There is a certain buzz among the fans around Finn Park this week, one that is only synonymous with a particular league tie.
The Twin Towns is bracing itself for the return of the North West’s greatest footballing rivalry, Finn Harps and Derry City.
Bragging rights will be laid on the line once again in Finn Park this Friday at 8pm as the sides prepare to do battle. Traditionally, these teams have provided some entertaining and often talked about games through the years.
Harps fans will have the fondest memories in recent times as the Donegal side have taken four points from a possible six against their Northern rivals this season. A mouth-watering league opener in March saw Harps overcome Derry in front of a packed Finn Park, while a late Sean Heuston header denied Harps three points in the Brandywell in May.
Manager Ollie Horgan recalled the two ties between the sides this season and explained that the results could have gone either way for his side.
“In the first game we were maybe just the better team but the second game was very much backs against the wall stuff. They totally destroyed is in the second half and only for our second goal and not conceding until very late in the game we managed to stay in it,” he said.
Horgan is realistic over his side’s ambitions and acknowledged the fine season Derry have had so far. Harps will be without a few key players for Friday’s game, yet, the Harps coach pointed to the home support in Finn Park as an important factor in this local rivalry.
“Damien McNulty and Gareth Harkin are injured and Ruairi Keating is suspended. We could be without a few more but we won’t know for sure until later in the week,” he said.
“Derry are near the top of the table for a reason, it’s no accident. When we play the likes of Dundalk and Cork at home we don’t realistically expect to gain any points in the league. The only difference with Derry is that it’s a local derby and we have home advantage and the crowd behind us,” added Horgan.
March’s victory was Finn Harps’ first league success over Derry in 15 and-a-half years. The last time they had emerged as victors was in 1998 when Derry City’s current Assistant Manager, Donal O’Brien, scored the solitary goal in a 1-0 win for Harps.
Despite a good record against the Candystripes this season, many of the ever-faithful Blue & White Army will still feel the pain of the Promotion/Relegation play-off match in 2003, as well as the numerous defeats suffered at the hands of their arch rivals since then.
Friday night’s fixture will see Ollie Horgan’s men wage war against the Walled City in an attempt to stop the rot apparent in the team’s recent outings. After three consecutive losses, Harps will be determined regain grip on their hopes of staying up in this year’s Airtricity Premier League.
With Bohemians leapfrogging Harps in the table last weekend, Horgan has set his sights on getting points on the board and staying ahead of survival rivals Wexford Youths and Longford Town.
“We’ve lost three in a row and we need to turn that around. Whether that be this Friday or next week, we need to get a point. Our league is Longford, Wexford and ourselves,” said Horgan.
Also on Friday night, Wexford Youths take on Longford and it is a game which the Harps faithful will be keeping a close eye on. The outcome could have great significance come the end of the season in deciding who retains their status in the Airtricity Premier League.
Kick-off between Finn Harps and Derry City is at 8pm this Friday, August 9th in Finn Park, Ballybofey.