FINN HARPS OVERCAME First Division champions Wexford with an impressive 4-1 win on Saturday night and, as Ollie Horgan’s men prepare to face UCD in the play-offs, here are some things we learned at Finn Park:
- Harps pick perfect time to hit form
FINN Harps laid the platform in the opening quarter of the season when they took 17 points out of a possible 21 from their first seven games.
Harps replicated that form in the final quarter of the term and Ollie Horgan’s men go into the first leg of the play-off against UCD on the back of a seven-game unbeaten record.
Since the 2-0 defeat by Wexford at Ferrycarrig Park, Harps have won five and drawn two, scoring 13 goals and conceding just four.
With the play-offs upon them, it’s the perfect time to be on song.
- BJ Banda’s night to remember
THE night will live long in the memory of BJ Banda, the 17-year-old striker who was handed his first home appearance by Ollie Horgan.
A late sub appearance in Cobh and an away start in Athlone were the sum total of the former Letterkenny Rovers striker’s Harps minutes until Saturday night.
Banda excelled in a performance of real energy during which he outlined the different dynamic he can bring to the Harps side.
His first goal was a bullet on 56 minutes, thumping past Graham Doyle after being teed up by Kieran McDaid. The second might have had a stroke of good fortune, but Banda was the man of the moment.
He went off soon after to warm acclaim from the home support, who found themselves a new hero.
Picture caption: Finn Harps’ two-goal hero BJ Banda. Picture courtesy of Stephen Doherty.
- Selection headache for Horgan at Belfield
WITH Raymond Foy expected to have returned from injury by the time Harps head for Dublin and the first leg of their play-off joust with UCD on Friday, the Ballybofey brigade could have a full panel from which to choose.
Selecting a team certainly won’t be straight forward for Ollie Horgan, who has been given plenty of food for thought in recent weeks.
Banda has fired himself into the reckoning, while Kieran McDaid has been excellent since being handed the chance.
With the likes of Foy and Gareth Harkin certain to return to the first XI, Horgan has quite the dilemma with Josh Mailey also vying hard for a spot and with the likes of Matthew Crossan outstanding of late.
Does he go for the experience of the wily Kevin McHugh, the gung-ho of Wilfried Tagbo, the tireless Nathan Boyle, the rabbit-from-the-hat Banda or a combination?
- Harps’ youth work is showing signs of its success
SOME of the more useful and astute moves made by Harps in recent times was down their foodchain and the appointments of Joe Boyle (under-19 manager), Declan Boyle (under-17 manager) and Trevor Scanlon (head of academy) to positions within the club’s underage structure.
An interesting statistic appeared on the club’s Facebook page earlier outlining the point.
Five players from the academy have been elevated into the Under-17s this season.
At the weekend, two of the Under-17s were taken into the Under-19 squad and they combined for a goal with Peadar Mogan setting up Shane Blaney in the 3-0 win over Letterkenny Rovers.
On Saturday night, three members of the Under-19 squad feature for Ollie Horgan’s senior team.
Gareth Doherty came on as a sub for his second appearance for the club, having been brought on against Athlone the previous weekend, and goalkeeper Lee McCarron made his debut when he replaced Ciaran Gallagher in the closing stages.
- Home form could be Harps’ trump card in play-offs
AS Harps head for the uncertain waters of the play-offs, their solid record this season in Ballybofey may well be one of their strongest weapons.
Only once this term, when Wexford Youths left with a 3-1 win in June, have Harps lost at Finn Park in the League and that was a night when home followers left wondering just how Harps hadn’t taken something.
A 2-2 draw with UCD and the pair of 0-0 blanks against Athlone and Waterford were the only others occasions on which Harps let home points drop.
They’ve turned Finn Park into something of a fortress again and will need to reinforce that during the next couple of weeks.Tags: