THE PROMOTION DREAM IS on for Finn Harps after they staved off UCD to advance to a promotion-relegation play-off meeting with Limerick FC.
Finn Harps 2 UCD 1
Finn Harps win 3-1 on aggregate
Goals late in the night from Nathan Boyle and Josh Mailey saw Harps overcome UCD and the jitters to go through.
UCD, behind from last week’s opening leg, brought themselves level when Jamie Doyle headed in from Robbie Benson’s cross in the 59th minute.
But Harps – buoyed on by their biggest home crowd in eight seasons – raised the decibels as Boyle and Mailey struck gold with Ollie Horgan’s men digging deep and the bus driver will be punching the Markets Field in Limerick into the sat nav on Monday for the first leg of another nerve-tester.
Boyle, just back from injury, was played in by Mailey, who had combined well with Kevin McHugh, in the 76th minute and the on-loan Derry City striker showed superb composure to slide low under Conor O’Donnell.
Picture caption: Nathan Boyle who scored for Finn Harps against UCD. Picture courtesy of Gary Foy, newsandsportfiles
Buncrana native O’Donnell was beaten all ends up when Mailey picked his spot upon the top shelf. ‘X’ could hardly have marked the spot better as Mailey delightfully after taking a cross-field pass from Tony McNamee with a minute to play.
Harps had been given a couple of jabs on the chin before they were rocked to the ropes when Doyle levelled the tie just shy of the hour mark.
Ryan Swan was denied by a brave save by Ciaran Gallagher, the Harps goalkeeper, after he breached a defence that suddenly became porous in the opening moments of the second half.
Conor Cannon drilled over from ten yards and Gallagher was denied an 18th clean sheet of the season when Doyle headed home from Benson’s superbly flighted cross.
Roared on by an attendance of 2,013, Harps rid their heads clear as Boyle and Mailey ensured one of the more memorable recent nights down Navenny Street.
Ciaran Coll netted after only 24 seconds in last week’s first leg at The UCD Bowl, but there was no repeat of the quick-fire start on this occasion.
Harps, though, did have their moments in the first half to spark the big home support to life, not least when Gareth Harkin’s lung-bursting surge from inside the centre circle concluded with the midfielder calling O’Donnell into action.
The UCD goalkeeper made a wonderful save with the very tips of his fingers to turn over from Harkin in the 22nd minute.
Harkin tested O’Donnell again before half-time but, after Raymond Foy invited him to have a go, his low effort was well held by the ‘keeper.
In between times, Nathan Boyle drilled into the side netting after a promising move.
Horgan made just one change to his XI from the opening leg, with Boyle returning from injury to take the place of Wilfried Tagbo in attack.
On the stroke of half-time, Harps almost took the lead in spectacular style, but McNamee’s ambitious attempt from distance dipped a fraction too late after the ball fell into his path.
The early exchanges were ever bit as cagey as had been anticipated and nerves howled around the old ground.
Packie Mailey had a half chance of a shot on the edge of the six-yard box with Harps’
UCD didn’t do much to trouble Gallagher during the opening 45 minutes, although Swan momentarily got in around the back only to be jockeyed to safety by Keith Cowan.
Josh Mailey fashioned a chance for himself, but hooked a left-footed effort just over before Harkin forced O’Donnell to earn his corn.
O’Donnell’s distribution was wayward for the duration with his kick-outs regularly floating over a sideline that was moved in, narrowing the playing surface by a couple of yards.
Benson has been name checked regularly by Horgan and the midfielder returned to the UCD line-up having come on as a substitute last week in the opening leg.
Benson has been injured of late, but his inclusion was one of three alterations made by Collie O’Neill, the Students’ manager, with Daniel Tobin and Daire O’Connor included in place of Dylan Watts and Jack Watson.
Horgan’s warning in his programme notes that ‘UCD will be even more of a threat than they were last Friday night’ with Benson in the team proved prophetic as it was the Athlone man who created the night’s opening goal to level the tie on aggregate.
But his Harps, as is their wont, hit back. Just when there were fears that UCD were gaining a foothold, Boyle proved to be the hero when he fired home before Mailey added a magnificent winner on the night and the tie’s clincher.
Now, for Limerick…
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Damien McNulty, Keith Cowan, Packie Mailey; Josh Mailey (Michael Funston ’90), Raymond Foy, Gareth Harkin, Tony McNamee, Ciaran Coll; Nathan Boyle (Wilfried Tagbo ’87), Kevin McHugh (Matthew Crossan ’90).
UCD: Conor O’Donnell; Daniel Tobin, Michael Leahy, Tomas Boyle, Mark Langrty; Ryan Swan, Gary O’Neill, Robbie Benson, Jamie Doyle (Eoin Kirwan ‘63); Daire O’Connor; Conor Cannon (Sean Coyne ’79).
Referee: Ray Matthew (Mullingar).Tags: