SSE Airtricity League Premier Division
SEAN Houston has seen many changes, both on and off the pitch at Finn Park, since making his debut for the Twin Towns club eight years ago.
UCD were the opponents that March day in 2009, a club Sean would join on a football scholarship later that same year. There followed three year stints with both Bray Wanderers and Derry City before he rejoined Harps ahead of the 2016 Premier Division season.
“I’m enjoying my football. I’m happy out,” he told the Donegal News this week.
Working as a financial analyst with Pramerica in Letterkenny Sean (27) is back living at home in the Cathedral Town with his parents, Michael and Maureen. The youngest of four siblings, Sean has one sister Michelle and brother Barry. Their brother Alan (21) – a third year pharmacy student – died in tragic circumstances in December 2008 when his body was pulled from Dublin’s Grand Canal just yards from his Dublin home.
“It’s nice to be back home – you can’t beat it,” he said.
Ollie Horgan’s announcement pre-season that Houston had committed to Harps for another season was seen by many around Finn Park as being just as important as bringing Paddy McCourt to the club.
A versatile and skilful player, he has become a key player for Harps.
“We were in the First Division when I first played for the club and while Michael Funston, Keith Cowan and Ciaran Gallagher are still here there’s not too many others,” he said.
One new face in the dressing room this season is former Celtic and Northern Ireland international Paddy McCourt.
“Paddy’s decision to on board is another step in the right direction for the club. He’s a very good player and he’s always talking and giving advice to the lads in the dressing room,” he said.
Although he prefers to be plying his trade in the engine room, Sean played at left-back and centre-forward as well as in the middle of the park during him time at the Carlisle Grounds with Bray.
Indeed, he led the line for Harps against St Patrick’s Athletic at Finn Park on Friday night last after hamstring injuries ruled out strikers Danny Morrissey and Ciaran O’Connor.
“That didn’t go too well. I wasn’t happy with my own performance – my first touch was poor – while I thought we were quite poor overall as a team on the night,” he admitted.
While it looked as though Harps manager had set his team out for a scoreless draw, Houston said that that could not have been further from the truth.
“We didn’t set up like that against Dundalk but they’re a good side and it was hard to get the ball out from the back and when we did boys like me didn’t hold it up well enough and, as a result, we struggled to get enough possession,” he said.
Harps opened the season with defeats against both Cork City and Bray Wanderers before embarking on a four game unbeaten runs which included wins against St Patrick’s Athletic in Inchicore and at home to North West neighbours Sligo Rovers.
However, a last minute defeat away to Shamrock Rovers was followed up by a 2-0 defeat at home to Dundalk FC last time out.
While three teams facing relegation at the end of the season, Harps supporters would be delighted with survival but Houston and his team mates have set the bar higher.
“Most people would be happy if we just stay up but we’re looking for a wee bit more. We would like to stay in touch with the teams in the top half of the table and we want to be relatively safe from relegation as soon as possible,” he said.
“We lost to good teams in Cork, Bray, Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk and I felt we were unlucky to lose against Rovers. It was the proverbial game of two halves. They got two great strikes to lead two nil early on and we did well to come back to two all. We then went all out for a winner when we might have been better advised to take the draw,” he said.
Games against Derry (a), Drogheda (h) and Bohemians (a) over the coming weeks complete the first series of league fixtures.
“There’s no such thing as an easy game in the Premier League but that’s why we’re here – we all want to test ourselves against the best,” he said.
Next up is a meeting with Derry City at Maginn Park this Friday night. Houston’s late, late goal earned Finn Harps a 2-2 draw at the Brandywell in the corresponding fixture last season.
“As long as we pick up points I don’t really care who scores the goals,” he said when asked about his memory of that particular goal.
“There’s always a good atmosphere at Harps Derry games. They’re played in a good spirit and I enjoy them,” he said.
While Houston has played at Maginn Park this will be his first competitive appearance at the Buncrana venue.
“It’s a great playing surface and one which we’re all looking forward to,” he said.
Another goal – preferably a winner – from Sean Houston would go down a treat no doubt among the Finn Park faithful this weekend.