Dr Tony O’Neill Under 19’s League of Ireland
Finn Harps 3-0 Dundalk
Wizard McGowan’s young charges produced a blistering first half to set up an impressive 3 goal victory over table toppers Dundalk at Finn Park.
Goals from Gary Merritt, Jordan Duffy and Dean McConnell were enough to ensure a superb victory over the highly fancied, unbeaten Louth outfit.
Harps started the game brightly and following good work from Ryan Shields and Jordan Duffy were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. Merritt stepped up to dispatch a fabulous right footed strike over the wall and into the top corner of Craig Hanlons net with only 7 minutes up on the clock.
The visitors were struggling to get out of their half in the early stages as Harps played a high intensity pressing game high up the pitch. Shane McGinty and Merritt both coming close to adding a second.
In the 14th minute Ryan Shields won possession in the centre of the pitch and Ryan Lonergan played an inch perfect through ball for Jordan Duffy to run onto and hammer into the bottom corner with a top class finish. A thoroughly deserving goal from the industrious striker.
Dundalk managed to get a foothold on the game for a short spell and almost made the possession pay when Conor Macken broke from midfield and unleashed a thunderous strike which forced Shaun Patton into making a world class save.
This seem to serve as a wake up call to the host’s as they went down the other end with lively Dean McConnell forcing a corner. From the resulting corner, Merritt delivered another quality ball into the penalty area which was met by Hugh McFadden but the Dundalk defence managed to scramble it away but, much to their managers dismay, only as far as Merritt who found McConnell at the near post and the young striker made no mistake making it 3-0 with 28 minutes on the clock.
The second half was a much more even affair as Harps dropped the work rate and were sloppy in possession. In contrast Dundalk came out in a more determined fashion and put the home side under much more pressure at the back.
Harps were forced to play on the break and used target man Jordan Duffy to good effect with second half subs Cathal McDaid and John McGarvey putting in good shits on the wings in support. McDaid almost had a dream debut for the home side as a Shane McGinty through ball left McDaid one on one with Hanlon. The young Keeper coming out and getting his hand to what was literally McDaid’s first touch of the game and turning it around the corner for a corner.
McDaid indeed had the ball in the back of the net on 76 minutes only to have the goal ruled out for offside.
Speaking after the game, Harps manager Sean McGowan had mixed emotions “Of course it was a great 3 points. Dundalk have started the league well and it was important for us to get the 3 points and keep up to pace at the top of the league. We started the game well and scored a few good goals, I was pretty pleased with the first half. We spoke at half time about keeping up the tempo and that we needed to produce a full 90 minutes but I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t really come out in the second half and play the kind of football we were capable of. I had given the boys a bit of a licence to come out and express themselves but that didn’t happen. We’ll work on that during the week and hopefully we’ll be ready come the Fanad game on Friday”.
Man of the match – Gary Merritt – The young Milford man was involved in all things good for Harps.
Finn Harps – Shaun Patton, Martin Redmond, Stephen Rodden, Hugh McFadden, William Lynch, Ryan Lonergan, Ryan Shields, Dean McConnell (John McGarvey 71’), Shane McGinty (Ryan Curran 67’), Jordan Duffy, Gary Merritt (Cathal McDaid 63’)
Subs: Dean Bonner, Cillian Gallagher
Booked: Redmond, Lonergan, McConnell
Dundalk – Craig Hanlon, Glen Trainor, Karl Martin, Darren Meehan (Gary Shevlin 71’), John Horan, Conor Macken (Ben McLoughlin 54’), Michael Griffen (Conor McDonald 29’), Robert Sweeney, Mark Leavey, Christopher Reilly, Robert McKenna
Booked: Griffen, McKenna