Harps topple league leaders Longford Town

Finn Harps clipped Airtricity League First Division leaders Longford Town’s wings with a first loss of the season as the Ballybofey side sealed their third win on the bounce.

Finn Harps clipped Airtricity League First Division leaders Longford Town’s wings with a first loss of the season as the Ballybofey side sealed their third win on the bounce.

Longford Town 1

Finn Harps 3

The win leaves the side managed by Peter Hutton in fourth place but with the division’s favourites Limerick FC to come to the Twin Towns this coming Saturday and Sean McGowan’s U-19 side having clinched the northern section of the Dr Tony O’Neil U-19 Championship on Sunday, there are reasons for optimism around Finn Park.

Hutton’s team started the weekend off on the right foot. Rory Kelly from Buncrana, who was drafted in last week, made his debut in goal with No 1 Ciaran Gallagher still sidelined with a hairline fracture of the skull picked up a fortnight ago against Waterford United and 16-year-old standby Shaun Patton having picked up a knock in midweek.

Longford were in fine form going into the game, winning five and drawing one of their previous six and at a scantly attended Flancare Park, it all started so well for the home side. They opened the scoring in the 14th minute thanks to an Alan Kirby goal but for all their dominance after that they didn’t create many scoring opportunities.

They were made to rue that in the 56th minute when Town keeper Craig Hyland was sent off and Harps levelled through a Paul Simon Treacy free-kick. Thomas McBride put Harps ahead in the 78th minute and one minute into additional time substitute Blain Curtis sealed the win.

With the wind in their sails after a good start to the season, it was Longford who took control early on Saturday evening. Kirby tested Kelly in the Harps goal for an early taste of the action before the same two players met again in the 14th minute.

Gary Shaw set the former Sligo Rovers midfielder away and Kirby beat the offside trap to put the hosts a goal to the good. After a quiet opening quarter from them, Harps had a chance to draw level in the 17th minute but Hyland did well to dive to his right and push away Adam Clarke’s free. One minute later Town had a chance to double their lead but Michael Lee’s powerful shot came crashing back off the crossbar.

Harps director of football Felix Healy, who lost his job as manager after a 1-0 loss at the hands of the same opponents at Flancare seven years ago, knew his side faced a tough task. After all, the last time Harps came from a goal down to win was two years beforehand – the 3-2 win over Salthill Devon in August 2010.

However, records are made to be broken and three second goals were enough for the three points. On 58 minutes they were level when a slack backpass from Colm James was pounced on by Paul Simon Treacy. Longford netminder Hyland went for the ball and appeared to have won it but referee Keith Callanan saw it differently and sent off the young netminder. Keith Gillespie was sacrificed for sub keeper Paul Hunt and his first piece of action was to pick the ball out of the net after Treacy scored from the free.

Suddenly it was game on and Harps were buoyed up by that goal. Longford were completely out of the game and were devoid of ideas. It was Harps who looked like scoring the next goal and that goal came in the 78th minute when Thomas McBride scored with a low drive that appeared to get a slight deflection.

There was still 12 minutes for the home side to try and get back into the game but they failed to test Kelly in the Harps goals. Right at the end Harps got their third when Blain Curtis outmuscled Longford defender Noel Haverty to the ball and made no mistake with his finish.

Longford Town: Craig Hyland; Colm James, Noel Haverty, Chris Deans, Thomas Crawley; Alan Kirby, Mark Salmon (Sean Skelly, 39), Keith Gillespie (Paul Hunt 58), Michael Lee (Daniel Purdy 55); Karl Bermingham, Gary Shaw.

Finn Harps: Rory Kelly; James Doherty, Peter Hutton (Barry O’Mahony 77), Thomas McMonagle, Ciaran Coll; Adam Clarke, Shaun McGowan, Thomas McBride, Paul Simon Treacy; Tommy Bonner (Blain Curtis 63), Kevin McHugh.

Referee: Keith Callanan.