On a night when five new faces made their home debuts, it was an old favourite who stole the show at Finn Park tonight.
Finn Harps . . . . 4
Mervue United . . . 3
Kevin McHugh scored twice and served up an inspired performance as Harps overpowered Mervue in a hugely enjoyable encounter.
The crowd of around 400 who turned up for this first home game of the new campaign were treated to an action-packed game. The first half in particular was full of incident with five goals, a penalty and a sending off.
Harps were much the better side on the night but even though they led 3-2 at half time, the two goals that were conceded will not have pleased the home management.
That said, Harps showed enough to suggest that Felix Healy and Peter Hutton have assembled a decent side for the new season. It was one of the new signings, Adam Clarke, who broke the deadlock early on when he stole in from the right to crack the ball home after ten minutes.
Mervue drew level on 17 when James Molloy took advantage of an unfortunate slip by Thomas McMonagle at the back before racing into the area and shooting past Ciaran Gallagher.
Harps however, moved 2-1 ahead when McHugh won a penalty in an incident which saw Mervue defender, James Casserly shown a straight red by the referee. The Harps captain found the bottom corner with a well taken spot kick. But the ten men responded with a second equaliser when Molloy’s ball in from the right was turned home at the back post by Ethan Nkololo.
The Mervue No. 11 wasted a great chance to add a third and instead it was Harps who scored again just before the break – McHugh with a sublime finish after being set up by Blaine Curtis.
The front two caused the visiting defence no end of problems on a night when credit must go to Mervue for refusing to throw in the towel despite being down a man for so long.
The fourth when it arrived two minutes should have been enough to kill off the Galway side’s challenge – McMonagle bundling the ball home from close in following a wonderful cross from the right by Stephen O’Donnell.
But the visitors battled gamely and when Molloy headed his second and his team’s third with 13 minutes left to play, it made for a tense finish. Fortunately for Harps, they’d done enough for the win.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher, James Doherty, Ciaran Coll, Aaron O’Hagan, Thomas McMonagle, Hugh Carlin (Barry O’Mahony 75), Adam Clarke, Thomas McBride, Blain Curtis, Kevin McHugh, Stephen O’Donnell (Ciaran Greene 57).
Mervue Utd.: Ronan Forde, James Casserly, Kenny Farrell (David Goldbey 85), Steven Walsh, Mike Elwood, Noel Varley, Jason Molloy, Alan Murphy (Michael McSweeney 68), Patrick Hoban (Alex Lee 68), Gary Kelly , Ethan Nkololo.
Referee: Phil Caschera.