FINN HARPS DEFEATED UCD on Friday night in the opening leg of the First Division play-off at The UCD Bowl – here are five things we learned from the 1-0 win for Ollie Horgan’s men.
- Clean sheets a priceless currency for Harps
NOW that we’re at at that time of the season otherwise known as its ‘business end’ Finn Harps’ excellent defensive record is more important than ever.
Over the 28 games in the First Division, Harps leaked just 23 goals and claimed the title of having the Division’s best defence.
Friday night’s shut-out of UCD was Ciaran Gallagher’s 17th clean sheet of the season. In his last ten games, Gallagher has kept six clean sheets.
Having started each one of Harps’ 32 games so far in 2015, the Raphoe man has a 53 per cent record in keeping his sheet clean.
His save, late in the night, from Jack Watson, could yet prove one of the most telling moments of this tie.
Picture caption: Finn Harps’ Tony Mc Namee hasn’t much room to manouvre as he tries to squeeze his way past a UCD defender during Friday night’s play-off at the UCD Bowl in Dublin. Picture courtesy of Gary Foy, newsandsportfiles
2. Ciaran Coll ends his goalscoring famine
ON JUNE 1, 2012, Finn Harps defeated SD Galway 5-1 at Drom.
Ciaran Coll scored twice in a five-minute spell just after the hour mark that night – his first goals at senior level for Harps.
Just 24 seconds into Friday’s play-off, Coll headed past Conor O’Donnell after bursting forward to get on the end of Wilfried Tagbo’s pin-point cross.
40 months after his last strike, it was perfectly timed.
The St Johnston man played in spite of suffering from tonsillitis, although he had to leave the action after only 27 minutes.
Coll, one of Harps’ most consistent performers, has previously said he craves more goals. He gets into position often, but Friday saw him break a duck stretching back over three years.
At just 24 years old, he’s the third in a list of appearances made by current Harps players. Friday’s was his 170th and only Michael Funston and Kevin McHugh are ahead of a player who missed the 2010 season because of a cruciate knee ligament injury.
3. A selection dilemma – but Horgan gets it right
OLLIE Horgan admitted himself that Matthew Crossan and Michael Funston were ‘very unlucky’ to have been left out of his team for tha game at The UCD Bowl.
Crossan has been in excellent form of late and Funston’s guile and experience had many expecting him to start.
Horgan, though, thought differently and both were used as substitutes, Crossan coming in for Coll before the half-hour and Funston appearing for Kevin McHugh 13 minutes from the end.
Horgan opted to start Packie Mailey at the heart of his defence and plumped for both Damien McNulty and Josh Mailey.
Horgan studied long and hard since it became clear that UCD would provide the opposition – and he got his selection spot on.
4. Tie now set up for Harps advancement…
ALTHOUGH away goals don’t count in the League of Ireland play-offs, a one-nil away win does mean the tie is very much in Harps’ hands heading into the return leg in Ballybofey.
Coll’s early goal is all that stands between the teams at what is the midway point in the tie.
The onus is on UCD now and Collie O’Neill’s team have to score at Finn Park to have any hope of going through.
Should Harps score, it will take three goals to beat them.
Given the recent records of both sides, Harps will surely head into Friday night’s game – a fixture that will see Finn Park hosting its biggest crowd in eight years – with confidence sky high.
Harps have momentum behind them from an eight-game unbeaten run, but can’t take the feet off the gas.
5 …but caution urged ahead of second leg
OLLIE Horgan is the master at talking up the opposition, but Harps fans would do well to heed the manager’s words of caution from Friday night.
Harps battled well and it was perhaps a night typical of a team managed by Horgan, with an early goal followed by a night of rugged and determined defending to mind the house.
“It wasn’t pretty, but they dug in,” Horgan noted.
UCD threatened several times during the late moments and could have drawn level, but Gallagher denied Watson, Mick Leahy was inches wide while it took both Gallagher and Packie Mailey to deny Ryan Swan and Jamie Doyle in the 74th minute.
“It was a great result, but we would have concerns after our performance,” Horgan said.
“We weren’t good tonight. We rode out luck a lot. We came out on the right side of a 1-0 scoreline, but it could have been very different with the amount of chances that they had.
We have a lot to do to improve because that performance won’t be good enough next week. We’ll have to play well, and a hell of a lot better, next week.”Tags: