A drab encounter that unravelled in the space of 60 seconds saw Shamrock Rovers B overcome Finn Harps on Friday night in Ballybofey.
Finn Harps 0
Shamrock Rovers B 1
Ollie Horgan’s home team were the ones pressing the case all evening, albeit only really creating a handful of half chances, as the contest was headed towards scoreless stalemate.
Then, on 81 minutes, Harps central defender Packie Mailey was given a second yellow card.
A minute later, Stephen Confrey took an optimistic cross-cum-shot that was fumbled into the net by Harps teenage goalkeeper Shaun Patton.
It was unfortunate for the 18-year-old netminder, who had been a virtual spectator until that point.
It was the visitors’ only shot on target over the course of the 90 minutes and Rovers’ 1-0 victory means that the Ballybofey club haven’t won in six and have scored just one goal - a Ruairí Keating penalty against Wexford Youths - in 465 minutes of football.
In many ways, after making a promising start, Harps’ season is beginning to mirror that of Horgan’s predecessor Peter Hutton 12 months ago.
But although Harps’ performance wasn’t good on Friday, it was still harsh to lose the match in the circumstances they did.
Trevor Croly’s young team have shown this season they’re capable of shaving a few feathers off the more established teams in the division and Friday was no exception.
The first half was devoid of incident. Sean McCarron had a couple of efforts that failed to test Shane Fagan in the Rovers goal.
The Shamrock Rovers goalkeeper did make two saves - one slightly more difficult than the other - from Pat McCann towards the end of the first half.
If there was an ink strike in Ballybofey it wouldn’t have made much difference to those taking notes.
Harps continued to press the issue in the second period.
Keating shot just over from a pass from Michael Funston before Packie Mailey headed over from a corner by Sean McCarron, who was deployed on the left-hand side of a 4-5-1 formation.
Harps’ supporters may well yearn the absence of Kevin McHugh, who has not featured since the opening day of the SSE Airtricity League First Division season due to a hamstring injury.
However, even if McHugh had’ve featured he would have been living off scraps as Keating was when another shot of his was blocked by Fagan.
Rovers were occasionally in possession but tidy when they were from their midfield axis of Jack Watson and Ryan Doolin.
Nine minutes from time, Packie Mailey, who might’ve disputed the first booking he picked up in the first half for a challenge on Confrey, blatantly pushed Fagan in the back before a scuffle developed.
Fagan picked up a yellow card and Mailey got his second and was headed for the showers.
The match looked to be petering out to a scoreless draw before the Tallaght Stadium residents snatched and grabbed the win when Confey scored the only goal of the match.
Harps pushed forward in vain for a late leveller but a bit like what went before it, there was nothing clear-cut. They and almost got on terms in stoppage time only for Rovers to clear following an untidy scramble after Fagan had failed to gather cleanly.
Finn Harps: Shaun Patton; Caoimhin Bonner, Damien McNulty, Packie Mailey, Ciaran Coll; Michael Funston (Carel Tiofack 70), Josh Mailey (Gareth Harkin 78), Thomas Bonnar, Sean McCarron; Pat McCann; Ruairi Keating.
Shamrock Rovers B: Shane Fagan; Corie Tracey, Conor Dunne, Michael Kelly (Nathan Brown 90), Alan Kehoe; Stephen Confrey, Jack Watson(Richie Purdy 90), Ryan Doolin, Kevin Knight; Daniel Purdy, Emeka Onwubiko.
Referee: John McLaughlin (Athlone)