Kevin McHugh netted Harps’ equaliser against Mervue United.
Mervue United 2 FinnHarps 2
By Aidan O’Donnell at Fahy’s Field
FINN Harps overcame an error-strewn first-half display to preserve their impressive start to the new season against fellow table-toppers Mervue United in Galway on Good Friday.
The visitors, who have yet to register a win at Fahy’s Field, were staring down the barrel of their first defeat of the season after conceding two disastrously sloppy goals in a first-half which they were arguably the better side.
Highly-rated 16-year-old striker Ryan Manning pounced on an uncharacteristically misplaced back-pass from Shaun McGowan before rounding goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher to hand the hosts a 23rd minute breakthrough.
Mervue doubled their lead ten minutes later when Brendan Lavelle rounded off a move that came about from Harps coughing up possession deep inside their own half.
However, the visitors responded with the kind of grit that is becoming an all-too familiar and likeable trait of theirs with two goals in the space of seven minutes early in the second half.
Centre-half Thomas McMonagle made it 2-1 with an instinctive half-volley and shortly after Kevin McHugh converted from the penalty spot, a goal that took him alongside Stephen Geoghegan in the all-time list of goal-scorers in the League of Ireland. Both players are now tied at 7th on 158 goals, McHugh just one shy of Glen Crowe in 6th.
The drama didn’t end there as Mervue won a controversial penalty 20 minutes from time after Lavelle fell theatrically inside the area under the challenge of Gallagher.
Gallagher, though, was more than equal to Jason Molloy’s spot-kick with a brilliant save down to his right side as Harps held out for a hard-fought draw on a ground that has proven something of a graveyard for the Ballybofey outfit.
Mervue United: Connor Gleeson; Paul Sinnott, Michael McSweeney, Martin Conneely, Marc Ludden; Tom King, Noel Varley, Gary Curran, Jason Molloy; Brendan Lavelle, Ryan Manning. Subs: Gary Shanahan for Manning (half-time).
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Damien McNulty, Keith Cowan, Thomas McMonagle, Matthew Crossan; Michael Funston, Shaun McGowan, Thomas McBride, Marc Brolly; Sean McCarron, Kevin McHugh. Subs: Thomas Bonnar for McGowan (58 mins), Paul McVeigh for McCarron (62 mins), Michéal Doherty for Brolly (87 mins).
Referee: Kevin O’Regan (Kerry).
Posted: 11:52 am March 30, 2013
Harps play Drogheda tonight
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Dundalk claimed the spoils.