Finn Harps 1 (Keating)
Shelbourne 1 (Desmond)
Report courtesy of TheLOIblog
Finn Harps and Shelbourne played out a hugely entertaining 1-1 draw on a cold but dry Friday night in Finn Park, Ballybofey courtesy of second half goals from Lee Desmond for the visitors and an equaliser from on-loan Harps youngster Ruairi Keating.
In a dull first half, neither side looked like producing much in the way of entertainment for the 500 people in attendance. However, on 15 minutes, the game was blasted wide open with the dismissal of Josh Mailey for a high challenge on Dylan Cashin in the middle of the field, his second red card of the season against Shelbourne. Both players went for the ball in a 50/50 challenge, but Maileys foot was raised to head height of his opposite number, leaving referee Adriano Reale with no option but to brandish the red card to the Harps midfielder.
On the stroke of half time, Shels almost hit the front, as a Phillip Hand cross was met by the head of Cashin, and his effort rebounded off the post in the town end of the ground, much to the relief of the home crowd.
Half time saw Harps ring an important change in the outcome of the match, as Thomas Bonner was introduced in place of Sean McCarron, who was largely ineffective in left-midfield after his superb performance the week previous in Galway.
Only three minutes into the second half though, Shelbourne took the lead through Lee Desmond, as his cross somehow managed to sneak it’s way over the line despite the best efforts of Harps goalkeeper Shaun Patton, spotted only by the linesman, who awarded the goal after a bit of a scramble in the Harps box.
This sparked a bit of life into the game, and Harps were put under a bit of pressure for the following minutes as Shelbourne decided to go all out for the win.
On 60 minutes, the Harps support were given a huge boost with the return of veteran striker Kevin McHugh to the frame and his impact was immediate. Between the class of McHugh, and the immense battling and last ditch tackles being made by Tommy Bonner in the midfield, Harps found their opening back into the game.
A long ball from the back split open Shels centre back pairing of Gannon and O’Connor to which Ruairi Keating latched onto, upon turning the in-rushing Simon Dixon, Keating curled a beautiful left-footed strike into Greg Murrays goal, despite the fingertip effort of Murray to push the ball away to level the scores.
Both sides really upped the ante from here on, with entertainment levels soaring through the old tin roof in Finn Park.
Shelbourne had separate long range efforts from Darren Tinnelly and Keith Quinn fizzle agonisingly close of the Harps post, leaving hearts firmly in the mouths of Harps support, Quinns in particular looking like it was soaring straight into the roof of the Harps net before
Harps also had a great opportunity missed from a Kevin McHugh corner, as Packie Mailey rose highest in the box, only to see his headed attempt sail just wide of the post.
Just two minutes later, Harps again came close through a McHugh corner, as Damien McNulty headed back across the Shelbourne box, before the Shels defence finally cleared through Gannon as Ruairi Keating was about to pounce on the loose ball.
In the end, it was a deserved point for a battling Harps side, while Shelbourne can also feel slightly aggrieved not to have put the game to bed before Harps got their all important equaliser.
Shels remain top of the league ahead of Galway FC and Longford, while Harps rise to fifth position, with fourth placed Wexford to come next week for Ollie Horgans men in Ferrycarraig Park.
Patton, McNulty, Cowan, P Mailey, Coll, Tiofack (McHugh 60), McCarron (T Bonner h/t), Funston, McCann, J Mailey, Keating
Not Used: Winn, J Bonner, McVeigh, Fisher, Harkin
Murray, Desmond, Dixon, Gannon, O’Connor, Hand (Coughlan 75), Dolan (C Murphy 60), McDonnell, Cashin (Keegan 70), Quinn, Tinnelly
Not used: Donnelly, N Murphy, Sheeran, Duffy.
Referee: Adriano Reale
LOI Blog Man of the Match: Ruairi Keating (Finn Harps)