Tir Conaill Harps took on Dunedin Connolly’s to fight it out for the first piece of silverware in two years. It’s been a long road to recovery, but despite the many restrictions still in place in the game, Scotland GAA where finally able to host the first Junior final since 2019.
Both teams had come into this game in good form with Harps and Connolly’s both winning their respective games against Glasgow Gaels and Sands MacSwiney’s. Having already made the final they both opted to negate their league fixture against one another in order to prepare for the final.
The game itself started off in a ferocious manner with Dunedin taking the lead in the first minute. However less than 60 seconds later Paul Molloy had converted with a lovely ball placed between the sticks to bring the teams level. Connolly’s edged in front once again with a well taken point from their number 10 and after two missed frees from both sides Dunedin Connolly’s where given a free which was duly kicked over by their number 13 to put the Edinburgh side further in front.
Harps were seeing plenty of the ball but struggled to force the ball into critical areas at times. However, on the 16 minute mark Aaron Taggart decided to take matters into his own hands when he received the ball from the far side on about the 45 meter mark. He drove down the left-hand side with pace and determination forcing himself through the defense and then dropped the ball to his foot to fire into the back of the net and score a sublime goal bringing the teams level once again.
This rejuvenated the Harps and although Dunedin managed to slip back in front again with a lovely point Harps would take the lead for the first time in the match with as absolutely magnificent shot from distance by Matthew Maginn to put the ball in the back of the net. Unfortunately they couldn’t hold off the Edinburgh side until half time and a late score and a converted free meant that both teams went into half time all square to a score of Tir Conaill Harps 2-01 Dunedin Connolly’s 0-07.
Dunedin Connolly’s came flying out of the traps at the beginning of the second half. Less than a minute had been played when Harps keeper Dara Cahill was forced to make an excellent save to keep the scores level. On the 41st minute Dunedin once again edged in front. It would take less than 60 seconds before Ethan Friel scored a terrific score from distance out on the far right hand side. At this point with the game tied it was really anyone’s game to win. Unfortunately for Tir Conaill it was the Edinburgh side who grabbed the initiative by going on to score six points and a goal unanswered. Inbetween, Danny McGowan had a great chance to put another point on the scoreboard but narrowly hit it wide of the posts.
Harps at this point where really struggling to find a way back into the game and Dara Cahill was forced to make one of the saves of the season, diving to his far left to get a hand to the ball and save Tir Conaill from further blushes. However less than a minute later Dunedin Connolly’s had the ball in the back of the net which effectively killed the game as a contest.
Tir Conaill Harps rallied late on and managed to register the last 5 scores of the game. A long high ball into the square seen the Connolly’s keeper dive for the ball but was unable to get a hand to it. It was left for Danny McGowen to run on to the incoming ball and fist it in the back of the net to get a third goal for Harps. Kieran Tuner then converted a free for the last score of the game. The full time score read Tir Conaill Harps 3-04 Dunedin Connolly’s 1-14.
In what was evidently a disappointing result for the boys, relinquishing their grip on the Junior League title, the harps can be more than proud of their performance. The well taken goals kept Harps in the game at times, however their lack of accuracy between the posts essentially saw them drift out the game in the second half. A big congratulations must go to Dunedin Connolly’s who were excellent on the night with a well disciplined performance on show. With a lot of homegrown talent on the field tonight there are many positives that Harps will take from this game and they will be sure to head back to the training field to work hard and prepare for the championship now.
On a final note, Tir Conaill Harps would like to thank club stalwart Manus Brennan who leaves today to head back home to Ireland. Manus has been an integral part of Tir Conaill for many years now and was part of the coaching staff who helped Harps lift the Scottish GAA Senior Championship title in 2012. In more recent times he has helped guide the team to the Junior League and Championship double back in 2019. It’s a sad day to be losing such an integral member of the club but everyone wishes Manus all the very best for his future back home.