Finn Harps 1 Mervue United 0
Chris McNulty at Finn Park
A STUNNING strike from Sean McCarron in first half stoppage time fired Finn Harps into second spot in the First Division, as the Derryman’s goal was enough to defeat Mervue United.
McCarron’s sixth goal of the campaign sealed a win that sees Peter Hutton’s side leapfrog Mervue and go to within a point of the leaders, Longford Town.
His was a magnificent goal that came at just the right time. It was two minutes into added-on time when Thomas McMonagle took a quick free kick that found McCarron, who controlled wonderfully on his chest before spinning round to smash a wondrous volley from 25 yards into the top corner of the Town End net.
It’s a goal that extends the unbeaten run of the Ballybofey brigade to three games – and the clean sheet for Ciaran Gallagher was his fourth of a campaign that has Harps with the best defensive record and capping off a week when the Raphoe man was called up to train with Noel King’s Republic of Ireland Under 21s.
In the 93rd minute Gallagher demonstrated the qualities that earned that phone call when he denied Gary Shanahan with a brilliant save down to his left after the striker had raced into a one-on-one situation. It was a save that was every bit as important as McCarron’s opener had been – one that sends Harps right back into Longford’s slipstream
Hutton selected the same XI as had played in last week’s 3-2 win at leaders Longford, with an attack-minded 4-3-3 deployed, skipper Kevin McHugh the spearhead in an attack that included Sean McCarron and Gary Merritt.
Keith Cowan, who left Longford on crutches last weekend, and McMonagle had both been considered doubtful, but the centre-back partnership was passed fit and came through the 90 minutes.
In a tame opening, McCarron dragged a 20-year effort wide and, after Noel Varney had volleyed harmlessly off target for Mervue, McHugh went close with a 16th minute header, but his effort narrowly the target after he had connected with Merritt’s delicious cross.
Merritt was the creator again just shy of the half-hour mark when he was perfectly picked out by Damien McNulty’s cross-field pass. The Milford lad’s teasing low cross was cut out by Gary Kelly with McCarron lurking intently on the edge of the six-yard box.
It was Merritt who had the best chance of breaking the deadlock when he worked his way in from the right flank to curl a left-footed shot that forced Mervue ‘keeper Conor Gleeson into getting down low to his left to make the save.
It was the first test for either ‘keeper in what had been something of a stale contest, but right on the button of the interval McCarron’s stunner broke the deadlock.
The second half was one of few chances, with McCarron denied by a block from Stephen Walsh, while there were late heart stopping moments when, first, Varley headed wide and, then, came Gallagher’s piece of heroics with that save from Shanahan.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; James Doherty, Keith Cowan, Damien McNulty, Thomas McMonagle; Michael Funston, Thomas Bonnar, Ciaran Coll; Gary Merritt, Kevin McHugh, Sean McCarron. Subs: Shaun McGowan for McCarron (86 mins), Matthew Harkin for Merritt (87 mins).
Mervue United: Conor Gleeson, Michael McSweeney, Stephen Walsh, Mike Elwood, Mark Ludden; Gary Shanahan, Noel Varley, Gary Kelly, Jason Molloy; Ryan Manning, Paul Sinnott. Subs: Brendan Lavelle for Kelly (73 mins), Joe Woods for Elwood (77 mins).
Referee: Robert Harvey.