Finn Harps will lift the Dr Tony O’Neill U-19 League Northern Section trophy on Sunday if they manage to get the better of Longford Town at Finn Park (kick-off 3pm).
The side managed by Sean McGowan drew 0-0 at Triaghalough last Monday night and with their final game of the series away to Derry City, will be looking to put things to bed against the struggling midlanders. Two points from two games will suffice.
Harps have been in good form, losing just twice in their 16 games this term. Sligo Rovers had Donegal Town native Liam Martin to thank for scoring a hat-trick in the 3-2 opening day win before Harps went down 2-0 in Derry as far back as last October.
“The clubs voted to get rid of the A League and we always thought of it as a good breeding ground, McGowan said. “But we got a squad together here for the U-19 League and they’ve been great all year. As well as playing 15 or 16 league games, we have played the same amount of friendlies against opponents from the Donegal League and from the Ulster Senior League.
“Felix Healy says he will wait until our season is over before he looks to bring a few of the lads through to the first team and it’s good to see them get the chance. They’re a young squad - a lot of them are still underage for the U-19 squad for another season or two.”
Players like goalkeeper Shaun Patton, Martin Redmond, Shane McGinty and Gary Merritt have all made appearances for the club’s first team, although the latter is unavailable for Sunday as he had a booking to travel to Old Trafford for Manchester United’s Premier League clash against Aston Villa.
There are also a handful of slighht injury concerns. Patton picked up a knock playing for the first team in the 4-0 EA Sports League Cup loss to Derry City at the Brandywell on Monday, so Aiden Mitchell is on stand-by as back-up goalkeeper.
Shane McGinty sat out that particular fixture with a minor complaint himself, while Ryan Lonergan came off against Fanad with ankle ligament strain. Ryan Curran, though, is back from suspension and Martin Redmond should be fit enough to start having had a dead leg from playing Gaelic football with Dungloe.
Harps have defeated Longford 2-0 in both the corresponding fixtures this term. In October, goals from Hugh McFadden and Jordon Duffy gave Harps a win at home before Duffy and Dean McConnell were on the mark in the January victory. Longford are pasted to the bottom of the table with just one victory all season.
Winning the northern section will enable Harps to join the Eliye U-19 League but McGowan insists that might not be an option that is taken.
“The Elite League can be expensive to run a team in as there’s a lot of travelling compared to the northern section,” he said. “We’ll have to see and I know the likes of Derry and Dundalk were offered the choice before. To be honest, the standard is good in the league we are in now but whatever about next year, it’s getting these couple of points to get us over the line is my concern right now.”