BY CHRIS MCNULTY
IN his first season as the Finn Harps manager, Ollie Horgan has become the master of understatement.
On Wednesday night, with his side having booked their place in the semi-finals of the FAI Ford Cup, Horgan acknowledged the ‘great achievement’ in reaching the last four, but his response couldn’t have been described as euphoric.
Some term it negative, others would put it in the honest or realistic boxes. Horgan has become the first Harps boss since Charlie McGeever tin 1999 to guide the club into the semis thanks to a 4-1 replay win over Avondale United of the Munster Senior League in Ballybofey.
“The performance wasn’t great, but tonight wasn’t about that,” he said.
“We’ve played a lot better and not taken our chances, but we took the chances tonight. It’s a great achievement to get into the semi-finals.
“We’re delighted to stay in the Cup.”
It came with a quick cavaet: “We know what we’re up against in the semi-finals.”
Horgan, from his time as the manager of Fanad United, knew Avondale wouldn’t be dumped easily and the Cork side put it up to Harps for a time. The experience and guile of Harps was key, though, as they picked the locks through the first-half goals by Gareth Harkin and Damien McNulty before Kevin McHugh hit two in the second half to seal a 4-1 win.
Horgan, whose side had been held by Avondale three days previous, said: “Avondale have some serious ball players with some great experience in there. We found it difficult to get to the pace of the game. We scored against the run of play, but once we got ahead we were ok.
“The worry for us was if Avondale had gone in front and gone five at the back. We would have struggled to break them down at that.
“The third goal killed it in that manner. We had ran our luck on Sunday so we had to respect Avondale. They deserve a lot of credit. Even when they were down to ten men they kept trying to play. They weren’t putting in dangerous tackles and they’re a decent football side.”
Fifteen years ago, Donal O’Brien was the hero with a late goal in a 1-0 quarter-final replay win over Cork City in Ballybofey. McHugh was a member of that squad and is still toiling, leading by example in a side that won’t be cited for a lack of endeavour.
Wherever fate now sends them, Harps will receive a welcome windfall, but a home tie at Finn Park is the draw they crave.
Horgan said: “It would be nice to get a home draw. We would be competitive at home. I would worry about us away in Inchicore, Tallaght or the Brandywell.
“What we lack in quality, we’ll make up in effort. The other teams might have quality and effort. We know that. We’ll go and enjoy it and we’ll see what happens.
“It’s something to look forward to, but we know exactly what we’re going into with Derry, St Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers – Shamrock Rovers B team came here and beat us. Be it home or away we’ll be into the lion’s den.
“It won’t be for the lack of trying. There’s a huge gulf there and we won’t prepare otherwise.”
The underdog has had its day before, though. Could Harps spring a surprise and reach the Aviva Stadium?
Horgan said: “Maybe we’ll get a very wet and windy night here at Finn Park where things won’t go too well for a decent side.”