Finn Harps got their first point of the season on Friday night with a 1-1 draw against Galway United in Ballybofey.
Sean Houston’s opener was cancelled out by Kevin Devaney and Harps left thankful to have earned a share of the spoils.
Chris McNulty looks at some talking points…
- Harps, somehow, earn a point
Shane Keegan and his Galway United players surely spent much of the journey on the N17 wondering just how they hadn’t left Ballybofey with three points.
Although Harps started with good promise and took the lead, deservedly, through Sean Houston in the 28th minute, Galway were soon in control and it felt a trick of the mind that it was all square when Paul Tuite shrilled the final whistle.
Devaney scored the equaliser in the first minute of the second half, but Galway might’ve been in front by then.
Before the break, Devaney hit the bar and Vinny Faherty squandered a glorious chance soon after.
Ronan Murray hit the post in the second half and Faherty headed off the top of the crossbar.
It was certainly a point gained for Harps, who will have left again cursing how open they’d left themselves.
- McCourt beginning to shine
It is quite clear, already, that Paddy McCourt is different to his team-mates.
Ollie Horgan will be at pains to point out that ‘it isn’t all about Paddy’ and ‘there are 10 others out there’ but the reality is that, within the Harps dressing room, McCourt stands a class apart.
Although they were already under the cosh before then, Harps unravelled big time after McCourt was forced off injured.
The Derryman delivered a fine array of his talents on Friday night. He even mucked in defensively, but it was his use of the ball that really stood out.
Harps fans are already pining to see a fully-fit McCourt on a good surface.
- Saved by the….post (again!)
Harps were counting their blessings on Friday night as Galway were denied by the Finn Park post three times.
Devaney shot off the Town End post in the first half. After Devaney had equalised early in the second half, Galway struck the post twice more through Murray and Faherty.
A fortnight ago, Cork City were denied three times by the post in the second half of a 1-0 win for the Leesiders. A goalmouth scramble saw Cork denied by the post before Barry Molloy eventually cleared and twice in the final minute the post came to Harps’ rescue.
Six times in two games, the Finn Park woodwork has been struck by the visiting side.
- Finn Park isn’t pitch perfect
A fortnight ago, John Caulfield and Johnny Dunleavy voiced their concerns about the state of the Finn Park pitch following a game against Cork City that only got an eleventh-hour go-ahead.
That game was only given the green light after three pitch inspections and it was certainly questionable.
Over the winter, Harps are believed to have spent significant funds – in excess of €20,000, it is understood – on drainage works at Finn Park, but it is quite clear that the club have a massive issue on their hands.
Kevin Devaney, who netted Galway’s equalser on Friday night, said the pitch in Ballybofey was ‘horrendous’ and while it’s hard to argue with his thoughts, it’s not easy to know just what Harps can do at this stage.
It is surely a frustration for their hard-working groundstaff and for the players of now, like Caolan McAleer, Paddy McCourt and Ciaran O’Connor who would dearly love a good surface to strut their stuff.
- Disappointing crowd – even this early
There was certainly surprise when Finn Harps’ match night co-ordinator Kathy Taafe informed the media after the game that the official attendance for the game was 1,022.
While the crowd looked bigger, it was still a disappointing attendance for only the second home game of the season. And it wasn’t as if Harps, albeit without a point from their two games beforehand, had a dreadful start to the campaign performance-wise.
Granted, the game clashed with the Wales-Ireland Six Nations game on television, but you still wonder about the drop in attendance from the close-to 2,000 crowd that watches Harps-Cork two weeks ago (on a night when 900 people were at a Q&A with Roy Keane in Letterkenny at the same time).
And you worry further about how much it could drop with a poor result or two in the coming weeks.