Finn Harps 1 Waterford United 0
By Chris McNulty at Finn Park
FINN Harps will hope that this isn’t the last they see of Ruairi Keating.
The striker’s loan term at Finn Park from Sligo Rovers ended as he hit the winner for the Ballybofey side in a slender win over Waterford United on Friday night.
The teenager’s sixth goal of the season handed Harps a vital win and Ollie Horgan is now hoping to get permission from new Sligo boss John Coleman to extend the deal until the end of the season.
Keating hit the winner in the 53rd minute, with a helping hand from sloppy Waterford play. Paddy Barrett’s clearance came back off Brian Nolan, who inadvertently played Keating through. In those positions, with only the ‘keeper to beat, he’s dangerous and his finish, low and powerful, flew to the far corner past Kevin Burns.
Harps had chances to make the game safe, but their supporters were left anxiously looking at their watches for a nervous finale.
Keating, Kevin McHugh and Packie Mailey all came close, but by the end Keating’s goal was all that stood between them on what was an encouraging night for the home side.
Having returned to a 4-4-2 set-up, the wide men, Michael Funston and Gareth Harkin, were involved a lot. Harkin came in for a rare start – his third of the campaign – in place of the suspended Damien McNulty.
Harps had a number of promising openings in the first half. Harkin had a sniff of goal in the 13th minute when Funston did well to create the opening. His grounded cross from the right found the well-placed Harkin, whose first touch was much too heavy and the chance was gone.
McHugh forced Burns into action on the half-hour when, on the turn from a Ciaran Coll throw-in, the captain’s snap-shot was saved by the Waterford ‘keeper.
Six minutes before the break, Funston took receipt of a squared pass from McHugh on the edge of the area, but the end result from the midfielder was a shot that was always rising.
At the other end Willie John Kiely tried a speculative effort from 20 yards that was never troubling Conor Winn.
There was an early warning for Harps when Jack Doherty – who’d had a spell with Ipswich Town before returning for the start of the season – skipped around Winn, but having been forced wide his cross was cleared.
The Harps goalkeeper saved well from Waterford right-back Conor Whittle twice in the opening period, first from a pot-shot from just outside the box that lacked conviction, although he had to put a little more back work into the second. Whittle’s falling effort bounced awkwardly, but Winn, diving out to his right-hand side, held on.
Eight minutes into the second half, Keating tucked home and Harps were buoyant.
Right away, Harps almost had a second, but it took a fine save from Burns’ legs to thwart a point-black-range attempt by Funston after McHugh’s initial effort was blocked.
McHugh himself went close and might feel that he could have finished, but a left-footed effort – following a clever piece of interchange from Josh Mailey and Keating – flew wide with the goalkeeper beaten.
Winn saved with the fingertips from Kevin O’Connor before Packie Mailey powered a header over from a teasing cross by Harkin.
There was still time for Nolan to try and make amends for the goal, but Winn did well to hold his drive from distance, while McCarron almost hit a memorable second only for the back-peddling Burns to tip over.
Finn Harps: Conor Winn; Caoimhin Bonner, Keith Cowan, Packie Mailey, Ciaran Coll; Michael Funston, Pat McCann, Josh Mailey, Gareth Harkin; Ruairi Keating, Kevin McHugh. Subs: Tommy Bonnar for McCann (81 mins), Sean McCarron for McHugh (87 mins).
Waterford United: Kevin Burns; Conor Whittle, Patrick Fitzgerald, Patrick Barrett, Shaun Corcoran; Jack Doherty, Kevin O’Connor, Thomas Croke, Philip Drohan; Willie John Kiely, Brian Nolan. Subs: Thomas Whitty for Corcoran (66 mins), Kynan Rocks for Croke (66 mins), Mark Walsh for Drohan (90 mins).
Referee: Rhona Daly (Athlone).