Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Declan Roughan/INPHO Finn Harps' John Kavanagh celebrates his goal with team-mates.
# Influence
'The Derry Pele' pulls the strings as Finn Harps advance in First Division play-off
Paddy McCourt was imperious as he prolonged his playing career for two more weeks.

Finn Harps 2
Drogheda United 0

Dave Donnelly reports from Finn Park

FINN HARPS SWATTED the challenge of Drogheda United aside at Finn Park to set up a repeat of the 2015 play-off that last saw the Donegal side reach the Premier Division.

Goals in either half from on-loan Cork City wing-back John Kavanagh and striker Nathan Boyle saw Harps to victory but the scoreline could have been much more flattering.

The home side rarely looked troubled against a side they had beaten twice in the league already this season, with Paddy McCourt imperious as he prolonged his playing career for two more weeks.

The former Northern Ireland international will retire at the end of the season to take up a role with the Derry City academy, but that decision is premature judging by Friday’s night’s performance.

The 34-year-old pulled the strings at the base of a three-man midfield as manager Ollie Horgan went with an attacking wing-back system, with Kavanagh on the right-hand side.

It was Boyle who should have put his side in front after 11 minutes, as his weaving run saw him one-on-one with Paul Skinner, but he stabbed his shot wide.

‘Skinny’ would turn creator for Kavanagh seven minutes later, however, as he was picked out by Mark Timlin, and he teed up the wing-back for a thumping finish into the corner.

Harps continued to control the game, but Drogs should have gone in level after Mark Doyle’s low ball across goal was just an inch too far away for Gareth McCaffrey to turn in at the back post.

Normal service resumed after the break, and Boyle should have got his name on the scoresheet when Keith Cowan’s knock-down fell to him, but he couldn’t bundle home from eight yards.

And the striker was denied by an excellent save from Paul Skinner, after doing brilliantly to turn Timlin’s cross on goal.

Boyle would get the goal his man-of-the-match performance deserved 23 minutes from time, as Mark Coyle picked him out on the right and he cut inside before curling past Skinner.

McCourt was withdrawn late on following a clash with Sean Brennan that saw him booked, and he’ll be key if Harps are to make their return to the top level at the first attempt.

FINN HARPS: Ciaran Gallagher; Jakob Borg, Sam Todd, Keith Cowan; John Kavanagh, Mark Coyle, Paddy McCourt (Niall Logue 75), Mikey Place (John O’Flynn 90+2), Ciaran Coll; Mark Timlin, Nathan Boyle (Jesse Devers 79).

DROGHEDA UNITED: Paul Skinner; Colm Deasy (Rob Manley 65), Luke Gallagher, Kevin Farragher, Conor Kane; Sean Brennan, Richie Purdy, William Hondermarck (Lee Duffy 59) Ciaran Kelly; Mark Doyle, Gareth McCaffrey (Janabi Amour 71).

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