Finn Harps 2-1 Sligo Rovers (after extra time)
On his ever appearance in a competitive game for Finn Harps, Stephen Doherty capped an impressive debut with the winning goal as Ollie Horgan’s outfit advanced to the quarter-finals of the EA Sports League Cup at the expense of Northwest neighbours Sligo Rovers after extra-time in Ballybofey on Monday night. The EA Sports Cup quarter-final draw will take place on next Monday evening, April 8th at 5 p.m. It was the first win of the season for Harps and a result that has been widely welcomed by supporters right across county who really appreciate the huge effort being put in by the players, Horgan, Paul Hegarty and the backroom team on a small budget compared to the rest of the clubs in the Premier Division.
Report by Declan Kerr. Thanks to Match Sponsors Costcutter Ballybofey.
The win was timely ahead of Friday night’s big match against Derry City at Finn Park. While Horgan was delighted with the result that puts Harps into the last eight of the competition he moved to dampen expectations that it would automatically signal a run of wins in the top flight.
“We have now got a first win in a competitive game this season. The EA Sports Cup is a good competition and we are delighted to be in the quarter-finals and please God we can get another home draw which hopefully would a draw a decent crowd which the club needs from a financial perspective. But, we must set the result in context. We won our match and a first division side Bray Wanderers defeated the Premier league leaders and best team in the country Shamrock Rovers on Monday night. So what I’m saying is that while the players will be coming into training tonight [Tuesday] in a happier frame of mind, there can be no dwelling on the Sligo game. All our energies must be put into being ready to take on Derry City in Ballybofey on Friday night. It was great for young Stephen [Doherty] to score on his debut and he did well as did Michael Gallagher who nearly scored as well on his first game at this level. Liam Walsh came on and got into a couple of good positions up front and had chances. We also had young Corey McBride on the bench which was a good experience for him along with Ryan Finn who has been with the first team squad a number of times last season.”
Horgan made seven personnel changes from the team that started in Waterford. There were first ever competitive senior appearances in a Harps shirt for right-full-back Michael Gallagher from Letterkenny and Buncrana’s Stephen Doherty who was named in a midfield that had Tony McNamee making his first start of the season while Mikey Place , Mark Russell, Jacob Borg and keeper Peter Burke were all included in the 11. Ciaran Gallagher, Keith Cowan, Caolan McAleer and Mark Coyle dropped to the bench while Daniel O’Reilly and Raff Cretaro were not in the match day squad and John Kavanagh was absent due to injury.
In contrast Sligo came with a strong side but it was the hosts who started well with Doherty coming close early on while Mark Russell also had an attempt on goal. Early in the second half Doherty was lively again and saw an effort hit the side netting. Tony McNamee then forced a corner which the midfielder took himself and the ball fell to Michael Gallagher whose sweet volley was just inches wide of the post. Sub Liam Walsh had a shot saved by keeper Luke McNicholas in the 71st minute and the young striker was involved again shortly afterwards taking advantage of a defensive error but this time he fired over the bar.
Harps broke the deadlock on 87 minutes when sub Mark Coyle’s stunning strike flew into the top corner of the net at the town end of the ground following a long throw-in by McNamee. But, just two minutes later the sides were level again when Dante Leverock shot home from a Jack Keaney free-kick. The hosts came close to a cup exit before the final whistle when sub Kyle Callan-McFadden’s shot was cleared off the line by Sam Todd.
What proved to be the winner came four minutes into extra time when another McNamee long throw caused bother in the Sligo defence and young Stephen Doherty on his competitive debut squeezed the ball past McNicholas at the river end of Finn Park.
Finn Harps - Peter Burke, Michael Gallagher, Colm Deasy (Keith Cowan 100 mins), Sam Todd, Niall Logue, Mark Russell, Jacob Borg (Mark Coyle h-t), Tony McNamee, Nathan Boyle (Liam Walsh 56 mins), Mikey Place (Caolan McAleer 109 mins), Stephen Doherty. Not used: Ciaran Gallagher (Gk), Ryan Finn, Corey McBride
Sligo Rovers - Luke McNicholas, John Mahon, Niall Morahan, Lewis Banks, Dante Leverock, Jack Keaney, David Cawley (Kyle Callan McFadden 61 mins), Kris Twardek, John Russell (Daryl Fordyce 56 mins), Romeo Parkes, Ronan Murray (Liam Kerrigan 65 mins).
Ref: Michael Connolly.