Finn Harps 0 Cobh Ramblers 0
Report by Chris McNulty at Finn Park
FINN Harps’ lack of firepower and creativity was laid bare on Friday night as Cobh Ramblers left Ballybofey with a share of the spoils on an uninspiring night for the Finn Park faithful.
It was a night of few chances for Ollie Horgan’s side, until a second-half spurt of openings that could have sneaked the win.
After losing the services of Ruairi Keating, who scored six goals in the first half of the season but has now returned to Sligo Rovers, and with Marc Brolly opting against making a move back to Finn Park, Horgan has had better weeks in the transfer market.
It is not just in the goalscoring department where Horgan has a bare cupboard. The canons mightn’t be firing too accurately these days, but Harps are in short supply of men to load the gun, their side showing a distinct lack of flair or imagination from its midfield.
With Keating now back in the Showgrounds, Harps’ attack for this one had scored a collective two goals all season.
The net result was a scoreless draw against the League’s bottom club, albeit a side that has considerably improved since shipping five goals on its last visit to Donegal in March. This was Cobh’s first point on their travels all season and it came on a night when their goalkeeper, Shane Hallahan, was transferred to Letterkenny General Hospital after suffering a nasty injury just four minutes into the game.
Hallahan sustained the game-ending leg injury, reported by the Ramblers afterwards to be a fractured bone, in a heavy collision with Caoimhin Bonner.
A determined surge down the right flank saw the Harps man gallop into the box, but the brave goalkeeper was out to thwart those advances. However, his game ended prematurely as he was taken to Hospital by ambulance after a stoppage of five minutes.
Harps were without the suspended duo Michael Funston and Sean McCarron following their red cards in last weekend’s game against Shamrock Rovers B. Damien McNulty reclaimed his spot in the starting line-up, with Paul McVeigh drafted into the attack in a 3-5-2 formation deployed by Horgan.
Despite having as attack-minded an approach as their personnel enabled, Harps didn’t make much inroads in what was, bluntly, a dreadful opening 45 minutes.
A glancing Gareth Harkin header was routinely claimed by Robert Birdsall, Hallahan’s replacement, while there was anxiety at the other end when a long-distance free by Garry Comerford flew past everyone and everything, including Conor Winn’s left-hand post.
Late in the half, Packie Mailey had a chance, but his effort from 15 yards was always rising as it flew over the River End goal.
It was a half when Harps could feel aggrieved that Cobh hadn’t been reduced to ten men when Brendan Frahill escaped a sending off when he hacked down McVeigh as the Portsalon man skipped through. A yellow card from Ray Matthews, the referee, appeared lenient.
Four minutes into the second half, Harps’ penalty appeals, when Harkin was nudged down by Craig Burns, were not only turned away, but the midfielder had his name jotted down in Matthew’s notepad for simulation.
Ciaran Coll forced Birdsall into a strong save from a powerful effort after he worked an opening with Pat McCann. Coll and McVeigh had close-range attempts charged down from a McNulty cross as Harps sought to put the pressure on.
This was a different Cobh from that which had been hammered 5-0 here in March and Stephen Kenny might have done better after finding space on the edge of the box, but it trickled wide and Winn denied the same player moments later at close-range.
An agonising stretch by Kevin McHugh just failed to connect to McNulty’s probe and Harkin was slightly off-cue with as he prodded hopefully from 20 yards.
Finn Park hoped as one when McHugh rose to connect with another McNulty cross in the dying moments, but the captain’s header flew over.
It left Finn Park muted at the final whistle.
Harps are like a team that’s on a raft and in very real danger of drifting out in the currents. The gap to the play-off positions is six points, but Galway United – the Division’s third-placed team – are next up for Horgan’s men and anything less than victory could mean an agonising last ten games for the Ballybofey brigade.
Finn Harps: Conor Winn; Damien McNulty, Packie Mailey, Keith Cowan; Caoimhin Bonner, Gareth Harkin, Pat McCann, Josh Mailey, Ciaran Coll; Paul McVeigh, Kevin McHugh.
Subs: Thomas McMonagle (50 mins), Darragh Black for McVeigh (65 mins), Carel Tiofack for J.Mailey (81 mins).
Cobh Ramblers: Shane Hallahan; Roy Kenny, Craig Burns, Brendan Frahill, Anthony O’Donnell; Martin Deady, Christopher McCarthy, Stephen Kenny, Garry Comerford, Ryan Goldsmith; Brendan Kenny.
Subs: Robert Birdsall for Hallahan (9 mins), Kynan Rocks for B.Kenny (56 mins), George Gill for S.Kenny (82 mins).
Referee: Ray Matthews (Mullingar).