Finn Harps booked their place in the National League Shield final with an impressive two goal win over Waterford on Saturday afternoon. Two quality first half finishes from Aaron McLaughlin coupled with a resolute defensive display set the tone for a comprehensive Harps victory.
Waterford, who made the long trip north for the game, struggled to settle to the pace of the game early on, as a high tempo Harps pressed for an opening chance. They had to wait until the sixteenth minute when a marauding Liam Carlin whipped a dangerous cross into the Waterford penalty area which was only just missed by Shaun Patton, however the ball made its way to McLaughlin who controlled before finishing confidently past Jason Healy.
It was McLaughlin who was causing the Waterford side the most problems with his runs off the shoulder of the defender. Conor Kelly found him shortly after with a delicately weighted through ball though he could only force Healy into a save from a wide angle. Good link up play between Carlin and Adam McDaid down the left saw the latter deliver a deep cross which McLaughlin headed goal-ward only to be denied by Healy.
Harps deservedly doubled their lead minutes before the half time break. Captain James McAteer won the ball inside his own half before playing inside to McDaid. McDaid skipped past two Waterford midfielders and played a precise pass through to McLaughlin who had the composure to round the oncoming Healy and finish powerfully into the empty net.
Waterford showed their first sign of testing Harps on the stroke of half time when substitute Eoin Hogan was played through, though his low shot was superbly held by Harps net-minder Killian Hagan.
The second half started at a much lower intensity with neither side really broke the other down with the game mostly being played in midfield.
Waterford had the ball in the net midway through the half when Callum Costello turned in Romeo Akachukwu’s miss-hit shot however the goal was ruled out with Costello adjudged offside.
Waterford we’re finding it increasingly difficult to break the stout Harps defense down, though both Costello and Conor Tobin were looking dangerous for the away side.
It was Costello who had the best chance of reducing the deficit for the visitors with less than 10 minutes remaining when he raced onto a long ball over the top leaving him one on one with Hagan, the Harps keeper pushed him wide narrowing the angle before making a fantastic save to deny the forward and retain the clean sheet.
Harps now turn their attention to cup action next weekend, before the national league final the weekend after against Shelbourne.