Ten-man Harps let lead slip twice against Monaghan

Finn Harps 2

Finn Harps 2

Monaghan United 2

The glass was more half-empty than half-full for Finn Harps manager James Gallagher in the wake of his side’s 2-2 draw against Roddy Collins’ Monaghan United on Friday night.

Gallagher felt the game was one of two halves and after a positive first 45 minutes the Ballybofey side had to be content with a share of the spoils in a game with a few talking points. Whatever Collins said to his team at half-time had the desired effect and it was Harps who left disappointed despite the points being shared.

Two goals apiece from Kevin McHugh and Eric Foley meant a similar tale to openday day for Harps as Tommy Bonner was needlessly sent off with 11 minutes remaining for pushing over Sean Brennan, who had clipped his ankles. So, as it was against Limerick FC, there was a sense of frustration but unlike Mark Forker’s dismissal in that game, the normally placid Bonner had little cause for debate. And like that game, twice Harps led and twice they were pegged back.

A McHugh penalty on the stroke of half-time was enough for Harps to gain an interval advantage. He rolled the ball past Gabriel Sava to give the hosts the lead after John Reilly was adjudged to have fouled Raymond Foy, who replaced the suspended Forker. Referee Phil Caschera played on before the incident was brought to his attention by assistant Terence Moyne and then pointed to the spot some belatedly.

However, an initially unadventurous Monaghan were much more positive in the second half and were level 10 minutes after the restart when Ciaran Gallagher spilled a free-kick from Brennan as Shane Grimes nicked in and Foley tapped home from a couple of yards out.

Harps appeared to be losing their way but had to be credited for edging their noses in front again on 65 minutes. From a throw-in by James Doherty, Harps frontman McHugh turned in a flash and stroked the ball into the far corner for an excellently-taken goal. Marc Brolly, who had landed awkwardly on an ankle moments beforehand, was being stretchered off at the time the ball hit the net.

But the see-saw nature of the encounter continued and on 73 minutes the teams were level again when a sloppy Oisin McMenamin pass sold Doherty short and Ciaran Coll’s clearance fell to Foley, whose belter got the better of Gallagher from all of 25 yards for a real scrapbook goal. The central midfielder couldn’t have hit the shot any better and parity was again restored.

“I supposed it’s clichéd but it was a game of two halves really,” Gallagher said. “We were in good control of the game in the first half and we got our rewards with the goal before half-time having put Monaghan under a lot of pressure. It’s one where you don’t want to see half-time coming but you expect players to keep doing what they were doing but it doesn’t always work out like that.

“Monaghan came out well at the start of the second half and they were well up and at it. We never really saw much of the ball and didn’t make great use of it, The first goal was avoidable and it let them back into the game. Kevin’s second goal pulled it out of the hat but I thought if we could’ve regrouped we would’ve held on from there. “

“We need a wee bit more about it to win games like that. We are always trying to make the players more mentally strong and tuned. You have to respond to different situations. There’s a mentality thing that’s been here since I took over and if we were a little stronger we could’ve won that game.”

Gallagher was disappointed in seeing his team have their second player sent off this season. And with Forker already serving a three-game ban, Bonner’s dismissal now means selection headaches in midfield ahead of Friday’s visit to Waterford United.

“It’s unacceptable and I don’t want the likes of that,” Gallagher continued. “It’s no good to me and it’s no good to Finn Harps. He’s a senior player and he should be leading by example with a young lad like Raymond Foy in beside him. He said the Monaghan player clipped his ankle but there was no need to respond in the way he did.”

Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; James Doherty, Packie Mailey, Paddy McLaughlin, Ciaran Coll; Raymond Foy, Conor O’Grady, Tommy Bonner; Gareth Harkin, Kevin McHugh, Marc Brolly (Oisin McMenamin 69).

Monaghan United: Gabriel Sava; Conor McMahon (Shane Fitzgerald 46), Dave Rodgers, Aidan Collins, Shane Grimes; Paul Whelan, Eric Foley, John Reilly, Alan Byrne (Kevin Loughrin 64); Sean Brennan, Jason Marks.

Referee: Phil Caschera.