Tough test for Harps in Drogheda

Ciaran O'Connor

Ollie Horgan is under no illusions about the scale of the challenge that Finn Harps face against Drogheda Utd on this Friday night (kick-off 7.45) in an away League of Ireland First Division game. The hosts who are second in the table closed the gap on leaders UCD to four points after their 2-1 home win over Cobh Ramblers last Friday night.

Harps stay fifth place despite securing a very important 1-0 victory over Cabinteely at Stradbrook also last Friday night. So there is a lot at stake for both sides. A win for Drogheda could leave just a point behind UCD who face a tough home game against Shelbourne who are third on goal difference only from Drogheda. The sides have already met twice in the league this season. The first was a re-arranged fixture at United Park at the end of March. A month earlier the first game of the new season was called off just minutes before kick-off after the referee deemed that the floodlights were not up to the required standard to allow the game to go ahead.

The rescheduled match was not short on controversy as Harps felt they should have had a penalty when Ciaran O’Connor went down and then in the 23rd minute the home team did get a spot-kick and to add to the visitors woes Keith Cowan got a straight red card for what deemed was deemed to have been a deliberate handball. Gareth McCaffrey converted the penalty and Richie Purdy made it 2-0 before the break.
10-men Harps battled bravely in the second half and did pull a goal back late on but there wasn’t sufficient time to get an equalizer.

However, at the beginning of May, Horgan’s men gained revenge with a 2-1 win at Finn Park after going behind to a 25th minute Sean Brennan goal. Keith Cowan and Ciaran O’Connor secured the three points for the hosts.
Horgan is in no doubt about the calibre of the opposition Harps are facing tomorrow night. “Drogheda defeated Cobh last Friday night without Jake Hyland and Sean Brennan. These two players have a lot of experience so that is a boost for them. Drogheda deserves to be in second place. They also have a goalkeeper Paul Skinner who knows what it takes to get results in the League of Ireland. Chris Lyons, Gareth McCaffrey and Richie Purdy are all decent players who will give us bother if we allow them” Horgan said.

Harps will be without Ciaran O’Connor for a second game due to suspension and it’s same story for midfielder Tommy McBride who will be completing a two-match ban. Adam Duffy is back on the injured list again while Mark Coyle after sitting out training on Wednesday night.

A victory on Friday night would bring Harps level on points with Drogheda. Elsewhere, sixth place Galway Utd will be expected to defeat bottom of the table Athlone Town and would then close the gap to two points on Harps if they were to lose this Friday night. With home advantage fourth placed Longford Town should be too strong for Cobh Ramblers on Saturday night.