Drogheda defender Ciaran Kelly is unable to prevent John Kavanagh from giving Finn Harps the lead at Finn Park on Friday night. Picture: Stephen Doherty
Finn Harps eased their way through to the promotion/relegation play-off final following a convincing victory over Drogheda at Finn Park on Friday night.
Finn Harps .. . . 2
Drogheda United . . . 0
(Harps win 3-1 on aggregate)
The win sets up another play-off decider with Limerick with the sides meeting in the first leg in Ballybofey on Bank Holiday Monday, October 29.
And on Friday night’s performance, Harps will go into that game with plenty of confidence.
They were much the better team against a Drogheda side who looked a tired outfit - the exertions of their two-legged play-off with Shelbourne perhaps eventually taking their toll.
Harps led 1-0 at the break thanks to John Kavanagh’s goal on 18 minutes. Nathan Boyle scored the second shortly after the hour to kill off the Drogheda challenge.
Played in front of a crowd of 2,200, this was another good display from the Donegal side.
Harps made three changes from the side that earned a 1-1 draw in Drogheda last Friday night with their goalscorer Nathan Boyle in from the start along with Mark Coyle and Paddy McCourt.
Drogheda made changes as well with striker Chris Lyons ruled out through suspension and Ritchie Purdy preferred to Kealan Dillon in midfield.
In front of a big Finn Park crowd, the home side started well and Boyle and Mikey Place worked some decent openings in attack in the early stages.
Place had the game’s opening chance after 11 minutes when he squeezed the ball across goal and wide, although the angle had been tight.
Harps were bossing possession with Coyle, Mark Timlin and Ciaran Coll all having an impact and the home side were rewarded for their positive start when they took the lead on 18 minutes.
Place did well to keep the ball in from going over the by-line and when he squeezed the ball back into the box, it ran perfectly for the inrushing John Kavanagh who found the bottom corner of the net.
It was the on-loan Cork City man’s first goal for Harps and it couldn’t have come at on a better night.
Just before that goal, Drogheda had created their first opening when Gareth McCaffrey shot well wide of Ciaran Gallagher’s goal when managing to work a bit of space on the edge of the box.
But frustratingly for Drogheda, they never looked like troubling Ollie Horgan’s men who in contrast, looked so much more dangerous coming forward.
Nathan Boyle had a good chance to score a second when played in by Place but keeper Paul Skinner was quick off his line to make the block.
As the half wore on Drogheda eventually began to find their way and bit by bit, the Harps defence found themselves dropping that bit deeper.
If anything, that seemed to invite Drogheda on and in the period before half time, the visitors enjoyed their best spell of the half. Gallagher had to deal with a number of dangerous crosses and after Harps were guilty of giving the ball away just outside the area, Gallagher saved from Mark Doyle, although the linesman’s flag was up to indicate offside.
Still, it was a warning for the home side who managed to get in at the break with the one goal advantage.
They came out in the second half and took the game to Drogheda with Boyle going close twice - one effort producing a wonderful reaction stop from keeper Skinner.
But Boyle eventually got the all-important second on 66 minutes, running onto Mark Coyle’s pass to finish low to the bottom corner.
After that, it was just a case of seeing the game out for Harps. Drogheda did their best to find away back into the game but apart from a late header from Lee Duffy which was scrambled off the line by Ciaran Coll, Harps were rarely tested and while Drogheda’s season ends in deep disappointment, for Harps the hopes of promotion remain very much alive.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher, John Kavanagh, Ciaran Coll, Keith Cowan, Sam Todd, Jacob Berg, Mark Coyle, Paddy McCourt (Niall Logue 74), Nathan Boyle (Jesse Devers 78), Mikey Place (John O’Flynn 89), Mark Timlin.
Drogheda United: Paul Skinner, Colm Deasy, Conor Kane, Kevin Farragher, Ciaran Kelly, Luke Gallagher, Ritchie Purdy, Sean Brennan, Gareth McCaffrey (Janabi Amour 70), Mark Doyle, William Hondermarck (Lee Duffy 58).
Referee: Derek Tomney.