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Finn Harps 1-3 UCD

Despite the loss to UCD last night Finn Harps F.C. remain very much in the promotion pack as the teams now go in to a much needed two-week mid-season break. The concession of two early second half goals left Harps with a mountain to climb against the league leaders in Ballybofey but Ollie Horgan’s side did battle back in an entertaining League of Ireland First Division game and gave themselves a lifeline thanks to a 55th finish from Mikey Place. Sub Jesse Devers then should have had the hosts level and the Students made them pay dearly when Burnfoot man Georgie Kelly nipped into score his 14th goal of the season.

In a rollercoaster second half Harps kept their heads up but again spurned a great chance to get back into the game when Devers missed an 83rd minute penalty. The home ended the game with 10 men when sub Ciaran O’Connor was sent-off for a second yellow card offence.

Despite the defeat Harps remain well in contention for promotion having just slipped one slot to fifth in the table, swapping places with Longford Town who had a 1-0 over Drogheda Utd.

Once again, despite limited resources, the huge effort being put in by Ollie Horgan, Paul Hegarty and the players is paying off in keeping Finn Harps nicely placed ahead of the resumption of the League of Ireland First Division on Friday 29th June with an away game against Cabinteely at Stradbrook and a week latter they will be on the road again to play Drogheda Utd.

The first home game after the break isn’t until Friday July 13th when Harps host Longford Town. A week later Horgan’s outfit will also be at Finn Park when Shelbourne are the visitors.

Harps were on top on the first half against UCD but once again a failure to finish a couple of decent chances came back to haunt them when the visitors swooped for those two early second half goal.

Ironically, Harps also played quite well against the Students at the Belfield Bowl earlier in the season but lost 3-2. Horgan made one personnel change from the Galway game with Paddy McCourt coming in for Devers in midfield.

Harps started on the front foot with skipper Ciaran Coll being denied an opening goal as a UCD body got in the way at the expense of a corner. The hosts came close again to breaking the deadlock on 26 minute when McCourt’s corner caused confusion and keeper Conor Kearns desperately got a hand to the ball to keep it from going over the line.

And the luck wasn’t with Horgan’s men either as they had a goal disallowed just past the half-hour mark when the match officials’  ruled that Place was in an offside position when Mark Timlin steered a shot past Kearns. Not surprisingly it was a decision that didn’t go down well with Horgan and his assistant Paul Hegarty who shortly afterwards was sent to the stand for protesting following a foul on Place.

Things got worse for Harps just four minutes after the break when a defensive error allowed Daire O’Connor to take advantage and shoot past Ciaran Gallagher. The same player made it 2-0 on 53 minutes as a failure to close down the UCD attacker gave him the opportunity to slot past the Harps keeper again.

It certainly was no dull spectacle as the home team got back on level terms in the 55th minute. Michael O’Connor’s long throw-in found Place who diverted the ball past Kearns from close range.

Sub Devers then spurned a great opportunity to make it 2-2 when he really should have scored but Kearns was equal to his effort.

It was probably the key moment of the game as the visitors meted out the ultimate punishment on 71 minutes when Georgie Kelly nipped in ahead of Keith Cowan to turn the ball past Gallagher. A two-goal deficit with just 20 minutes to go against the league leaders was always going to be hard to claw back.

In fairness, Horgan’s men kept plugging away but it just wasn’t going to be their night and that was demonstrated when Devers sent a 83rd minute penalty wide after a push on sub, Ciaran O’Connor who was later sent-off after two yellow cards in quick succession.

UCD are the clear leaders with a seven-point advantage but Harps remain well placed in the race for promotion. Horgan’s outfit is now fifth in the table with 28 points on the board. They are among a group of four teams including Drogheda Utd, Shelbourne and Longford who are separated by just three points. Two points below Harps is Galway Utd.

Finn Harps – Ciaran Gallagher, Aidan Friel (John O’Flynn 79 mins), Ciaran Coll, Keith Cowan, Sam Todd, Gareth Harkin, Mark Coyle, Paddy McCourt (Jesse Devers 56 mins), Michael O’Connor (Ciaran O’Connor 78 mins), Mikey Place, Mark Timlin. Not used: Peter Burke (Gk), Tommy McBride, Niall McGinley, Mark Hannon.

UCD – Conor Kearns, Darragh Corcoran, Evan Osam, Liam Scales, Josh Collins, Greg Sloggett, Daire O’Connor (Paul Doyle 79), Gary O’Neill, Georgie Kelly, Yousef Mahdy (Neil Farrugia 75), Jason McClelland (Conor Crowley 89).

Referee: Damien McGrath.

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