KEITH COWAN has had a busy couple of weeks.
His Finn Harps side have only eight matches to go in their SSE Airtricity League First Division campaign.
Currently top of the table by a single point, the Ballybofey side are in the sights of second-placed Wexford Youths, with the teams due to collide on Friday at Ferrycarrig Park.
With Shelbourne and UCD also prowling, the margin for error is tightening with much to play for over the next couple of months. Cowan is willing to take on the challenge.
“We’re up for this now,” Cowan (pictured above by Gary Foy) said. “We can’t wait for Wexford.”
Last Friday night at Finn Park, Cowan returned to centre of the Harps defence for the scoreless draw against Athlone Town. It was one of those matches that afterwards time had to be taken to consider whether it was a case of one point gained or two dropped. There’s cases for both theories.
Harps had played for 58 minutes with 10 men following the dismissal of Josh Mailey, who was given a straight red card by referee John McLoughlin for a foul on Derek Doyle.
It was a brave showing for Ollie Horgan’s team, who not only survived a man light for two-thirds of the contest but also took the game to their opponents from the midlands.
“Come the end of it you might think it’s two points dropped,” Cowan added. “We were disappointed as although we had only 10 men for most of it, if you’d come in you wouldn’t have realised if it was us or Athlone who were a man down.
“Maybe points here and there aren’t enough at this stage. We have to go for the three.”
Cowan missed out a week earlier against UCD, where a single Robbie Benson goal was enough to give the Belfield outfit a 1-0 victory.
That morning, Cowan had just returned from Montepulciano, the hilled Italian town in Tuscany, where he had married Toni Kelly a few days beforehand.
“Myself and Toni got married last Wednesday week and it was all a bit helter-skelter there for a while but I’m right back at it now,” Cowan added. “I put in a good week training when I came back.”
With Thomas McMonagle suspended and Packie Mailey having picked up a calf injury at the Belfield Bowl, Cowan was back at the back, performing well and making a telling block from Sam O’Connor as Athlone scampered upfield following a Tony McNamee corner was slapped clear by their goalkeeper, Paddy Dunican.
“Tommy was unlucky with the sending off and then Packie got injured so I was straight back in. I like to try and make the most of my opportunities and I think I acquitted myself alright,” Cowan, who is a native of Ramelton and former Swilly Rovers defender, said.
“Athlone got a breakaway and one thing that Ollie is constantly on about, is that if we get caught on the break then we must bust a gut to get back.
“Things can go either way. When you’re down to 10 men and are pushing, you will leave yourself open as you take these chances.
“But the Athlone game showed the collective and the team spirit. Hopefully that will be enough to carry us on through now.”
Both teams had chances to win a tense encounter in the final stages. First, Harps striker Nathan Boyle struck the Athlone post before, at the other end, goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher made a fine stop to deny O’Connor a certain goal.
Maybe it was a point gained after all?
“Nathan Boyle has been excellent and has added this little bit of spark,” Cowan added. “He’s got pace and Ciaran has been excellent all year. We almost expect him to make these great saves from one-on-one positions.
“He’s been quality all season. I’ve said before that Ciaran has been in and out of Derry City and he’s learned and matured a lot. We’re reaping the benefits. At the end we were asking a lot of questions of them so we can be happy enough with that. Momentum will take us on to Wexford.”