FINN HARPS NOT ONLY booked their tickets to the play-offs, but Ollie Horgan’s side also ensured that the second leg of the play-off semi-final will be at Finn Park with their best display of the season.
Finn Harps 3 UCD 0
Ollie Horgan took the shackles off his Harps and the abandonment of the conservative approach paid dividends by the bucket load.
Second-half goals by Nathan Boyle, Gareth Harkin and Raymond Foy secured a win that sits alongside the 3-0 away win in Waterford as their biggest of the campaign.
It was perfectly timed, too and no less than they deserved after an accomplished and enriching performance, although it does come with the caveat that they played for 70 minutes against ten men.
Chris Mulhall was shown his marching orders in the 20th minute for an off-the-ball incident in which he appeared to stamp on the Harps left-back, Ciaran Coll.
That said, Harps had been much the better side up to that point and for the duration there seemed likely to be only one winner.
Picture caption: Finn Harps Nathan Boyle takes on the UCD defsnsive partnership of Maxi Kougoun and Mark Langtry. Picture courtesy of Gary Foy, newsandsportfiles
UCD rarely looked threatening and the 16th clean sheet of the season for Ciaran Gallagher served as the cheery on top of the cake.
Harps dominated the first half, but they ended it without a goal having had 12 attempts on goal, as against just one from the visitors.
It had the feeling of one of those nights, but when the superb Boyle turned home the opening goal, three minutes into the second half, it was the kick they needed.
Tony McNamee – their match-winner in Cobh six days earlier – sent Josh Mailey scampering down the right flank.
The Letterkenny man, who excelled in an attacking role on the right side of a five man midfield unit, centred and Boyle fired past Buncrana man Conor O’Donnell in the UCD goal.
On the hour, Harps doubled the lead when Harkin got on the end of a McHugh pass before powering home to confirm their place the bus to the play-offs.
Finn Park came alive and just six minutes later the old ground erupted again when Foy, returning from a suspension, broke into the box and blasted to the River End net.
In between times, Boyle might have had another when his close-range effort scrambled through the legs of the advancing O’Donnell, but the side-netting saved the goalkeeper’s blushes.
Harps welcomed Foy and Keith Cowan back into their staring XI, started with a real zip to their play.
Mailey and McNamee, who were excellent throughout, combined, but the latter’s shot lacked conviction and O’Donnell gathered, before doing likewise from an ambitious effort by Boyle.
Harps were turning the screw, but just couldn’t find the killer touch with Foy driving over after Dylan Watts lost possession on the edge of the box.
After Mulhall was sent for an early shower, Coll thought he had given Harps the lead, but Kevin McHugh had been in an offside position when he laid on the chance for the St Johnston man.
Later in the night, McHugh and Coll were yellow carded meaning they’ll have a suspension to serve, but will have their records cleaned again heading into the play-offs.
O’Donnell’s fingertips prevented Foy from opening the scoring and Boyle, with a magnificent turn and shot, was inches away from a deal breaker only to see a fine hit fly just past the far post.
In the third minute of part two, Boyle finally found the finishing touch to send Harps scurrying for the play-offs for the seventh time in the club’s history.
Defeat leaves UCD in something of a sweat with Shelbourne – who were 3-0 winners against Waterford United – now just a point behind them.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Josh Mailey, Keith Cowan, Packie Mailey, Ciaran Coll; Matthew Crossan; Nathan Boyle (Kieran McDaid ’77), Raymond Foy, Gareth Harkin, Tony McNamee (Michael Funston ’64); Kevin McHugh (Wilfried Tagbo ’69).
UCD: Conor O’Donnell; Mark Lantry, Maxi Kougoun (Conor Cannon ’73), Michael Leahy, Ryan McLaughlin; Chris Mulhall; Darragh O’Connor, Jack Watson (Adam Harney ’73), Dylan Watts (Eoin Kirwan ’83), Jamie Doyle; Ryan Swan.
Referee: Adriano Reale (Kildare).Tags: