- Mean defence could be Harps’ trump card…
DESPITE the absence of Packie Mailey and Thomas McMonagle, Harps managed to keep Athlone at bay with Ciaran Gallagher keeping his 13th clean sheet of the campaign.
The return of Gallagher has been instrumental in Harps’ promotion push this season.
After a year at Derry City, Gallagher has come back with a renewed focus and the Raphoe native has clearly improved as a player.
It was best reflected in his save from Sam O’Connor in the second half, when he
Friday’s was his fourth clean sheet in his last five games. With eight games remaining, an increase in that number will be crucial if Harps are to maintain a surge towards the top flight.
- …but lack of clinical edge could be their downfall
AT the other end of the park, Harps have their deficiencies.
What they lack in firepower, they do make up for in endeavour, but Ollie Horgan is on the record as saying that his side must up the ante with their goalscoring if they’re to maintain their challenge.
Friday’s was a chance missed with Wexford Youths and Shelbourne – two of the other contenders – playing out a scoreless draw at Tolka Park.
Horgan will hope that Nathan Boyle – who put in a tireless shift on Friday – can come up with the goods in the attacking department.
The Harps manager has signed Rob Waters, formerly of Cobh Ramblers, to his roster, although it remains to be seen if he will feature.
- Versatile Harps
OLLIE Horgan is working off a wafer-thin squad, but one of their strong points is the versatility of some of his players.
Take Matthew Crossan, for instance. The Killea man – who signed from Kildrum Tigers in the Donegal League – was immense on Friday night.
Having played much of this season as a holding midfielder, protecting the Harps defence, he started at left-back against Athlone before moving to partner Keith Cowan in the middle of the rearguard following Josh Mailey’s sending off.
He was more than comfortable in each role.
The likes of Damien McNulty, Mailey, Gareth Harkin, Tony McNamee, Wilfried Tagbo and Ciaran Coll (pictured above) are all comfortable in more than one position – something Horgan can be thankful for when his numbers are threadbare.
- Discipline and cards stacking up
WITH only 32 minutes played, Josh Mailey was red carded for an over-the-top challenge on Derek Doyle, right in front of the fourth official. Referee John McLaughlin went straight to his back pocket and brandished red.
Six days previously, Thomas McMonagle was sent off against UCD after picking up two bookings.
In 2014, discipline proved a real Achillies heel for Harps. Their record has improved significantly this year, but those red cards and the accumulation of yellows is something that could come back to bite before the season’s end.
- Donegal public still unconvinced
DONEGAL is known as a soccer hotbed, but it’s hardly reflected in the attendance at Finn Park.
There are just four home games remaining for Harps this season – eight matches in total – but with the Ballybofey side at the summit of the First Division, only 738 went through Finn Park’s turnstiles on Friday night.
For much of the season, Harps haven’t been purveyors of sexy football, but rather Horgan’s men have been pragmatic and effective in their approach, best outlined by their four 1-0 wins.
Donegal’s soccer-mad public appears unconvinced, although the Bank Holiday weekend and Donegal’s All-Ireland qualifier against Galway would have had an adverse affect on the numbers, which have dropped slightly from earlier in the season when they were tipping close to the 1,00 mark.