Athleague out of tune against Harps

The Harps (Laois) 3-19 Athleague 1-3 Just a week after claiming back-to-back senior titles, Roscommon camogie title holders Athleague were the subject of a 22-point thrashing from reigning national club junior champions The Harps of Laois in a one-sided All-Ireland semi-final in Ballinasloe last Saturday. Quite simply, Athleague were outclassed by a stronger, fitter and technically superior Durrow outfit, who, in truth, seemed more suited to a higher grade than the one they played in last weekend.    In any event, they were streaks ahead of their opponents. By the 10th minute, they led 2-4 to 0-1, with full-forward Elaine Mahony and centre-forward Erinne Dunne netting goals on four and five minutes respectively after Kelly Hopkins had opened the Connacht side’s account with a pointed free in the first minute.    Athleague stopped the rot somewhat after that, but they still trailed by 2-10 to 0-2 at the interval. Full forward Rachel Fallon – now operating at centre-half forward after Athleague made wholesale positional switches – was Athleague’s only other scorer in that opening 30-minute period. For all intents and purposes, it was game over by half-time. Yet, The Harps were not willing to take any chances. In the third quarter, they added another 1-6. This time, it was wing-forward Teresa Bennett who struck for goal on 39 minutes.    For their part, Athleague did rally in the second period and finally got the lucky break that had eluded them in the first half when a long range Hopkins free went all the way to The Harps net eight minutes into the second half. However, the Roscommon champions were unable to build on this as Bennett then struck for her goal one minute later. That put The Harps into a 3-15 to1-2 lead with 20 minutes remaining.To Athleague’s credit, they held the Laois girls to just four points in the final third of this mis-match, but unfortunately the Roscommon women couldonly muster one point – a superb solo effort from captain Annette McGeeney -in that time themselves.While The Harps’ defence was not seriously tested throughout, although FionaConnell (twice) and Hopkins both threatened their goal with a brace of efforts in the second half, the Laois crew’s offensive unit worked hard and efficiently to tally the scores. All six of The Harps’ forwards found the target, full-forward Elaine Mahony hitting 1-3 from play.    Player of the match and midfielder Louise Mahony was their side’s top scorer with eight points, with four of those efforts coming from placed balls. Although soundly beaten, Athleague still had a number of players who gave notable displays on the day.    To the forefront, as ever, was captain McGeeney, while corner-back Caitriona Murray, centre-back Ciara Moran, midfielder Elaine Daly, and forwards Hopkins and Fallon also tried their hardest throughout. That said, The Harps march on to another All-Ireland final, while for Athleague they now face a Connacht decider – strangely enough – against Galway intermediate champions Killimordaly at a Roscommon venue this Saturday.   Athleague will hope that half-back Leanne Raftery – who missed this game through illness – will be fit for that encounter. They will also look to remedy their goalkeeping crisis, given no less than three players, namely Connell, Niamh Mulhern and selector Mary Finneran, stood between the posts last weekend. Athleague: F. Connell; A. Delaney, N. Connolly, C. Murray; M. McCormack, C. Moran, L. Connolly; N. Mulhern, E. Daly; A. McGeeney (0-1), K. Hopkins (1-1, both frees), M. Melia; M. Kilroy, R. Fallon (0-1), G. Naughton. Subs: M. Finneran for Mulhern (H/T). The Harps: M. Brophy; E. Cuddy, D. Quigley, P. Dunphy; C. Walsh, C. Phelan, C. Phelan; Louise Mahony (0-8, 0-2 frees, 0-2 45s), Laura Mahony; J. Prior (0-2), E. Dunne (1-0), T. Bennett (1-1); A. Hanlon (0-2), E. Mahony (1-3), A. Mahony (0-3, 0-1 free). Subs: S. Fitzgerald for A. Mahony (37 mins.); A. Donohue for Phelan (37 mins.); M. Prior for Hanlon (49 mins.); D. Cuddy for Bennett (49 mins.); M. Hyland for E. Cuddy (58 mins.). Referee: Una Ni Chearnaigh (Armagh).