FINN HARPS came away from Athlone on Friday night as Matthew Crossan’s goal late in the first half cancelled out Gavin Boyne’s opener for the home side. Here are five things we learned from Harps’ trip to the midlands.
- Ollie Horgan gives youth its head
WITH Kevin McHugh, Ciaran Coll, Tony McNamee and Wilfried Tagbo suspended, Ollie Horgan took up the chance to give some youth its head at Athlone Town Stadium.
BJ Banda, having made his debut a fortnight previously as a substitute against Cobh Ramblers, was handed his first start, while Kieran McDaid, who had made eight appearances as a sub, also started for the first time.
Banda was lively throughout and has shown plenty of promise since making the move from Letterkenny Rovers in the summer while McDaid has proved a useful acquisition from Buncrana Hearts.
Off the bench, Gareth Doherty became the 26th player used by Horgan in competitive action this season as the 17-year-old underage international made his first appearance for the club, while Conor Keddy also made his debut.
- McNulty’s return a massive plus for play-offs
THERE were real fears that Damien McNulty’s season was over whe the Derry native fell awkwardly at training last month and popped a shoulder out of place.
When McNulty left the training ground at Sessiaghoneill, it appeared as if 2015 had become a write-off.
But the versatile defender is cut from tough cloth and he played the final 23 minutes as a substitute on Friday night after coming on for Kieran McDaid.
McNulty is one of Harps’ real frontline battlers and his presence for the play-offs will serve as a big boost.
Packie Mailey also got a useful 90 minutes under his belt having had his share of injury woes this season.
- Harps show enough with big players missing
THE absence of McHugh, Coll, Tagbo and McNamee left Horgan short on supply as he headed for the midlands with only five substitutes upon his team sheet.
As they’ve shown on a few occasions this season, Harps have resolved in abundance. Although the game meant nothing in terms of overall placement, they managed to fight their way to a credible draw although Horgan was disappointed with the goal conceded by his team.
“Athlone use the same corner, over and over again, but a small bit of inexperience saw us get caught. Gavin Boyne got away and dinked it in well,” he said.
Matthew Crossan’s goal was his first of the season, his ninth overall in Harps colours, and the Killea man (pictured above) has surely won over any doubters now.
For Harps, it was a decent night at the office, given the names that were absent.
Horgan said: “We had to do it the hard way to get a point. There were a lot of balls thrown in on top of Ciaran Gallagher, but he did well and the defence did well. All in all, we’re happy with the overall package.”
- UCD confirm their play-off berth
WEXFORD Youths put paid to Shelbourne’s hopes of catching up on UCD and bagging the second play-off spot.
A brace of goals by man-of-the-season Danny Furlong helped Wexford to a 4-1 win over Shels.
With Jamie Doyle netted the only goal of the game as UCD beat Cabinteely, the Students made safe their spot against Harps in next week’s play-off.
The win was UCD’s first win after a five-game winless spell.
- Wexford game isn’t a complete dead-rubber
ALTHOUGH the minds are already clearly on next weekend’s play-off against UCD, Saturday night’s game against Wexford Youth’s isn’t exactly a complete dead-rubber contest.
Harps have lost just once in Ballybofey this season – against Wexford back in June on a night when the locals were left bewildered with Harps losing 3-1 having been on top for the most part.
It was a night that proved to be the springboard for Wexford’s successful title tilt.
Now, Shane Keegan’s side arrived at Finn Park with the First Division crown bagged, but Harps will use it as a good preparatory outing ahead of the play-offs.
“We’ll be trying to get something out of the game, but we’ll manage it properly with lads carrying knocks and with an eye on the play-offs,” Ollie Horgan said.Tags: