ryan Mullaney 1-2 (1-0 penalty, 0-2 frees), Shane Phelan 0-3 (one sideline cut), Tadhg Cuddy 0-2 (frees), Conor Phelan 0-1. The Harps: Michael Lanigan 0-14 (12 frees), Eoin Clancy 1-1, James Duggan 0-3, Barry Dunne 0-1,  Pat Walsh 0-1, Richie Saunders 0-1, Ciaran Comerford 0-1, Daniel Comerford 0-1

CASTLETOWN: JP Bennett; Evan Cuddy, Daire Tobin, Martin Reddin; Dylan Conroy, Ryan Mullaney, Eoin Peters; Shane Phelan, Shane Cuddy; Conor Phelan, Martin Phelan, Tadhg Cuddy; John Gaughan, Brendan Reddin, Joe Phelan. Subs: Loughlin Hegarty for Gaughan (HT)

THE HARPS: Peter Walsh; Eoghan Doheny, Conor Dunne, Padraic Dunne; Barry Dunne, Padraig Delaney, David Doheny; Daniel Comerford, Ciaran Comerford; Michael Lanigan, Pat Walsh, Evan Deegan; Philip Russell, Eoin Clancy, James Deegan. Subs: Richie Saunders for Deegan (17), Rian Edwards for Russell (17), Cathal Murphy for Pat Walsh (50)

REFEREE: John Lalor (Shanahoe)

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. From Laois, Steven studied Journalism in DCU and has 14 years experience in the media, almost 10 of those in an editorial role. Husband of Emily, father of William and Lillian, he's happiest when he's telling stories or kicking a point.