Harps dumped by Mervue

Mervue United 1

Mervue United 1

Finn Harps 0

(after extra time)

A tired, disappointing display from Finn Harps at Fahy’s Field on Monday night saw them dumped out of the League Cup at the hands of Mervue United after extra time.

Following a largely forgetful 90 minutes, the Galway side finally broke the deadlock in the 98th minute from the penalty spot. As Peter Dravins looked to turn Packie Mailey and pull the trigger, the Harps defender upended him giving referee Darren Coombes, who stood only yards away, little choice but to award the spot-kick. Mervue’s Rory Gaffney duly dispatched high to Ciaran Gallagher’s right-hand side much to the relief of the home side.

While Cockhill Celtic were making history dumping out Galway United, Harps were making life very difficult for themselves as the trip to Waterford just a couple of days beforehand looked to be taking its toll. Mervue weren’t exactly setting the game alight either – as scrappy play was to the fore and good passing and movement only rose to the surface in infrequent flashes.

Early on, Mervue winger Tom King was having an intriguing battle with Ciaran Coll and after several attempts he finally beat the Harps left-back but his shot was handled well by Gallagher; who overall had a solid night.

After losing debutant John Mountney early on, Gaffney’s introduction gave Mervue a sudden burst of life and the Tuam native began to show why he attracted the interest of bigger clubs in pre-season. A sweeping move saw Gaffney switch to King who was upended by Coll, and Mark Ludden rifled towards the roof of the net form the resulting free which Gallagher somehow tipped over.

As the interval fast approached, Harps finally carved out a decent attack as Coll advanced on the left flank and whipped it into the lurking Kevin McHugh, but his curling effort was tipped around the post by Ger Hanley.

After the restart Gareth Harkin began to get a better grasp on affairs and within three minutes saw two good efforts fail to find the net, first with Hanley and then his own accuracy letting him down as the second shot sailed wide.

As another lull in play began, Gary Whoriskey managed to find rare space at the edge of the box and his crisp volley was tipped over the Hanley. Minutes later, Gaffney broke free on the left flank and as he darted inwards towards goal, his low drive couldn’t find the corner and flew wide. As both teams struggled to find decent spells of possession or sniffs at goal, the final quarter was an uneventful one and thus began extra-time and Mervue edging ahead.

Minutes after taking the lead, the Harps players began getting increasingly frustrated with the inconsistent referee, who bafflingly dismissed frantic claims for a free when Hanley picked up a backpass from Mike Elwood. In the second half of extra-time, Harps frantically searched for a leveller to force penalties and a Whoriskey snapshot following a corner was somehow headed off the line by Darren Kelly.

But with three minutes left on the clock, Harkin breezed past Elwood in the box and with only Hanley to beat, he curled towards the corner where Gaffney had earlier sent his penalty. Expecting to wheel away in celebration, Harkin fell to the ground clutching his head in despair as the ball agonisingly flew wide, and Harps bowed out of the competition.

Mervue United: Ger Hanley; Nicky Curran, Martin Conneely (Darren Kelly 18), Mike Elwood, James Casserley; Mark Ludden, Noel Varley, Kevin Crehan, Tom King; John Mountney (Rory Gaffney 33), Jason Molloy (Peter Dravins 83).

Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; James Doherty, Packie Mailey, Aaron O’Hagan (Keith Cowan 46), Ciaran Coll; Gary Whoriskey, Conor O’Grady, Raymond Foy, Gareth Harkin; Kevin McHugh (Darren McGeever 105), Oisin McMenamin (Gary Merit 75).

Referee: Darren Coombes (Dublin).