Limerick F.C. 0-2 Finn Harps
(Harps won 3-0 on aggregate)
Finn Harps will be playing Premier Division football again next season just a year after being relegated from the top flight. Goals from Mark Timlin and Nathan Boyle secured the victory against Limerick F. C. In the second leg at the Markets Field. Harps were full value for the win. Apart from a spell early in the second half Ollie Horgan’s men were in control and the margin of victory could possibly have been even more. The visitors arrived with a 1-0 advantage from the first leg in Ballybofey and doubled that just before the interval thanks to Timlin’s fine finish. Boyle then nipped to score a crucial second on on the night 11 minutes from the end of normal time. It was the Derry man’s third in the four-match play-off campaign.
Ollie Horgan and Paul Hegarty have done a remarkable job in putting together a squad in 2018, including bringing four new players in the July transfer window, that saw Harps only beaten once in 15 competitive games since the end of June and that was 2-0 to the mighty Dundalk at Oriel Park in the FAI Senior Cup. All at Finn Harps F. C. appreciate the lengths and effort Horgan, Hegarty, the management team and players have gone to ensure that the club will be playing Premier Division football next year.
Horgan was pleased with the improved performance that his players produced after struggling for long spells against Limerick at Finn Park despite getting the win thanks to a first half Paddy McCourt penalty. “There was an improvement in the performance here at the Markets Field and I said we needed that if were to have a chance of getting the better of Limerick over the two legs. That’s down to the players and credit to them for that. This squad has worked very hard all season and deserve this reward. We brought some players in during July and thankfully that helped to kick-on us to a good run of results. Paul Hegarty and the rest of the backroom staff have done a huge amount of stuff behind the scenes to help make this happen and this result is great for them as well. We’ll enjoy this but as we all know being in the Premier Division again is going to be a massive challenge for a club like Finn Harps. It’s going to take an incredible effort to put us in a position to be competitive when the season starts in February’ Horgan said.
The visitors were determined to make it difficult for Tommy Barrett’s men from the start but there was an early setback when Paddy McCourt had to retire with what appeared to be a groin injury after 16 minutes and it also signalled the end of his senior soccer career.
The hosts did come close from a Killian Brouder header that had to be cleared off the line. Timlin came close to scoring on 21 minutes as his nimble footwork carved out the opening for a low shot that hit the post. However, the Buncrana man did strike for that precious goal to put Harps 2-0 ahead on aggregate just before the break after latching onto Mikey Place’s through ball to fire high past Limerick keeper Jack Brady.
Limerick’s best spell came in the early stages of the second half, A teasing Barry Maguire cross found Connor Ellis but the striker was unable to get sufficient contact on the ball. That was as good as it got for the hosts as Horgan’s outfit had the upper hand with Gareth Harkin and Timlin pulling the strings in the middle of the park. Place should have made it 2-0 on the night after being setup by Timlin on 65 minutes but the front man blazed the ball over the bar from a couple of yards.
Harps sealed their spot in next season’s top flight on 79 minutes when John Kavanagh’s pass released Boyle who finished superbly from an acute angle to make it 3-0 on aggregate. Ex-Harps player Danny Morrissey did clip Peter Burke’s crossbar late on but it was only ever going to be a consolation goal at that stage.
Limerick – Jack Brady; Shaun Kelly, Kilian Cantwell, Killian Brouder, Shane Tracy; Cian Coleman (Karl O’Sullivan, 70 mins), Shane Duggan, Connor Ellis (Will Fitzgerald, 58 mins), Barry Maguire (Darren Murphy 58 mins), Billy Dennehy; Danny Morrissey.
Finn Harps – Peter Burke; John Kavanagh, Jacob Borg, Keith Cowan, Sam Todd, Ciaran Coll; Paddy McCourt (Niall Logue 16 mins), Gareth Harkin, Mark Timlin (Jesse Devers 84 mins); Mikey Place, Nathan Boyle (John O’Flynn 88 mins). Subs not used: Jamie Bell (Gk), Niall McGinley, Timmy Sobowale.
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