Finn Harps 0 Waterford United 1
By Chris McNulty at Finn Park
PAUDIE Quinn netted the only goal of the game twelve minutes from time to condemn Finn Harps to their first home defeat of the season.
Quinn stole in to nod home at the near post after Darragh Walshe had skipped by Damien McNulty to swing in the cross.
It was a goal that will have had the Harps manager Peter Hutton tearing at his hair and it was a night too, in front of 508 fans, when the performance of his team, and most significantly, perhaps, their failure to ask the searching questions of their opponents, that won’t live long in the memory.
Quinn’s goal broke the deadlock in a scrappy encounter that never truly woke from its slumber until Harps went in a gallant search of an equaliser. Kevin McHugh headed wide and then stuck another effort off target and it was the away side who left with the maximum dividends.
In a surprise move, Peter Hutton handed a debut to Buncrana man Johnny Bonner in attack, with Sean McCarron dropping to the bench.
A reoccurrence of an ankle injury meant that Thomas McMonagle – scorer of the winner here against Salthill Devon last week – missed out, so the pack was reshuffled and dealt McNulty at centre-back, with James Doherty coming in at right-back.
For long spells it was a first half characterised by a failure, on the part of both teams, to hold possession or to find any sort of fluency.
Harps did find a rhythm of sorts in the 33rd minute when McHugh worked a one-two from a corner with Thomas McBride, the striker forcing Hyland into parrying away his drilled effort from 18 yards.
There had been an anxious moment Darragh Walshe beat Keith Cowan for pace, but the alert goalkeeper, Ciaran Gallagher, was out to get a foot in ahead of the Waterford striker just after the half-hour.
From their first corner of the night, in the 37th minute, Waterford might have been in front. Ben Ryan’s teasing delivery picked out the centre-back Gavin Kavanagh, but his acrobatic effort was superbly tipped over by Gallagher.
Another Ryan set-piece, a free kick, came close to creating the breakthrough, but Walshe’s prodded effort was just wide after Harps had failed to clear.
Waterford’s start to the season has been forgettable, but it is unlikely that Paul O’Brien will be let it go to the back of his mind. The Blues manager came to Ballybofey without the injured Vinny Sullivan and the suspended Seamus Long.
Paudie Quinn had a sight of Gallagher’s goal just 30 seconds into the second half, but he shot wide. It was an opening that didn’t herald the status quo, for it was a second period that was short on quality and chances.
Harps sent Sean McCarron and Paul McVeigh on in an attempt to find the spark that was missing from their attack, but their team was placed on the back foot when Quinn silenced Ballybofey – bar the small pocket of vociferous travelling fans – with his near-post header.
Harps’ search for a leveller saw them go three at the back, but they couldn’t find the magic meaning that, for the third time in four games, they’ve not scored.
With two of the more tougher away assignments, namely at Cobh Ramblers and Longford Town, in the next fortnight, there’s a sense that their next encounter at home, against Mervue United in three weeks could be a big night in the directions this campaign will take.
Finn Harps: C Gallagher; J Doherty, D McNulty, K Cowan, C Coll; M Funston, S McGowan, T McBride, M Brolly; J Bonner, K McHugh. Subs: S McCarron for Bonner (61 mins), P McVeigh for Funston (75 mins), M Harkin for Doherty (89 mins).
Waterford United: C Hyland; D Mernagh, D Breen, G Kavanagh, J Frost; M Coady, P White, B Ryan, P Higgins; D Walshe, P Quinn. Subs: P Quilty for Coady (73 mins).
Referee: J McLoughlin.