Finn Harps 5 Cobh Ramblers 0
By Chris McNulty at Finn Park
OLLIE Horgan’s default setting so far has been that of understatement and after the way the twine unraveled last season you won’t find too many around Finn Park getting ahead of themselves just yet.
He could have trouble dampening expectations after this – a night of real promise from his side as they went top of the First Division.
James Doherty and Carel Tiofack set Harps up for a rout that was completed by a four-minute brace from Pat McCann and an excellent fifth by Ruairi Keating.
With another clean sheet on a night when injured frontmen Kevin McHugh and Sean McCarron – who hit 21 goals between them last season – were among those with a watching brief, Horgan can certainly be satisfied with the manner in which his tenure has begun. His problem might be dampening expectations.
Doherty netted the first League goal of his Harps career in the 29th minute, the Kilmacrennan man’s only previous goal having been in the EA Sports League Cup win over Mayo League at the start of last season.
Michael Funston, after being denied himself by Robert Birdsall, the Cobh goalkeeper, popped the ball to the back post. A scramble ensued and it was the unlikely figure of Doherty, who applied the finish as he slid in.
Harps were well on top throughout and Tiofack doubled the lead in the 48th minute, drilling home following neat industry by Keating, who did well to commit Birdsall before cutting back for the perfectly-poised Tiofack.
Keating and Tiofack were involved in the third, too. Keating was denied by Birdsall and while he got his paws to McCann’s effort he was powerless to prevent the goal.
The stylish American midfielder smashed into the top corner twenty minutes from time – again after Keating’s tracks were halted by the over-worked Birdsall.
Cobh must have been wishing they’d been back on the road by then.
The game was in doubt until around an hour and a half before kick-off, when referee Eoghan O’Shea gave his approval following an earlier assessment by local referee’s inspector John Duffy and after hours of endeavour by Maurice O’Donnell, the groundsman.
Cobh boss Martin Cambridge and his troops made the long trek to the Twin Towns on the back of a 3-2 defeat by Wexford Youths last weekend. Robert Birdsall, Adam Thompson, Andrew Bhandarker, Alan O’Flynn and Jonathan Cramer were all elevated to the starting XI by the time the game, eventually got the green light.
Harps had the better of the earlier chances, with Keating twice denied and, after Doherty broke the deadlock, Harps should have made more of the chances that fell their way in the first half.
Keating, again, had a good opening in the 38th minute. Faced by Birdsall on the edge of the penalty area, Keating elected to go for a chipped effort, but the Cobh netminder stood his ground to keep Keating at bay.
After Harps survived another scare, when Robert Waters shot wide after connecting to Ryan Goldsmith’s teasing low cross just after the re-start, the hosts could finally exhale when Tiofack drilled home the first goal of his Harps career
Horgan had warned beforehand of getting ahead of themselves after a 3-0 away win at Shamrock Rovers B last Sunday.
“The start of the season has gone ok, but there is a long way to go,” Horgan cautioned in his programme notes.
“Even if we had a full panel to choose from, this game would be difficult.”
Harps, though, could have had more. McCann was a crossbar’s width from his hat-trick with a bullet header from a Tiofack corner having had an earlier effort sizzle inches over the bar.
But the fifth did arrive when Keating, two minutes from time, slalomed through to find the bottom corner. With Shelbourne drawing 3-3 against Waterford United, it is Horgan’s troops who top the pile on goal difference.
Finn Harps: Conor Winn; Damien McNulty, Packie Mailey, Keith Cowan; James Doherty, Michael Funston, Pat McCann, Tommy Bonnar, Ciaran Coll; Carel Tiofack; Ruairi Keating. Subs: Jonny Bonner for Coll (71 mins), Josh Mailey for Funston (74 mins), Graham Fisher for Bonnar (82 mins).
Cobh Ramblers: Robert Birdsall; Eoin Hastings, Craig Burns, Andrew Bhandarker, Adam Thompson; Bobbi Donoghue, Roy Kenny, Robert Waters, Martin Deedy; Jonathan Cramer, Alan O’Flynn. Subs: Damien O’Rourke for Thompson (40 mins), Ryan Goldsmith for Bhandarker (half-time).
Referee: Eoghan O’Shea (Tipperary).