RYAN Connolly’s goal after just four minutes fired Finn Harps into the second round of the FAI Cup.
Finn Harps 1 St Patrick’s Athletic 0
By Chris McNulty at Finn Park. Pictures by Joe Boland, North West Newspix
Connolly pounced on a defensive error to net the only goal of the game as Ollie Horgan’s men edged out St Patrick’s Athletic.
It was hardly a classic, but that won’t matter to Harps, who recorded their first post lockdown win.
With Finn Park next to empty, save for the 50 or so season ticket holders permitted to attend due to the crowd restrictions, there was the peculiar sight of a dozen or so gathering outside the fence at the River End.
That number included a handful of eager St Pat’s followers who made their way from the capital, but theirs was surely an agonising night as their side failed to spark.
On Friday night, Harps shipped two early goals as they lost 2-0 to the same opposition in the Premier Division.
Here, it was a different tale. Harps hit the front after just four minutes. The wires of Conor Kearns – making his Saints’ debut – and Rory Feely became tangled as Karl O’Sullivan clipped into the area. Ryan Connolly could scarcely believe his good fortune as he tucked into the River End net.
Stephen Folan, who made his debut for Harps on Friday night, drew a save from the fingertips of Kearns from a free kick won by O’Sullivan as Harps set about their business with intent.
Pat’s, though, were quick to warm to the task and, after Mark Anthony McGinely did well to hold onto Dan Ward’s long-range drive, the Harps net minder’s palms were stung by Martin Rennie’s free-kick.
Late in the first half, Darragh Markey got a rare sight of the bullseye, but the Pat’s attacker prodded wide from 20 yards while a Folan header at the other end was blocked in stoppage time.
Horgan made four changes to the team that had lost 2-0 at Richmond Park three days ago.
Leo Donnellan, Adrian Delap, Ruairi Harkin and Raffaele Cretaro were all drafted into the side with Mark Coyle, Tony McNamee and Alex Kogler dropping to the bench and the injured Shane McEleney absent.
Stephen O’Donnell’s first game as Pat’s manager, eleven months ago, saw Pat’s win 2-1 in Ballybofey. O’Donnell, a three-time FAI Cup winner as a player, also rang the changes. In all, the Pat’s selection showed five alterations.
Donegal native Georgie Kelly – who was on the double on Friday night – was among those to make way with Brendan Clarke, Chris Forrester, Shane Griffin and Robbie Benson also replaced.
In a move that showed the strength of the visitors’ bench, Kelly, Forrester and Benson were sent on in a triple substitution eight minutes into the second half.
That came after Kearns tipped away a Sam Todd header and former Saint Dave Webster fired up and over.
Benson tested McGinley soon after his introduction but Harps held on in a second half of few chances to get their name into the hat for Wednesday’s draw.
Finn Harps: Mark Anthony McGinley; Dave Webster, Kosovar Sadiki, Stephen Folan, Sam Todd; Karl O’Sullivan, Ruairi Harkin (Mark Coyle 78), Leo Donnellan, Adrian Delap; Ryan Connolly (Tony McNamee 88); Raffaele Cretaro (Mark Russell 69).
St Patrick’s Athletic: Conor Kearns; David Titov (James Doona 73), Rory Feely, Dan Ward (Robbie Benson 53), Ian Bermingham; Jamie Lennon, Luke McNally, Jordan Gibson, Jason McClelland; Darragh Markey (Chris Forrester 53); Martin Rennie (Georgie Kelly 53).
Referee: Neil Doyle