After their opening day derby victory over neighbours Derry City, Finn Harps will travel to Oriel Park on Friday evening with a spring in their step to face back-to-back League Champions Dundalk.
The Lilywhites are without doubt the best team in Ireland at the moment and won the double of League and FAI Cup last season as a follow up to their League title the previous year.
Harps, and their Manager Ollie Horgan, are in no doubt as to the task that face them on Friday evening, but having gained promotion last season these are the very games that they have been looking forward to since the play-off victory against Limerick last November.
“Dundalk are a serious side and no-one gives us much of a chance going there on Friday,” said Horgan as he looked ahead to his side’s first away game of the campaign.
“We will struggle along the way this season,” he said, “especially away from home, and Dundalk away is at the top of that list. We could play well on Friday and still come out on the end of a heavy defeat. However, we’ll go there to give it a go and see where that takes us.”
Harps opened the season with a 2-1 victory over Derry City at a packed Finn Park last weekend – only the sixth time that they have tasted victory against their near neighbours.
“It was a great result last Friday, but came at a cost with a number of injuries to some key players,” said Horgan as he reflected on the game.
“Our workrate was pleasing but we ran our luck a little especially at start of the game but overall I was delighted with how we did and of course getting the result. It was great to get a victory at the first time of asking as I warned before the season that it could take a few weeks for us to record a win as the players found their feet in the Division – thankfully though we have got that monkey off our back early on.
Horgan gave five players their debuts last weekend, including the two goalscorers David Scully and Ryan Curran. Naturally, Horgan was delighted with how those new in blue performed. “Our new players have settled in well and have the same honesty as the lads already there so they have fitted in perfectly and bought into what we are trying to do. As I said before, all the new faces will have their part to play throughout the season – as will every member of the squad.”
Horgan has a number of injury worries ahead of the visit to the Champions on Friday. Barry Molloy and Sean Houston both left the field injured during last Friday’s derby victory and join the already injured duo of Josh Mailey and Michael Rafter. Packie Mailey is a doubt and faces a late fitness test.
Friday’s meeting will be the first game between the clubs since the one-legged Promotion/Relegation play-off semi-final at Finn Park in November 2007 – a game Harps won 2-0 thanks to goals from Stephen Parkhouse and Marc Brolly. Harps would go on to win promotion with a 6-3 aggregrate victory over Waterford United while Dundalk would go up the following year as Harps came straight back down again.
The last Premier Division meeting between the sides was in May 1999 at Finn Park when a Fergal Harkin goal gave Harps a 1-0 victory that also confirmed Dundalk’s relegation to the First Division.
After Friday’s game, it’s a quick turnaround as Harps are back in action again on Monday night when Shamrock Rovers visit Finn Park.
Injured: Barry Molloy, Sean Houston, Josh Mailey, Michael Rafter and Packie Mailey.
RECORD AGAINST DUNDALK (All Competitions)
Friday’s game will be the 75th meeting of the two clubs, and the 40th to be played in Oriel Park.
Total Games: 74 (39 at Oriel Park)
Harps Wins: 29 (13 at Oriel Park)
Dundalk Wins: 25 (14 at Oriel Park)
Draws: 20 (12 at Oriel Park)
Harps Goals: 104 (52 at Oriel Park)
Dundalk Goals: 95 (58 at Oriel Park)
LAST 10 GAMES v DUNDALK
20-Nov-04 Finn Harps 3-0 Dundalk – First Division
04-May-06 Dundalk 1-3 Finn Harps – First Division
15-Jul-06 Finn Harps 1-2 Dundalk – First Division
15-Sep-06 Dundalk 1-1 Finn Harps – First Division
19-Nov-06 Finn Harps 0-1 Dundalk – First Division
08-Mar-07 Dundalk 3-2 Finn Harps – First Division
11-May-07 Finn Harps 0-0 Dundalk – First Division
12-Jul-07 Dundalk 1-1 Finn Harps – First Division
14-Sep-07 Finn Harps 1-0 Dundalk – First Division
16-Nov-07 Finn Harps 2-0 Dundalk – Promotion/Relegation Play-Off
OUR LAST MEETING WITH DUNDALK
2007 Season. 16th November 2007. Finn Park. Promotion/Relegation Play-Off Semi-Final.
FINN HARPS 2 Marc Brolly 29, Stephen Parkhouse 90.
Finn Harps: James Gallagher; Paddy McLaughlin, Jonathan Minnock, Declan Boyle, Shaun Holmes; Michael Funston, Tony Shields, Shaun McGowan, Marc Brolly; Stephen Parkhouse, Conor Gethins. Sub: Declan Divin (for Brolly 86mins).
Dundalk: Chris Bennion; John Flanagan, Aidan Lynch, David Crawley, Shane Grimes; Robbie Dunne, Paul Marney, Vinny Perth; Keith Dunne, Robbie Doyle, Cormac McArdle. Subs: Paul Smyth (for K.Dunne 56mins); Tiernan Mulvenna (for McArdle 56mins); Stephen Quigley (for Perth 66mins).