Harps overcome Drogheda to set up a ‘do or die’ Limerick finale

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FINN HARPS WILL head into a winner-takes-all decider against Limerick FC to see who takes up the final berth in the Premier Division in 2019.

Finn Harps 2-0 Drogheda United 

(3-1 on aggregate)

At Finn Park tonight, the blue and white army were roared over the line by a crowd of 2,201 as goals from John Kavanagh and then Nathan Boyle did enough to seal their passage to the promotion-relegation play-off.

Following a 1-1 draw at United Park last Friday night, tonight it was Ollie Horgan’s team who took the early initiative with an 18thminute goal from Kavanagh, who steered home a Boyle squared pass after Mark Timlin’s dart down the left.

John Kavanagh celebrates the goal that put Finn Harps 1-0 up against Drogheda United in tonight’s promotion-play-off at Finn Park. Photos by NorthWest Newspix

Then, after dominating the third quarter, Boyle steered home a second, having been fed by Mark Coyle on 66 minutes. Boyle’s first touch opened up the penalty area to cut inside and his finish was assured to settle any nerves that might’ve been building amid the home support.

Harps were full value for their two-goal lead. By the end they were full value for their progression.

Today, Paddy McCourt admitted that it’s a ‘scary thought’ that he might be playing his last ever competitive match.

However, the Derry native – who had a fine game at the base of midfield – and his teammates will line out together once again. The first leg of that tie will take place in 10 days’ time at Finn Park – Bank Holiday Monday, October 29 before the second leg at Markets Field four nights later.

Eleven minutes into tonight’s second leg, Mikey Place went on a fine individual run down the right-hand side but dragged his shot across the brows of the Drogheda goal, which was being fended by Paul Skinner.

Sean Brennan, the visitors’ midfielder, tried a shot from 25 yards on 16 minutes, only for Harps defender Sam Todd to get the block in. Gareth McCafferty then worked a decent position only to blaze over. That came right before Kavanagh’s opener.

McCafferty was out of luck on 42 minutes when he could only slide a squared pass from Mark Doyle into the Harps side-netting.

Boyle passed up a glorious opportunity four minutes into the second half when he fluffed an opportunity from close range as Keith Cowan headed down. Place then had two bites of the cheery and Timlin tested Skinner as Harps enjoyed a fruitful third quarter. However, the one-goal margin would remain intact amid some frantic defending from the County Louth team.

Place then had the guests’ goalkeeper scrambling backwards from a cross – or perhaps a shot – that saved the roof of the Drogheda net the Town End.

Drogheda, playing for their lives by now, had to push to maintain any hope of keeping their ambers for promotion alive. Cowan made an excellent defensive header to avert the danger at one stage and Sean Brennan’s free-kick on 74 minutes failed to trouble Ciaran Gallagher in the Harps goal.

Gallagher was eventually called into action with a comfortable save from substitute Lee Duffy and there were a few nervous enough moments late on as Drogheda could do nothing but throw the kitchen sink at their hosts. Ciaran Coll had to be alert in stoppage time to clear off the line from Ciaran Kelly.

All in all, though, it was a reasonably comprehensive win for the Ballybofey team, who can look forward to their joust with Limerick having not lost in 12 outings.

Also, there’s fresh memories of when Harps last got promoted – at the Shannonsiders’ expense in a two-legged play-off – back in 2015.

Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Jacob Borg, Keith Cowan, Sam Todd; John Kavanagh, Mark Coyle, Paddy McCourt (Niall Logue 75), Mark Timlin, Ciaran Coll; Mikey Place (John O’Flynn 90), Nathan Boyle (Jesse Deevers 77).

Drogheda United: Paul Skinner; Colm Deasy (Robert Manley 65), Kevin Farragher, Luke Gallagher, Ciaran Kelly; Sean Brennan, Richie Purdy, William Hondermarck (Lee Duffy 58), Conor Kane; Mark Doyle, Gareth McCaffrey (Janabi Amour 70).

Referee: Derek Tomney.

MA in Journalism graduate from NUI Galway and BBS Marketing and NC in Online Marketing from LyIT, who has worked covering sport in Donegal since 2004. Part of Donegal Democrat who won McNamee awards in 2013 and 2015 for 'best provincial publication'. Reseacher for 'Jimmy's Winnin' Matches' documentary and Rory Kavanagh's autobiography 'Winning'

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