TONY MCNAMEE’S 49th MINUTE goal secured a precious 1-0 win for Finn Harps over Cobh Ramblers on Saturday night at St Colman’s Park – here’s a look at five lessons from the game.
- Harps are now play-off bound
TONY McNamee’s goal, four minutes into the second half, was a priceless strike, not just in that it gave Harps a third win in four games. It has also inched Ollie Horgan’s men ever closer to guaranteeing themselves a spot in the play-offs.
With three games to go, Harps are safe in the knowledge that one more point will secure a play-off berth.
Even more significant, a win over UCD on Friday night would mean that Harps would have the second leg of the play-off semi-final in Ballybofey.
It’s not mathematically confirmed just yet, but for the seventh time in the club’s history, Harps are set for the play-offs.
Picture caption: Tony McNamee was the Harps match-winner on Saturday night in Cobh
- Keeping the sheet clean again aids goal-shy Harps
HARPS have been struggling to convert their chances of late. Since a 2-0 win over Cobh in mid-July, Harps have scored just five goals, three of them in the 3-2 win over Cabinteely.
While the goals have dried up, it’s still interesting to note that Harps remain the third top goalscorers in the First Division, although their 34 is some way off UCD’s 49 and Wexford’s 55.
What has kept Harps firmly in the promotion push has been defence. Having conceded only 21 goals, Harps have the Division’s meanest defence.
Ciaran Gallagher’s clean sheet on Saturday at St Colman’s Park was his 15th of the season in all competitions. 14 of them have come in the League. It’s a figure that has kept Harps on the coat tails of Wexford.
- Versatile Harps cope well with big absentee list
SUSPENSION meant that Thomas McMonagle, Keith Cowan and Raymond Foy were missing from the traveling party that left Ballybofey on Saturday morning to make the long journey south.
The week’s break to allow for the FAI Cup quarter-finals meant that all three had to miss the same game.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Damien McNulty tumbled awkwardly at training last Wednesday night and popped his shoulder, effectively ruling the Derry man, who has been in fine form over recent weeks, out for the remainder of the season – the play-offs represent his best chance of game time.
As McNulty left the training ground at Sessiaghoneill, Ballybofey, worried expression dotted the turf.
It meant Harps were without three of their back four and, in Foy, one of their players of the season.
But resilient and versatile Harps coped superbly. Matthew Crossan stood in at centre-back and had an outstanding game – his 100th for the club – while a patched-up Packie Mailey stood in alongside him and showed little in the way of wobbles.
It was a heroic performance – and result – given the personnel still in Donegal during the game.
- Harps can use yellow peril to their benefit
WITH Foy, McMonagle and Cowan now back on a clean slate as regards the accumulation of yellow cards, Harps could be able to work the system in their favour over the next month.
With one foot in the play-offs now, Harps will have their own sums totted in terms of who’s in danger of losing their balance on the tightrope of the Football Association of Ireland’s Disciplinary Controls Unit.
For instance, Kevin McHugh has three bookings to his name. It would perhaps be no harm were the captain to earn himself a week off and ensure his nose is clean for the play-offs
- Beating UCD could mean so much
A WIN over UCD on Friday night would guarantee Harps both a coveted spot in the play-offs and also ensure home advantage at Finn Park for the second leg of a play-off semi-final.
Victory on Friday night would mean more to Harps than that, though.
In the three games to date, Harps have yet to taste a victory over Collie O’Neill’s team.
Two draws – both finished 2-2 – were followed by a 1-0 win for UCD at Belfield in July.
It’s quite possible that Harps and UCD will clash three times in the next six fixtures so a confidence-boosting win for Harps, giving them the knowledge that they’re capable of getting one up on the Students, would be a timely result this week.