SHAUN PATTON disembarked the Finn Harps team bus at 12.30pm on Sunday morning and popped his head into Letterkenny’s Clanree Hotel where his dad Peter and a few friends had gathered.
The 16-year-old was afforded a rousing reception from the group, people like Eric Funston and Victor Rainey, who have been involved with Bonagee United as long as they care to remember. Earlier in the day, the St Eunan’s College transition year student had made his first ever appearance for Finn Harps’ first team, coming on for Ciaran Gallagher, who was suffering from concussion after a heavy fall at the RSC against Waterford United in a 2-0 Harps win.
Gallagher was down for over 20 minutes and was taken away in an ambulance in a situation that was initially a worrying one, but after a half dozen stitches he was back with his teammates for the seven-hour journey home.
“When Ciaran first went down Felix Healy told me to go for a bit of a run and get warmed up,” Shaun said. “To be honest, it was really scary for a while and he was down for over 20 minutes after hitting the ground pretty hard. My stomach dropped when I first saw the incident and the referee took all the players off and into the dressing room to let the ambulance take Ciaran away. I was nervous when I went on.”
Harps at the time were two in front and with player-manager Peter Hutton helping the novice goalkeeper through the game looked on their way to their first away win of the campaign. However, Hutton was adjudged to have fouled Sean Maguire, Waterford’s livewire substitute who had scored for Ollie Horgan’s Republic of Ireland schoolboys in Friday night’s 1-1 draw with Scotland at the same venue. Gary Dempsey stood over the ball at the penalty spot.
“After I got my first touch I settled and just wanted to keep things simple,” Shaun continued. “At one stage a man of theirs went down in the box and the referee blew and I thought he was about to award a penalty. He didn’t on that occasion but a few minutes later he did.
“When they got the penalty I just thought I would give it my best shot at saving it. Kevin McHugh pointed which way he thought it was going to be kicked and I just went with Kevin. I was delighted to save it.”
Patton’s cameo is now expected to last another couple of games. Gallagher has been told to stay away from football for a fortnight and Harps director of football Healy has no bother putting the former Bonagee United underage goalkeeper between the sticks. SD Galway visit Finn Park on Good Friday before a rather interesting EA Sports League Cup appointment against Derry City on bank holiday Monday at the Brandywell - a ground where Patton made an appearance in Harps’ 3-0 friendly loss in February.
Peter was as delighed as his only son made a name for himself. Working in Global Tiles on Saturday he got a phonecall from his brother Gary to tell him to tune into the radio updates.
“Gary called and I listened to the end of the game,” Peter said. “I tuned in straight away. It was brilliant and my phone was hopping all evening. Shaun was as cool as a cucumber and when he landed into the Clanree that night to say hello he got a real rousing reception. Fair play to him.”
Shaun is the son of Peter and Anne Marie, the bother of Lauren, Emma and Stefany from Trimeragh. Last night he was back in goal for Finn Harps’ U-19 side as they travelled to Triaghlough knowing three points would seal the Dr Tony O’Neill U-19 Championship, Northern Section.