Paddy McCourt in action for Harps on Monday night. Picture: Stephen Doherty
Finn Harps will take a 1-0 lead into the second leg of their promotion/relegation play-off after Paddy McCourt’s penalty helped them to victory against Limerick on Monday night.
Finn Harps . . . 1
Limerick . . . 0
The midfielder, making his final home appearance for Harps, showed his class by stroking the ball into the bottom corner from the spot after Jesse Devers had been fouled by Killian Brouder.
The goal came on 37 minutes at the end of an even first half during which both teams created some good opportunities.
Harps, already without the suspended Mark Coyle, were forced to give a first league start of the season to goalkeeper Peter Burke who came in for the injured Ciaran Gallagher.
Mark Timlin was also ruled out through injury meaning that Gareth Harkin had to make a return from injury probably earlier than anticipated.
Harkin partnered Paddy McCourt in midfield while Jesse Devers, back in the side, played just off the front two of Mickey Place and Nathan Boyle.
The visitors, who struggled for wins in the Premier Division this season, started really well and they should have been in front inside ten minutes. Burke and one of his defenders seemed to leave the ball to each other allowing Conor Ellis to nip in but with the goal at his mercy, the Limerick striker’s effort came back off the post.
From the same attack, Limerick managed to win possession back and Shane Duggan’s well struck effort drew a good save from Burke.
Harps had their moments too in a very lively opening with Devers twice shooting off target after the home side had worked good positions inside the box,.
Overall however, Limerick were the better team for much of the first half and the visiting defence,.which included Shaun Kelly from Killybegs at right back and former Harps man Killian Cantwell in the centre, looked pretty secure.
But that was until the 37th minute when out of nothing, they conceded a penalty when Killian Brouder’s clumsy challenge on Devers inside the box prompted the referee Robert Harvey to point from the spot and McCourt fired home.
In the second half, Limerick took the game to their opponents and bossed possession from there to the finish.
They piled on the pressure as they sought an equaliser but aside from one effort from Barry Maguire which drew a fine save from Burke, and a Billy Dennehy volley which flew wide of the target, Harps didn’t look like conceding.
Limerick lost ,their goalkeeper Tommy Holland to injury when he was stretchered off after saving a Devers header on 66 minutes. Holland needed lengthy treatment before leaving the action and as a result there were seven minutes of injury time at the finish.
But for all their late pressure, Limerick were unable to find a way past Burke and the home side comfortably held out.
It sets things up nicely for the second leg at Markets Field in Limerick on Friday night.
Finn Harps: Peter Burke, John Kavanagh, Ciaran Coll, Keith Cowan, Jacob Borg, Sam Todd, Gareth Harkin, Jesse Devers (Niall Logue 88), Mikey Place, Paddy McCourt (Timmy Sobowale 76) Nathan Boyle (John O’Flynn 90).
Limerick: Tommy Holland (Jack Brady 70), Shaun Kelly, Shane Tracy, Killian Cantwell, Killian Brouder, Cian Coleman, Billy Dennehy, Shane Duggan, Conor Ellis (Danny Morrissey 79), Karl O’Sullivan (William Fitzgerald 53), Barry Maguire.
Referee: Robert Harvey