The Finn Harps U19 squad is completing preparations for their big FAI National League semi-final against UCD this Sunday in Ballybofey (kick-off 2.00). Joe Boyle’s boys produced a superb string of results to qualify from the Northern Section before creating a major upset by defeating the hotly fancied Cork City side in the quarter-finals of the competition.
The winners on Sunday will have home advantage in the final so it’s a unique opportunity for Harps to achieve national success and it would be a major boost for underage soccer in the county if this talented group of players can make that dream happen. Boyle and Trevor Scanlon have put a huge amount of work into developing a panel capable of competing at the top level of U19 football in the country.
Striker B.J. Banda is easily the most recognised name having scored that famous winning goal against Limerick F.C. last November at Finn Park for the senior side which secured promotion to the Premier Division. Recently Banda has been featuring regularly again in Ollie Horgan’s squad and started against St Patrick’s Athletic on Tuesday night, while Gareth Doherty was on the subs bench. Mark Coyle also made an appearance as a sub against Dundalk last month and keeper Tommy Lee McCarron was on the bench for the Bray Wanderers game last Friday night.
Oisin Hassett featured a handful of times in Harps senior panels in the 2014 First Division season. Other players who would hope to be attracting the attention of Horgan and Paul Hegarty are Declan Sharkey and Simon McGlynn while younger players like Shane Blaney have also impressed during the current campaign.
Paul Ferry, Ciaran Kelly, Liam Doherty and Nathan Clifford have been regulars at the back as has Daire O’Baoill who will miss Sunday’s semi-final due to the red card he received against Cork City. Midfielders Jeaic McKelvey, Luke Nelis, Alex Carolan and captain Keelan McDermott also form part of a strong Harps squad for Sunday. Coyle, McKevley, Nelis, Blaney and McGlynn are all available after missing the quarter-final last weekend in Bishopstown.
O’Baoill is the only player definitely out for the semi-final but with a couple of the U19s in the Harps senior squad for tonight’s game against Cork City the manager will be hoping that no injuries are picked up. A big challenge this week for Boyle has been taking the players down from the ‘high’ of defeating a Cork U19 side that had a drawn against HJK Helsinki in Finland in the UEFA League. Any complacency will be capitalized by a very strong UCD side who finished second in the Southern Section of the National League.