FINN HARPS 1 SHELBOURNE 1
BY CHRIS MCNULTY AT FINN PARK
RUAIRI Keating rescued a point for battling Finn Harps, who played 75 minutes against First Division table-toppers Shelbourne with ten men following the sending off of Josh Mailey.
Mailey saw red after just fifteen minutes and the writing was on the wall when Lee Desmond gave Johnny McDonnell’s team the lead early in the second half.
Just eighty seconds after the restart Lee Desmond bundled home at the far post after Phillip Hand’s free kick wasn’t dealt with.
The ten men rolled their sleeves up and shook their head clear. Their endeavours were rewarded when Keating fired home his fifth of the season in the 66th minute.
Harps – who saw captain Kevin McHugh make his return from injury in the second half – could have won it, but will be content with a point against a side that entered the game with an eight-point cushion at the summit.
On a night when a small home crowd will have left heartened by the spirit shown in the second half, they again filed into the Ballybofey night with a red card as the game’s big talking point.
Mailey had eyes for the ball but, while Adam O’Connor’s head might have been lowered, the foot was extremely high from the Harps man, whose team-mates and managers vented their frustrations. The mind of the referee, Adriano Reale, was made up and Mailey made the long walk following an act that was careless rather than callous.
Sent off late on in the previous meeting of these teams at Tolka Park, Mailey now faces the prospect of a lengthy period of detention from the FAI’s disciplinary folk.
Shelbourne should have been ahead at the break, but right-back Brian Gannon somehow stooped to head wide at the far post with goalkeeper Shaun Patton caught in two minds and the goal yawning before him in the final seconds of the first half.
Moments earlier, the visitors hit the post. Hand delivered a teasing cross for Dylan Cashin, who got in ahead of Keith Cowan, but the ball ricochet back off the inside of the post with Patton beaten.
Harps were struggling to make inroads and were badly inhibited playing a man down, with the home side having to punt long in search of Keating all too often.
Shelbourne had the better of the early chances too, with Shane Dolan firing a half-volley into Patton’s arms, Keith Quinn shooting over from a decent opening and the excellent Stephen McDonnell drilling too close to Patton after working the chance on the edge of the box.
Shelbourne left Gareth Coughlan and Jordan Keegan on the bench, while the Drumcondra residents were without Dylan Connolly and Ryan Robinson, both on international duty.
Horgan has told of his frustrations at the inconsistencies were shown when Cashin was fortunate to escape a greater sanction than the yellow given when he chopped down Ciaran Coll on the hour.
The arrival of McHugh ignited a spark for Harps, the Killea man coming on as a 62nd minute replacement for Carel Tiofack, who started in place of the suspended Caoimhin Bonner in the only change to Horgan’s starting XI.
And just four minutes later the home side were level as Keating turned home a low shot from 15 yards that crept, via a slight defection, into the bottom corner.
Ten minutes from the end, Packie Mailey flashed a glancing header from a McHugh corner just wide and Damien McNulty’s powerful downward header was held by Greg Murray as the ten men upped the ante.
Indeed, Keating might’ve won it, but he was inches away at the Town End after Coll’s free was put back across goal, while there was a late chance for McDonnell, who drove just wide of Patton’s right-hand post.
Finn Harps: Shaun Patton; Damien McNulty, Packie Mailey, Keith Cowan, Ciaran Coll; Carel Tiofack, Pat McCann, Michael Funston, Sean McCarron; Josh Mailey; Ruairi Keating. Subs: Tommy Bonnar for McCarron (half-time), Kevin McHugh for Tiofack (62 mins).
Shelbourne: Greg Murray; Brian Gannon, Adam O’Connor, Lee Desmond, Phillip Hand; Simon Dixon, Shane Dolan, Keith Quinn, Darren Tinnelly; Dylan Cashin, Shane Dolan. Subs: Conor Murphy for Dolan (62 mins), Jordan Keegan for Cashin (71 mins), Gareth Coughlan for Dixon (79 mins)
Referee: Adriano Reale (Kildare).