BY RYAN FERRY
FINN Harps legend Brendan Bradley believes that the club need to win promotion if they are to bring the crowds back to Finn Park.
Bradley scored 241 goals for Harps and he notched two goals as the club defeated St Patrick’s Athletic 3-1 in the 1974 FAI Cup final.
Harps were one of the best teams in the country during Bradley’s time in Finn Park, a far cry from where the Ballybofey side find themselves now.
“One of the biggest differences I see in Finn Park these days are the crowds,” said Bradley. “When I was playing in the seventies the ground was packed, but now I go up there and it’s empty. That’s sad, and depressing for former players like myself and the fans. The club is too good for the second division, and they need to get promoted if they want to get the crowd back.”
Patsy McGowan signed Bradley in 1969, and the Derry native soon settled in. As Bradley scored the goals, the attendances rocketed up, as people came from all over the north west to see the successful Finn Harps.
“When I first signed for Finn Harps, Patsy McGowan had built a very good team. It was a novelty for people in Donegal to see a football team from the county taking on the best teams in the country.
“We played good football and we didn’t lose too many matches, and that was what the supporters wanted.”
Bradley is a regular visitor to the ground that he lit up for 13 seasons over three separate spells, and he thinks the club need some experience to help them earn promotion.
“Last season, I thought Harps had some very good young footballers. They were fit and trying to play the game in the right way. I just thought they were short a few experienced players.
“They needed some old battlers. The type of lads that are coming towards the end of their careers, who maybe don’t run as much as they used to. But they would make up for it with their experience. They could steer the younger boys in the right direction and give them advice.”
Harps are currently in the process of selecting a new manager, and Bradley was heartened to see eleven applicants for the role. He believe the new boss must be passionate about Finn Harps.
“It’s good to see that there has been interest in the manager’s job. It’s not for me to say who should get the job, but it should be someone who cares for the club, and is prepared to do whatever it takes for the club.
“Management isn’t easy. The only certainty a manager has these days is that eventually he will be sacked. If you look at Derry City, they were going well, and then they went on a bad run for 10 or 12 games, and suddenly Declan Devine wasn’t good enough anymore.
“In my day, managers were given more time. There seems to be a lot more pressure now. If you go on a bad run, the crowd drops, then the directors aren’t happy, and the manager takes the fall.”
League of Ireland attendances have dropped significantly since Bradley’s playing days. Some commentators have pointed to the large number of games on television now as a reason for the decrease, but Bradley believes that the standard of football is the real issue with supporters.
“People can sometimes make up excuses for why the crowds aren’t going. They have summer football now when the Premiership isn’t on, and Harps play their games on Friday nights, when it’s not going to clash with anything else.
“The interest isn’t there at the minute, and the only way it is going to come back is if they win promotion. I’ve always said that Harps are a sleeping giant, and they are too good for the second division. It’s about time they were wakening up.”