A game that rarely rose above average in the excitement stakes ended all square as Cian McBrien’s first goal for Mervue Utd cancelled out Paul McVeigh’s first half header as Finn Harps continued their unbeaten run and the home side ended a three game losing run.
Mervue United 1
Finn Harps 1
Both sides entered the game without several regulars through injuries and suspensions as McBrien and youngster Andy Higgins made their first starts for Johnny Glynn’s side, while Peter Hutton had a bench full of Under 19 players who were heading on to Waterford after the match for another game on Saturday.
The visitors started the game on the front foot and forced a number of corners early on without threatening a breakthrough but they did come close on 10 minutes. Adam Clarke picked out centre half Thomas McMonagle at the back post and the big defender directed his header on target but Connor Gleeson reacted well tipping the ball over his crossbar for a corner.
Three minutes later and the home side thought they had taken the lead when Tom King poked home a pass from Pat Hoban but with Harps keeper James Gallagher caught out of position that meant there was only one defender between King and the goals so the goal was wiped out for offside.
A minute later and a Mervue corner was eventually scrambled away to Jason Molloy who had delivered the ball into the box and his first time fierce drive cannoned of the outside of Gallagher’s post and wide.
The half deteriorated into a scrappy affair after that with neither keeper getting too many touches of the ball never mind having to extend themselves, but just when it looked like we were heading to the break without a goal, Harps struck for the opener.
Clarke got away down the left and whipped in a perfect ball for Paul McVeigh to out jump Mervue captain Stephen Walsh and steer a ball into the top corner past Gleeson on 39 minutes. The home side should have been level three minutes later when Molloy picked out an unmarked Walsh with a free-kick from the left but the defender powerfully headed wide of the target.
McVeigh almost doubled his tally and his side’s lead just before the break as he cut in from the right before unleashing a low drive which had Gleeson beaten but flew the wrong side of the far post.
Mervue found themselves level eight minutes after the break with a touch of some good luck. Molloy picked out Tom King’s run through the middle and the winger’s header was brilliantly saved by Gallagher at the expense of a corner.
Molloy delivered the ball to the front post were James Doherty headed it cleared but only as far as McBrien on the edge of the box and the midfielder volleyed the ball through a crowded goalmouth before it dipped and flew through the legs of Gallagher.
Harps should have been back in front on the hour mark after Matt Harkin’s ball from the right was knocked back into the danger area by Clarke but Michael Funston blasted his close range effort over Gleeson’s crossbar.
After that both sides did try hard to turn up a winner but to no avail. Molloy curled a free-kick over the Harps wall but found Gallagher well position to gather the on target effort.
At the other end some hesitant defending allowed both McVeigh and then sub Chris McBride sights on goal but both failed to trouble Gleeson, while an excellent passage of home play saw Marc Ludden and Molloy exchange passes the length of the field before the fullback’s dangerous delivery was gathered by Gallagher.
Goalscorer McVeigh did fashion a late chance in injury time for himself but after doing all the hard work he couldn’t provide the finish as he struck his effort straight at a grateful Gleeson.
In the end a draw was probably a fair result on the balance of play but Harps did create the better chances and will wonder if the suspended Kevin McHugh was available would they have made the long trip home with all three points.
Mervue Utd: Connor Gleeson; Andy Higgins, Michael McSweeney, Stephen Walsh, Marc Ludden; Tom King (Jean Biansumba ’86), Cian McBrien, Noel Varley, Gary Kelly (Dan Cunningham ’88); Jason Molloy and Pat Hoban.
Subs not used: Ger Hanley (GK), Damien O’Rourke, Etanda Nkololo, Alex Lee, Brian Connolly.
Bookings: Kelly (44).
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; James Doherty, Thomas McMonagle, Keith Cowan, Ciaran Coll; Adam Clarke, Tommy Bonner, Shaun McGowan, Matt Harkin; Michael Funston (Chris McBride ’73) and Paul McVeigh.
Subs not used: Rory Kelly (GK), Mark Scoltock, Cathal McDaid, Dean McConnell, Ryan Curran and Peter Doherty.
Bookings: McVeigh (78).
Referee: Ray Matthews.
Airtricity First Division Table
P W D L F A +/- Pts.
1 Limerick 23 16 2 5 42 17 25 50
2 Longford T 23 14 5 4 37 24 13 47
3 Waterford U 23 14 4 5 35 22 13 46
4 Finn Harps 23 8 5 10 34 37 -3 29
5 Athlone T 22 8 5 9 21 25 -4 29
6 Wexford Y 22 8 4 10 33 33 0 28
7 Mervue U 23 4 3 16 29 44 -15 15
8 SD Galway 23 3 4 16 19 48 -29 13