Finn Harps 0 Mervue United 2
By Chris McNulty at Finn Park
THE winter will be a long one in the corridors of power at Finn Park.
With three games remaining this season, Finn Harps are in real danger of falling to the depths of second from bottom in the First Division.
Jason Molloy and Ryan Manning scored in a goal in each half to keep Mervue United’s faint play-off hopes alive and continue Harps’ miserable run of form.
Harps are just two points ahead of seventh-of-eight Cobh.
It was all so different on Mervue’s last visit to Ballybofey in the middle of May.
Sean McCarron’s goal on the stroke of half time that night gave Harps a slender win that had them in second spot in the table.
In the four months since, Peter Hutton’s team has played fourteen League games and their record is rather astonishing with just eight points claimed from a possible 42 in that period and only twelve goals scored.
The passing of time has seen Harps wilt, though their run in the FAI Cup did, at least, offer a small chink of light.
With the season over for Harps as far as having meaningful competition, Hutton used the game to experiment somewhat with his team.
The Harps boss handed a first full start to Ballindrait’s Jordan Duffy up front and his team showed six changes to that which lost 2-0 in the Cup to Drogheda four nights earlier, with recalls for Marty Owens, Ciaran Coll, Shane McGinty, Paul McVeigh and Lee Toland.
The plethora of changes had the home side somewhat disjointed and Mervue took the lead with only five minutes gone. Jason Molly cut in on the left edge of the penalty box before his right-footed effort clipped the head of Keith Cowan on the way past Ciaran Gallagher.
Promising youngster Ryan Manning had a sight of a second, but his effort was always rising.
Harps had just one chance of note in a tame first period, Paul McVeigh forcing a fine one-handed save from Conor O’Malley.
It was a half devoid of much incident and the paltry crowd of less than 200 was in keeping with the general feeling around Navenny Street following Harps’ Cup exit.
Just before half time, Mervue went close again, but Tom King shot over after taking a cut-back from Gary Shanahan.
Mervue spurned a glorious chance of doubling their lead just after the hour mark when Michael Duffy connected with King’s cross, but failed to keep his shot down from point-blank range.
Harps had a golden opportunity themselves when Lee Toland flashed a corner right across the brows of O’Malley, but there was no-one on hand to apply even the slightest of touches.
Johnny Glynn’s side did make the win safe sixteen minutes from the end when Manning steered first time to the bottom corner from the edge of the box after connecting with Molloy’s superbly-placed corner.
After sub Micheál Doherty headed over from a great position at the far post, it took a superb block by Keith Cowan to thwart Gary Shanahan who looked set to make it 3-0 in the closing minutes.
But the Galway residents had already done enough. The men from the west still aspire of making the play-offs but, for Harps the seasons end can’t come quickly enough.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Marty Owens, Keith Cowan, Josh Mailey, Ciaran Coll; Michael Funston, Tommy Bonnar, Shane McGinty, Lee Toland; Paul McVeigh, Jordan Duffy. Subs: Kevin McHugh for Duffy (67 mins), Micheál Doherty for Toland (67 mins), Mark Forker for McGinty (80 mins).
Mervue United: Conor O’Malley; Tom King, Martin Conneely, Paul Sinnott, Stephen Walshe; Gary Shanahan, Barry O’Mahoney, Gary Curran, Jason Molloy; Michael Duffy, Ryan Manning. Subs: Joe Woods for Duffy (75 mins), Noel Varley for Curran (84 mins).
Referee: Conor Fitzgerald (Dublin).