Finn Harps moved to the top of the Airtricity League Division One with a comprehensive win over Cobh Ramblers on Friday night.
Finn Harps 5
Cobh Ramblers 0
After James Doherty’s opener, Carel Tiofak added a second before a Pat McCann brace all but sealed the emphatic victory. Ruairi Keating rounded off the night with a well-taken fifth.
Harps’ win meant they leap-frogged Shelbourne, who drew 3-3 with Waterford United, in the table with seven points from nine under new manager Ollie Horgan, whilst also keeping three clean sheets.
The win was even more praiseworthy considering Horgan was without Kevin McHugh with a hamstring complaint and Sean McCarron, who has a broken cheekbone. The front pair scored 21 goals between them last season.
Right-back Doherty, who made his first team debut for the Ballybofey club in 2006 against Kilkenny City, had only found the net against the Mayo League last year in the EA Sports League Cup in 120 appearances.
The 25-year-old eked Harps in front on 28 minutes, sliding in after Michael Funston had crossed into the danger area as Robert Birdsall had initially saved bravely at his feet.
Cobh had chances to clear and the ball squirmed in the muck before Doherty’s stab trickled over the goalline.
It wasn’t the most glamorous goal ever scored - they all count of course - but it was fitting with the murky night that was in it.
Harps went into the match with a spring in their step following their 3-0 win at Shamrock Rovers B seven days beforehand - a result that meant they matched their entire amount of wins away from home over the whole of last season.
There was an more than an element of doubt over the Cobh Ramblers fixture due to the torrential rain over the latter part of the week.
Four pitch inspections came and went over the course of Friday before match referee Eoghan O’Shea finally gave things the thumbs up.
Cobh manager Martin Cambridge made five changes from the team that went down 3-2 to Wexford Youths the previous weekend at Ferrycarrig Park.
As the sleet fell in sheets, Harps were fortunate to escape when Martin Deedy’s corner fizzled right across the front of their goal, although at the other end Keating didn’t get enough purchase on an attempted chip.
Ryan Goldsmith, a half-time substitute, centred two minutes after his introduction to Robert Waters to steer just wide of Conor Winn’s post.
Ironically, just when Cobh thought they were obtaining a foothold in the match, they conceded a second through Tiofak’s first for Harps.
The Cameroon native was left with a simple task of slotting into an empty net after Keating had done the groundwork.
After their long trek from south-west to north-west, Cobh looked a beaten docket and moments before he did score, McCann almost made it three with a rasping drive from the edge of the penalty area that was inches wide.
However, he did make it three on 66 minutes when he calmly steered home after Keating was denied by Birdsall and Tiofak was very bright to tee up McCann instead of turning into trouble.
Four minutes later, Harps had a fourth when McCann again benefitted from a rebound after Keating, who made the space superbly, smashed a shot that was parried by the luckless Birdsall. McCann almost had a hat-trick late on - only to see his header from a Tiofak corner shave the crossbar.
The rout was completed two minutes from time when the impressive Keating wriggled his way into the box and finished with confidence. It added to Harps’ great start to the campaign but it must’be been a long way home for Cobh.
Finn Harps: Conor Winn; Damien McNulty, Packie Mailey, Keith Cowan; James Doherty, Michael Funston (Josh Mailey 74), Pat McCann, Thomas Bonnar (Graham Fisher 82), Ciaran Coll (Johnny Bonner 71); Carel Tiofak; Ruairí Keating.
Cobh Ramblers: Robert Birdsall; Eoin Hastings, Craig Burns, Andrew Bhandarker (Ryan Goldsmith 46), Adam Thompson (Damien O’Rourke 41); Martin Deedy,Robert Waters, Roy Kenny, Bobbi Donoghue; Jonathan Cramer; Alan O’Flynn.
Referee: Eoghan O’Shea.