The Finn Harps team and mascots pictured before Friday night's game against Shelbourne in Ballybofey. Picture: Stephen Doherty
Promotion rivals Finn Harps and Shelbourne had to be content with a share of the points in Friday night’s clash at Finn Park.
Finn Harps . . . . 0
Shelbourne . . . . 0
Perhaps the result shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, they’d drawn their two previous meetings in the league, and in this latest encounter, they were again, very evenly matched.
Both teams had chances to win it. Mikey Place saw an effort cleared off the line on the half hour, while earlier in the half, Ciaran Gallagher produced a point-blank stop to deny David O’Sullivan.
But over the 90 minutes, there were very few opportunities of any note as two of the league’s meanest defences stood firm.
Harps made a couple of changes from the team that won against Longford Town last week. Goalscorer ‘Timmie’ Sobowale and Aidan Friel both dropped to the bench with Nathan Boyle and Gareth Harkin preferred.
Jesse Devers also started, despite coming off injured early in last week’s game.
Shelbourne had the better of the early exchanges and they could have been in front as early as the seventh minute when Cian Kavanagh’s cross from the right was headed goalwards by the unmarked David O’Sullivan from close in, but Ciaran Gallagher managed to save with his body.
The visitors were the better side for the first quarter and Harps really struggled to string any real possession together. Gallagher had to be alert on 22 minutes to save a long range strike from defender Reece McEnteer.
But out of nothing, Harps almost went in front on 25. Jacob Borg picked up possession at the corner of the box following a corner and his delivery into the box turned into a shot which the back-peddling Dean Delaney managed to tip over the bar.
That incident was just the spark that the home team needed. Mikey Place was played in on goal by a super Devers pass but the striker hesitated when the chance was on, and Shelbourne were able to clear.
In almost an identical situation on the half hour, Place was played through on goal again and this time he shot past the advancing Delaney, but McEnteer managed to get back to make a goal-saving clearance on the line.
The half-time whistle probably came at a bad time for a Harps team who were well on top.
They took a while to get going again after the break and Shels had an early chance when after a fine flowing move, Kavanagh’s shot from just inside the box was blocked by Sam Todd.
Harps lost Nathan Boyle to injury just after the hour and he was replaced by Sobowale. The Waterford teenager had made a big impression on his debut last week and once again, he looked full of ideas when in possession.
Ollie Horgan made a second change soon after with Mark Coyle replacing Mark Timlin but it was Shelbourne substitute Gavin Boyne who went closest to scoring after that when his well struck effort was grabbed at the second attempt by Gallagher.
Harps threw on an extra front man in the form of John O’Flynn for the closing ten minutes but neither side could produce a winner.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher, Jacob Borg, Ciaran Coll, Keith Cowan, Sam Todd, Tommy McBride, Jesse Devers, Gareth Harkin (John O’Flynn 80), Mikey Place, Nathan Boyle (Oluwantunmise Sobowale 61), Mark Timlin (Mark Coyle 65).
Shelbourne: Dean Delaney, John Wilson, Reece McEnteer, Aidan Collins, Derek Prendergast, Mark Hughes, Greg Moorehouse, Alan Byrne, David O’Sullivan (James English 69), Cian Kavanagh (Gavin Boyne 64), Adam Evans.
Referee: Paula Brady.