Finn Harps go into their final fixture of the season at Mervue United on Saturday night licking their wounds following a 4-0 loss at the hands of Shelbourne at Tolka Park on Tuesday.
The Drumcondra outfit knew the three points in their penultimate fixture of the season would conclude their five-year stint in the First Division and Harps were blown away in the crossfire. Goals from Ian Ryan, Phillip Hughes, David Cassidy and substitute Conan Byrne sealed the comfortable home win.
On a night of few positives for manager Peter Hutton, who was sent to the stands for protestations, and director of football Felix Healy the bold decision was made, as has been the case frequently of late, to continue to experiment. Losing by four is never easy but Healy was at least content to learn from the experience.
“Last weekend we won 4-1 against Wexford and conceded quite a lot of chances, the kind of chances that a better team might’ve punished us more,” he said. “That’s what happened against Shelbourne but we didn’t want to go there and play 10 men behind the ball in the hope of getting a 0-0 draw.
“We wanted to see how the players reacted and although it’s not pleasant to lose by four, we learned a great deal about how certain players handled the situation. This time next year we probably won’t be playing the same way but we are trying different things.
“We did, though, control the game on occasion and were denied what appeared to be a stonewall penalty and that’s what Peter was sent off for. But at the same time we gave away possession for the second goal and the first and third were set-pieces. We were caught sleeping but that can happen when you are continually changing from week to week and players are sometimes unsure of their exact role in those situations.”
The Mervue side managed by Johnny Glynn, who scored the winner for Galway United in their 1991 FAI Cup final against Shamrock Rovers at Lansdowne Road, currently sit fourth from bottom and three points in front of Harps in the table. When goal difference is taken into consideration, the Fahy’s Field residents are currently six stronger with a better goals scored, Harps’ ninth place in the standings is effectively confirmed.
“We have no injuries or suspensions so we will have probably a fully fit squad to choose from,” Healy added. “That’s not something we’ve always had the pleasure of with exams and college and players working or whatever. We managed to get Packie Mailey and James Doherty on against Shelbourne as neither is 100 per cent but it was good to get them back. We’ll make a change or two against Mervue.”
Harps won the preceding fixture 2-0 at Finn Park in August when goals from debutant Kevin Devaney and Blaine Curtis in six second-half minutes gave Harps their fifth win of the campaign in August. However, the two fixtures beforehand concluded in wins for Mervue. Rory Gaffney’s extra-time penalty in March meant the end of James Gallagher’s team’s involvement in the EA Sports League Cup, while Tom King scored a brace, either side of Marc Brolly’s leveller, in the league meeting in May.