Finn Harps manager Ollie Horgan with Keith Cowan after the big defender put to pen to paper in Ballybofey for the 2018 season. Photo by Geraldine Diver

Drogheda United 2-1 Finn Harps

The early season unbeaten run of Finn Harps came to an end when Drogheda Utd bagged the three points against the visitors. Two big first half refereeing calls went against Ollie Horgan side’s and was key to Harps losing for the first time in four First Division league matches.

Horgan said afterwards that the foul on Ciaran O’Connor was a clear penalty while at the other end the hosts were awarded a spot-kick by ref Robert Harvey after Keith Cowan was deemed to have deliberately handled the ball leading to a straight red card for the central defender in the 23rd minute of the game.

The penalty was converted by Gareth McCaffrey and then Richie Purdy added a second leaving the Horgan’s side with steep uphill battle going in at half-time. This was a rescheduled fixture after the original game was called off late as the referee wasn’t satisfied with the floodlighting at United Park.

Horgan was without captain Ciaran Coll and Jesse Deevers but Paddy McCourt returned after injury. Lee Toland replaced Coll at left back while new signing Eric Whelan made his first competitive appearance for Finn Harps. The visitors were on the front foot early on and in the 13th minute Ciaran O’Connor appeared to be taken down in the 18-yard box but ref Harvey turned down the penalty appeals.

Ten minutes later the match official did award a spot-kick to Drogheda. Cowan was adjudged to have handled the ball when McCaffrey had rounded the keeper but his final effort came back off a post. The referee awarded the penalty and gave vice-captain a straight red card for deliberate handball.

Sub McCaffrey made no mistake from the resultant spot-kick. The home side doubled their advantage on 32 minutes. Keeper Paul Skinner’s long clearance was latched onto by Richie Purdy to find the back of the net.

Just before the break Michael O’Connor came close to an equalizer. Assistant manager, Paul Hegarty, was sent to the stands by the ref during the half-time interval. Drogheda could have went further ahead but Harps managed to keep it at 2-0 in the early stages of the second half.

Mark Hannon made his first league appearance for Harps from the bench while Adam Duffy came on for the second time in three days having made his senior debut in Cobh on Saturday.

Both had goal chances with a Duffy strike going narrowly. And there was an even better opening for Hannon on 72 minutes who rounded keeper Skinner but a poor touch allowed the danger to be averted. Another Harps sub Mark Hannon found the net late on but there was wasn’t time to find an equaliser.

Drogheda United – Paul Skinner, Ciaran Kelly, Conor Kane, Luke Gallagher, Kevin Farragher, Mark Doyle, Luke Rossiter, Richie Purdy (Kealan Dillon 76), Jake Hyland, Chris Lyons (Gareth McCaffrey 16),  Stephen Meaney.

Finn Harps – Ciaran Gallagher, Aidan Friel, Lee Toland, Keith Cowan, Sam Todd, Eric Whelan (Adam Duffy 46), Mark Coyle, Paddy McCourt (Mark Hannon 70), Ciaran O’Connor (John O’Flynn 79), Michael O’Connor, Mark Timlin. Not used: Peter Burke (Gk), Gareth Doherty, Ryan Finn, Tommy McBride. Ref: Robert Harvey.

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