FINN HARPS 0 WATERFORD UNITED 0
BY CHRIS MCNULTY AT FINN PARK
IT WILL, ultimately, be reflected on as a useful and encouraging first night at the Finn Harps office for Ollie Horgan.
A scoreless draw against Waterford United kicked off the Galweigan’s tenure as the Harps manager.
Although his side will be kicking themselves when they examine the chance that fell to loan striker Ruairi Keating in the 59th minute – shooting wide with the net at the far post screaming for a conversion – they’ll be pleased to emerge unscathed on a night when the visitors had the better of the chances.
Talk of seeking ‘men who want to battle’ and of the importance of hard work had dominated Horgan’s pre-match interviews and, on the evidence of this season opener his side won’t be found wanting for endeavour.
What they had in endeavour they lacked in adventure, despite deploying an atttack-minded team.
Horgan sent out what looked an exciting first line-up with Kevin McHugh passed fit to spearhead the attack having bee struggling with a hamstring complaint in the build-up.
A line-up that also contained Keating, Sean McCarron and Carel Tiofack, playing in front of a pairing of Pat McCann and Michael Funston, was designed to give Harps an attacking verve.
Clear-cut chances were few and far between, although Harps were left to stew on a missed chance by Keating in the 59th minute, the striker slicing into the side netting from a glorious position.
Late in the day, Keating glanced a header over the crossbar while Paddy Barrett, for Waterford, came close to grabbing a winner, with his thundering shot clearing the Harps bullseye.
The best Harps mustered in the first 45 minutes was when left-back Ciaran Coll surged into the box for a sight of goal, but his first-time effort was skewed horribly wide of the target.
Shane Murray, Vinny Sullivan and Philip Drohan, all first-teamers, were all absent from the traveling party because of sickness and Waterford boss Tommy Griffin included new signings Kevin Burns, Gary Delaney and Brian Nolan from the off, as well as Jack Doherty, on loan from Ipswich Town.
Doherty is with the south-east side until July and his position has been made clear by the Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy.
“Has he got a future here? If he goes back and plays well at Waterford then yeah,” McCarthy said yesterday.
“If he comes back and he is like he is now then, no, he hasn’t got a chance. Let’s clear that up. I’ve told him that.”
Doherty was heavily involved early on, curling a seventh-minute shot over the top before Conor Meade was denied by Winn, the Harps’ keeper coming out well to save with his legs.
Winn was one of three debutants in the home side, with Tiofack and Keating also making their competitive bows in the Harps blue
Meade forced the back-peddling Winn into putting over the top with his fingertips as the Waterford striker tried his luck with a lobbed effort after Paul Quilty passed up the chance to shoot having charged into the area.
Waterford were probing intently and Brian Nolan really ought to have done better in the 39th minute, a week effort saved easily by Winn after he connected with Doherty’s centre.
As the half neared its conclusion, McCarron’s first touch let him down at the vital moment after he was picked out following a promising attack by the hosts.
After Meade was again denied by Winn, having latched onto Gary Delaney’s flick on, Harps should have taken the lead on the hour when Keating, somehow, hit the side netting after a gaping chance presented itself at the far post from a Tiofack corner. Meade was having a night to forget and when Paddy Barrett’s inch-perfect through-ball invited him to round Winn, Meade found himself with head in hands after the Harps ‘keeper punted clear.
On the opening night of the 2013 season, McCarron snatched a late, late draw for Harps with a stoppage time equaliser at the RSC, but there was to be no drama in the closing stages here.
Finn Harps: Conor Winn; Damien McNulty, Packie Mailey, Keith Cowan, Ciaran Coll; Michael Funston, Pat McCann; Carel Tiofack, Kevin McHugh, Sean McCarron; Ruairi Keating.
Subs: Jonny Bonner for Tiofack (83 mins), Graham Fisher for McHugh (90 mins).
Waterford United: Kevin Burns; Conor Whittle, Gavin Kavanagh, Gary Delaney, Kevin O’Connor; Jack Doherty, Patrick Barrett, Brian Nolan, Peter White, Paul Quilty; Conor Meade.
Subs: Kynan Rocks for Quilty (63 mins), Stephen Kenny for Nolan (75 mins), Conor Coad for Meade (90 mins)
Referee: Simon Rogers (Dublin)