Michael O'Connor gets a challenge in on his opponent during Friday night's game at Finn Park. Photo: Stephen Doherty
On a night when Portugal and Spain served up a World Cup classic, those fans who chose to take in the action at Finn Park were treated to a half decent game too.
Finn Harps . . .1
UCD . . . 3
Harps dominated their opponents in the first half, but paid the price for failing to make the breakthrough. And in a more more even second half, UCD took the chances that came their way, showing just why they are the team to catch at the top of the First Division.
The defeat was tough on Harps who played well, especially in the first 45 minutes. But not for the first time this season, some poor defensive decisions proved so costly. The defeat, coupled with Longford’s win over Drogheda, means they drop out of the top four in the table.
It was the second meeting of these sides this season. Harps had played well in Dublin back in April only to lose 3-2. And they started brightly in this game too.
A succession of early long throws from Michael O’Connor caused more than a few problems for the visiting defence. From one such throw, Keith Cowan flicked the ball on and Ciaran Coll’s goalbound strike deflected wide for a corner.
O’Connor was deployed up front along with Mikey Place who again looked lively in the early stages and he set up Gareth Harkin for another early chance but the midfielder just couldn’t connect.
Harkin, Paddy McCourt and Mark Coyle all saw a fair bit of possession in the first half. Because of that, the visitors didn’t really cause too many problems coming forward with Coll and Keith Cowan winning their individual battles with the UCD dangermen of Jason McClelland and Donegal’s Georgie Kelly.
UCD were again fortunate not to concede on 27 minutes when a McCourt corner was helped on at the near post and keeper Conor Kearns just about managed to palm the ball away off the line.
As Harps continued to dominate, they thought they had taken the lead on 31 minutes but Place was adjudged to be in an offside position in front of the keeper when he stepped over a Mark Timlin shot as it found its way into the net.
It was a big call from the match officials, and Harps boss Ollie Horgan was none too amused.
The Harps bench were on their feet again soon after following a foul on Place and Paul Hegarty was sent from the dug-out after some verbals on the sideline.
Four minutes into the second half and with their first real moment of any danger, UCD took the lead. Harps had a chance to clear a ball into the danger area but as Mark Timlin was caught in two minds, he allowed the ball to run across him and Daire O’Connor nipped in to slip the ball home.
The UCD wideman was celebrating again within four minutes when from a UCD break, he was released down the right. As the Harps defence stood off, O’Connor came ran inside and across the edge of the box before shooting into the bottom corner.
Credit to Harps, they hit back right away on 55 minutes. Yet another long throw from O’Connor ended with Place forcing the ball in over the line from close range. It was just what Harps needed.
They brought on the in-form Jesse Devers for McCourt before the hour and the Mayo man should have brought the sides level when he raced through but his shot was saved at his near post by Kearns.
It was another big moment in the game and it was a great opportunity missed. UCD however, made no mistake when another chance came their way on 71 minutes. For once, Georgie Kelly was able to get the better of Keith Cowan in front of goal and he shot past Gallagher to make it 3-1.
Whatever chance Harps had of mounting a comeback ended when Devers missed an 83rd minute penalty, shooting wide of the target following a foul on substitute, Ciaran O’Connor.
O’Connor’s night ended with two bookings in the space of a minute as Harps finished with ten men.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher, Aidan Friel (John O’Flynn 79), Ciaran Coll, Keith Cowan, Sam Todd, Gareth Harkin, Mark Coyle, Paddy McCourt (Jesse Devers 56), Michael O’Connor (Ciaran O’Connor 79), Mikey Place, Mark Timlin.
UCD: Conor Kearns, Darragh Corcoran, Evan Osam, Liam Scales, Josh Collins, Greg Sloggett, Daire O’Connor (Paul Doyle 79), Gary O’Neill, Georgie Kelly, Yousef Mahdy (Neil Farrugia 75), Jason McClelland (Conor Crowley 89).
Referee: Damien McGrath.