There was a distinctly end of season feel as Mervue United took the points against Finn Harps in Ballybofey following an uninspiring encounter.
Johnny Glynn’s Mervue are still in the peripheries of the play-off spot and will battle for that top three spot in their next three games.
Their win on the banks of the River Finn was their fourth in succession – a fine return at the business end of the season.
The visitors made the best possible start when Jason Molloy opened the scoring in the fifth minute when he cut in from the left-wing and unleashed a shot with the right foot that clipped Keith Cowan to wrong-foot Ciaran Gallagher.
Then, 16 minutes from time, Molloy’s simple corner on the ground was planted just inside the post and into the Harps net by the incoming Ryan Manning, who was unmarked at the edge of the penalty area.
There may be a handful of games left to play in the First Division but the season effectively ended for Peter Hutton’s side when they went down 2-0 to Drogheda United in last Monday’s FAI Cup quarter-final replay.
The paltry crowd of barely 200, with only a handful from Galway, was testament to that notion as Harps fielded a fresh-faced team.
Sean McCarron’s goal defeated Mervue 1-0 on their last visit to Ballybofey in mid-May, a result that put Hutton’s team into second place in the table. However, since then Harps have won just twice – against Salthill Devon and Wexford Youths – in 14 matches.
So, Harps, with only pride to play for, almost got back into the match as soon as the 12th minute when Paul McVeigh’s curler was touched around the post by the outstretched hand of Conor O’Malley.
Chances were few and far between in a drab first half but it was Mervue who came closest to a second goal with four minutes of the opening period remaining. Gary Shananan pulled back at the byline to Tom King but the move was crowned with a shot that flew over Gallagher’s crossbar.
King laid on a decent chance to Michael Duffy on 61 minutes but the Mervue forward failed to keep the shot down as he was leaning back when in an enterprising position just behind the penalty spot.
Hutton gave a first start to Jordan Duffy, while Marty Owens, Shane McGinty, Lee Toland, Paul McVeigh and Ciaran Coll, who returned from suspension having been controversially sent off in the 1-1 draw with Drogheda, all came into the side that went down at Hunky Dorys Park.
Harps, on 66 minutes, almost got back on terms with a devilish corner from Toland whizzed right across the Mervue six-yard box. There were no takers with McVeigh the closest to the ball from those in the vicinity.
Manning almost confirmed the points would be heading down the N17 when he burst past a static Harps defensive line following a punt downfield and although his lob was delicately delivered, it clipped Gallagher’s crossbar on its way over.
After Manning did make the game safe, Harps missed a guilt-edged opportunity to score and bring some sparks to proceedings when substitute Michéal Doherty headed over a yawning goalmouth from a Michael Funston cross.
Cowan made a fine defensive block at the other end from Shanahan after Manning’s squared ball but Mervue would’ve been content with their night’s work.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Marty Owens, Josh Mailey, Keith Cowan, Ciaran Coll; Michael Funston, Shane McGinty (Mark Forker 80), Tommy Bonnar, Lee Toland (Michéal Doherty 67); Paul McVeigh, Jordan Duffy (Kevin McHugh 67).
Mervue United: Conor O’Malley; Tom King, Martin Connelly, Paul Sinnott, Stephen Walshe, Gary Shanahan, Barry O’Mahony, Gary Curran (Noel Varley 84), Jason Molloy; Ryan Manning, Michael Duffy (Joe Woods 75).
Referee: Conor Fitzgerald.