SPORTS COLUMN

HARTE OF THE MATTER: Jimmy Harte chats to Ollie Horgan

The battle for promotion reaches the play-off stages

Jimmy Harte

Reporter:

Jimmy Harte

Email:

Sport@donegaldemocrat.com

Jimmy with Ollie

Finn Harps manager, Ollie Horgan

There is a special feeling when your team gains promotion. At the end of a hard year’s work, the cocktail of satisfaction and optimism tastes very sweet.

I experienced it as chairman of Finn Harps in 1996.  An unforgettable night in Ballybofey with a team made up of players such as Damien Dunleavy, Maurice Toland, and Jonathon Speak, under the guidance of Dermot Keely who helped our dreams come true.  On Friday night, our current crop of players embark on repeating the feat.

 

At a recent friendly match in Coláiste Ailigh between Finn Harps and the Irish Defence Forces, I was delighted to meet Finn Harps manager Ollie Horgan, an old friend from my days in Letterkenny, and assistant manager Paul Hegarty, another old friend who I spent fond times with  at Finn Park over 20 years ago.

With the play-off against Drogheda beckoning I had a chat with Ollie about the season just past and the future ahead.

 

Was it hard to motivate the players after the disappointment of last year’s relegation?

We have a much changed squad from last year. The majority of our squad now weren't here last season and really know very little about getting relegated. A lot of last year's squad moved on and this is a new team with four of last year's squad all that is left. 

It’s been a great season, so what was the highlight?

If the season finished after the Cabinteely game, it would be viewed as a good year, but it doesn't. All that matters now are the two games against Drogheda. Of course there were highlights along the way but they count for very little if we don't have highlights in the next two weeks.

How do you prepare for this series of upcoming playoff games?

The three weeks off since our last game has been difficult. While it has helped us injury-wise it has been difficult financially and more importantly to keep match sharpness and focused with no competitive games for that length of time. We need to keep the tie alive this Friday as Drogheda will be match-sharp . I think we have improved as a group in general since the break in June. We also had a little bit of luck in tight games and we need that luck to continue against Drogheda.  

Where do you think Irish soccer is in comparison to the rest of Europe?

As regards the standard here compared to overseas I wouldn't be the most qualified to answer that! What Dundalk and Cork have done both domestically and in Europe is a huge credit to them and takes years of work on and off the pitch. Obviously financially we struggle and need investment from businesses and more help from our governing body. We are always welcome to meet with businesses especially with the new stadium looking like it's going ahead.  

Thinking ahead, if promotion comes, have you eye on any players to buy?

New players if we get promoted? That's the last thing on our mind!  

 

Paul and Ollie deserve success this season.  Good luck to them and the fans in the play-offs. Here’s to a great end to a successful season.