Finn Harps 3-0 UCD
Match report and photos by Declan Kerr
Ollie Horgan masterminded a first Premier Division win of the season for Finn Harps against fellow strugglers UCD in Ballybofey on Friday night. And Harps did it in some style with three smashing goals courtesy of a brace from man-of-the-match Caolan McAleer and in between Nathan Boyle fired home the crucial second immediately after half-time. However the Premier Division’s longest serving current manager wasn’t getting carried away with the result afterwards. Horgan still has a huge battle ahead of him to keep Harps in the top flight for a second successive year.
Harps remain bottom but have closed the gap on UCD to three points but the Students do have a game in hand. With 20 games to go there is plenty of time overtake UCD but the hopes are fading rapidly of catching the likes of Cork City and Sligo Rovers. But, for now two draws and a win from the last three games is a decent run ahead of the next game which is against Waterford Utd at Finn Park on Friday week the 17th of May.
Horgan is now looking to build on this bit of momentum but says it will take a huge effort from everyone at Finn Harps F.C., on and off the field, to push on to get more positive results ahead of the break in the middle of June. “Our goal is to stay in the Premier Division but actually doing that is going to be a tall order with the way we started the season. It was a relief to get the win against UCD and hopefully that will give the lads a bit of confidence going into the Waterford game. As I said before this is going to take a massive effort from everybody at Finn Park to keep us in the Premier Division. Myself, Paul Hegarty and the players have been committed to that goal from day one. These lads had been through a very difficult spell but at least the last three results have given them hope. We need the football supporters from across the County to come out in big numbers and back us in the next home games against Waterford and Shamrock Rovers. We have a chance now to try and catch UCD. And the work for that starts again at training on Tuesday night” Horgan said.
In a low key opening, Harps did control possession and worked hard when not having the ball. Sean Boyd hooked an effort wide in the eighth minute before the hosts struck for the opening goal. A perfectly timed Keith Cowan tackle just outside his own penalty area, allowed the big defender to find McAleer with a 50-yard pass. The Omagh man did the rest himself. He cut in from the right wing past a defender before unleashing a terrific left-footed shot across Conor Kearns and into the far corner at the River End in the 16th minute.
The hosts were most unlucky not to be possibly 3-0 up at the interval. A Daniel O’Reilly header came back off the post into the grateful arms of Kearns after a very well delivered Mark Russell free-kick. Sam Todd headed a McAleer free-kick over the bar. On 24 minutes the busy McAleer took advantage of a defensive error and his audacious lob landed just over the UCD crossbar. Two minutes, later Harps almost undone all their good work when a Daniel O’Reilly mis-kick ended up coming back off the home crossbar but the defender was then on hand to clear the danger.
At the other end Horgan’s outfit continued to threaten with UCD relieved to get the ball away from their own goalmouth following a McAleer corner. McAleer came agonisingly close to getting his second just four minutes before the break. The midfielder cut in from the left wing this time to execute a curling effort that came back of an upright. The rebound fell to Sean Boyd but the big striker could only find the side netting from close range. That was to be Boyd’s last action as he was forced off with an injury to be replaced by Raff Cretaro.
Harps got the perfect start to the second half when Nathan Boyle swept the ball low into right hand corner of Kearns’s net after a neat build-up involving Cretaro and John Kavanagh. The visitors rarely threatened Peter Burke’s goal with one free-kick going over the crossbar before Horgan’s men made the game safe on 65 minutes. Tony McNamee won the ball back just outside his own penalty area and with UCD having a lot of players pressed forward, the Ramelton man raced past the half-way line before sending McAleer clear and the Omagh man took a few strides before firing high past Kearns.
Kavanagh wasn’t far away from making it 3-0, popping up in the penalty area to get his foot to a cross with the ball just going the wrong side of the upright. Mark Coyle had a shot comfortably saved by Kearns. UCD had the better of the closing stages of the game as Harps tired and were unlucky not to pull at least one goal back with an effort that came back off a post.
While it’s a welcome three points, there is a very long way to go to in the battle to stay in the Premier Division.
Finn Harps - Peter Burke; Sam Todd, Keith Cowan, Daniel O’Reilly; John Kavanagh, Tony McNamee, Mark Coyle, Mark Russell (Niall Logue 60 mins); Caolan McAleer (Mikey Place 77 mins), Nathan Boyle, Sean Boyd (Raff Cretaro 43 mins). Not used: Mark Anthony McGinley (Gk), Michael Gallagher, Jacob Borg, Colm Deasy.
UCD - Conor Kearns, Daniel Tobin, Mark Dignam (Kevin Coffey 65 mins), Josh Collins, Richie O'Farrell (Jason McClelland 83 mins), Liam Scales; Gary O’Neill, Paul Doyle, Yousef Mahdy, Conor Davis (Sean McDonald 75 mins), Neil Farrugia.