Finn Harps 1-0 Limerick F.C.
Ollie Horgan’s men remain on course to have a really good go at returning to the League of Ireland Premier Division after a narrow win over Limerick F. C. in Monday night’s Promotion/relegation first leg play-off in Ballybofey. Paddy McCourt’s 36th minute penalty was all that separated the two sides at the final whistle which give Harps a slim advantage ahead of the return match against Limerick at the Markets Field on this Friday night. Horgan wasn’t all that happy with the Harps performance and said afterwards that a repeat would result in Limerick retaining their Premier status. The visitors had a lot of the ball in the second half and again the hosts rode their luck a bit and were relieved to hear the final whistle from referee Robert Harvey after seven minutes of injury time.
Preparations for the first leg clash were not ideal due to a number of injuries. Goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher was forced to miss the game due to a knee problem which will also keep him out of the return leg. Mark Timlin was also ruled out while both McCourt and Gareth Harkin played despite not being not fully fit. And Mark Coyle was missing through suspension which also sees the Burt man out of the match at the Markets Field as he has received a two-game ban. Afterwards Horgan said the Gallagher injury had been kept under wraps in order to try and give his side the maximum advantage going into the game. The Harps boss acknowledged the support from the sections of the local media who had respected that position after being informed last week that there were injury concerns in the squad.
Monday night’s win means Harps have now lost just once in 15 games since the end of June. There was a first playoff appearance for Moville man Peter Burke who replaced Gallagher in nets and the keeper did well apart from one or two early anxious moments. The other two personnel changes from the win over Drogheda saw Jesse Devers and Harkin come in for Coyle and Timlin. Former U19 goalkeeper Jamie Bell was called into the squad while Horgan also Kerrykeel man Liam Walsh among the subs. The hosts started brightly enough with Harkin shooting wide from the edge of the penalty area. At the other a Shane Duggan volley went just over the Harps crossbar.
The hosts also paid the ultimate price for a moment’s confusion that saw a mix-up between Burke and his defenders. It allowed Limerick striker Conor Ellis to get on the ball and he really should have scored but his effort hit the post and a very lucky escape for Harps. Duggan tested Burke and Devers worked the Premier Division keeper Tommy Holland. The game’s only goal came on 36 minutes when Kilian Brouder fouled Divers and the resultant penalty was cooly converted by McCourt who sent Holland the wrong way from the spot-kick on the Derry man’s final outfit for Finn Harps.
Brouder did have an opportunity to redeem himself early in the second half but the defender could only glance a header wide from Shane Tracey’s free-kick. Limerick bossed possessions but clearcut chances were few and far between. However, there was some nervy moments for the Harps fans to endure late on with Harkin doing very well to clear Barry Maguire’s spectacular effort off his own goal-line. Then Burke did brilliantly to get a hand stop to Maguire’s stinging shot from just outside the penalty area.
Horgan’s men held on through the seven minutes of injury time to give themselves a chance down at the Markets Field on Friday night of winning the two-legged affair to make a return to the Premier Division. Finn Harps – Peter Burke; John Kavanagh, Jacob Borg, Keith Cowan, Sam Todd, Ciaran Coll; Jesse Devers (Niall Logue 89 mins), Gareth Harkin, Paddy McCourt (Timmie Sobowale 77 mins); Mikey Place, Nathan Boyle (John O’Flynn 97 mins). Not used: Jamie Bell (Gk), Aidan Friel, Liam Walsh, Niall McGinley.
Limerick – Tommy Holland (Jack Brady 71 mins); Shaun Kelly, Kilian Cantwell, Kilian Brouder, Shane Tracy; Karl O’Sullivan (William Fitzgerald 54 mins), Barry Maguire, Shane Duggan, Cian Coleman, Billy Dennehy; Conor Ellis (Danny Morrisey 80 mins). Ref: Robert Harvey.
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