Paddy McCourt turns away in delight following his goal against Sligo Rovers. Photos: Geraldine Diver
There are still those who believe that Paddy McCourt was a poor signing for Harps. Which is probably why I enjoyed his goal so much on Saturday night.
It was a strike that will go some way to answering those who continue to question his place in the team.
A moment of brilliance which only players like Paddy McCourt have in their locker.
He might be past his brilliant best, but McCourt showed in the dying minutes of an energy-sapping north west derby, that he can still produce moments of magic.
I think what made his goal so special was that after picking the ball up way outside the Sligo box, and gliding past the challenges of three, four then a fifth Sligo player, he chose to slide the ball past the Sligo keeper Patton.
It just barely made it across the line before Sligo defender Regan Donnellan’s desperate lunge to try and prevent the goal.
With only the keeper to beat, McCourt could have gone for power. But in some ways that would have spoiled what up until then had been such a mesmerising run.
So instead, he drew the keeper and nonchalantly rolled it home.
McCourt slips the ball past Sligo Rovers keeper Shaun Patton.
I watched the goal a few times when coverage from the game popped up on social media on Sunday. With every re-run of the clip, it got even better. It was that good.
When I was lining out as a schoolboy for the mighty Main Street FC in Letterkenny, my footballing heroes were Glenn Hoddle, Steve Archibald, Ossie Ardiles.
Tottenham had become my team when they got to the FA Cup finals of 1981 and ‘82.
Remember Ricky Villa’s winning goal in the cup replay against Man City? It was recently voted best Wembley Cup Final goal of all time. I watched it too on Sunday. I'm almost afraid to admit it, but McCourt's goal was probably better.
It’s moments like that cup final goal of '81 which ease the burden and despair of being a Spurs fan. Moments like Paul Gascoigne's goal in the cup semi-final against Arsenal in ‘91.
Which brings me back to Paddy McCourt.There were young kids in Ballybofey the other night, and they got to watch at first hand one of the best goals I’ve ever seen in Finn Park.
If they’d never heard of Paddy McCourt before last weekend, they’ll know who he is now.
There were adults there too, who will be talking about that goal for some time to come.
In the days leading up to the start of this season, there was talk that Harps might be in the running to sign the Derryman. I took part in a special preview for the new campaign on Highland Radio and McCourt’s possible arrival prompted some debate among the guests, Felix Healy and Kevin McHugh.
I listened back to the piece this week. Felix, when asked about the possibility of McCourt joining the Finn Park club, said the player was “the last thing Harps need”.
Harps, Felix pointed out, would be dogged this season, hard working, hard to break down. Would a player like McCourt fit into that kind of team?
Kevin McHugh wondered if McCourt would have the hunger to play at a club like Harps, suggesting instead that a team like Dundalk might suit the player more.
In fairness to Healy and McHugh, they were asked to give their opinions at a time when McCourt was only being linked with the club.
But even after his arrival, the player had his critics on the Finn Park terraces.
They can rightly point to a few matches where he struggled to impose his game. At times, he did look far from 100 per cent fit.
I always felt though, that McCourt’s signing was a clever bit of business by Ollie Horgan and Paul Hegarty. Forget about his contribution on the field, surely the very fact that a player of his calibre was joining Harps could only be a good thing.
Speaking to a fair number of Harps people during the season, it seems McCourt has done as much off the field for the club as he has on it. He has a real presence about him in the dressing room and on the training pitch. His attitude, I’m told, has been nothing but professional. And he has bought into everything the Harps management team have asked of their squad.
McCourt doesn’t need to be playing for Finn Harps. He could have hung the boots up last March and concentrated on other things in life, like lowering his handicap in golf (he’s a member at North West Golf Club in Buncrana, and not a bad player by all accounts).
But playing football is what McCourt loves most. And he’ll be remembered as much as anything for some wonderful goals in a fine career - just like the one he got the other night.
He’s my kind of player, someone who can deliver a sudden touch of brilliance that can turn a match.
I just can't understand why more supporters don't appreciate what the Paddy McCourts of this world bring to the game.