Finn Harps are into the second round of the EA Sports Cup after a comfortable home win over Mayo League at Finn Park tonight.
by Chris McNulty at Finn Park [Donegal News]
An own goal by Mayo defender David Reilly and a clinical second strike by Harps captain Kevin McHugh sealed progression for the Donegal side – but Director of Football Felix Healy was unimpressed at Harps' lack of economy in front of goal.
Harps could have won pulling up, but a litany of missed chances, particularly in the second-half, meant that Mayo were always in with a chance of clawing a way back into the game.
When McHugh tucked home the second just two minutes into the second-half it looked as if the floodgates would open, but Harps failed to add to their tally despite a number of good opportunities.
“The frustrating thing again was that we missed so many chances,” Healy observed. “That has been the case over the last couple of weeks and at two-nil you're always afraid of one taking a bounce in and then you're hanging on when you've dominated.
“It was a match we should have won and expected to win – but I'd like to have seen a few more goals.”
After suffering a third League defeat of the season two nights earlier against Wexford Youths, Harps Director of Football Felix Healy bemoaned the 'schoolboy errors' that proved so costly for his team.
Healy resisted the temptation to deploy his schoolboys against the junior representative side of the Mayo League – the first representative opposition Harps have played in a competitive game.
Harps did, however, hand a first senior appearance to Shane McGinty, the 17-year old St Johnston lad given a role just behind striker Kevin McHugh.
McGinty was one of three players given debuts, with ex-Fanad youngster Paul McVeigh in for a first senior start on the right-hand side of midfield and former Killea FC player Paul Simon Tracey on the left.
Player-manager Peter Hutton also came in to add some experience into a team that showed five changes from that which lost to Wexford, the other seeing James Doherty come back into the first XV after being sidelined with a virus.
With veteran Hutton back in the heart of the defence, Harps kept a first clean sheet of the season – though Mayo weren't without their chances.
Healy said: “We kept a clean sheet, which was good and it was good to see Peter back out there. He is a good voice to have there. There are still one or two things around him that aren't right.
“We aren't defending properly from the front, not just as a back four. We aren't winning too many second balls in the middle of the park.
“There have been one or two poor goals conceded, but we need to start defending a bit better all around the pitch and that comes from the front.”
With just 70 seconds gone, McVeigh crossed for McHugh, but his header was just too high to trouble McCallig.
Harps didn't have to wait too long to hit the front, Tracey's teasing free deflecting off David Reilly and past the 'keeper just five minutes in.
The Harps newcomers showed plenty of enthusiasm early on and there were encouraging signs in the link-up play involving McGinty and McVeigh, with the latter firing wide in the 11th minute after an inviting piece of build-up by McGinty and McHugh.
Harps didn't have things their own way, though and there were threatening signs from the Mayo League when the home side didn't deal with a searching throw-in from Brian Gallagher. Enda Reilly seized possession, but his dinked effort from 15 yards was well tipped over the crossbar by Gallagher, who then held a ferocious low effort from Keith Duffy after the Harps wall charged down his free kick.
The eager McVeigh came close again ten minutes before half-time, but he was off target after connecting with Ciaran Coll's centre from the left wing following a scintillating move by the home side.
The second-half was still in its infancy when Harps scored the killer second, skipper McHugh rolling home his 151st goal with ease after James Doherty's clever ball down the right channel opened things up for Harps' ace marskman.
Job done, McHugh was withdrawn immediately to preserve his sharpness ahead of tomorrow's League fixture in Waterford, but Harps came inches from a third when McMonagle connected with Tracey's corner, only to rifle just wide.
Livewire McGinty flashed a 20-yard effort just wide of the 'keeper's left post and Tracey shot off target after skipping into the box.
Blain Curtis was handed a glorious chance to get his first of the season, but the sub headed against the post after being picked out by McVeigh, while goalie McCallig had to divert over the bar to prevent Keith Duffy from becoming the second Mayo man to put through his own goal.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; James Doherty, Peter Hutton, Thomas McMonagle, Ciaran Coll; Paul McVeigh, Shaun McGowan, Barry O'Mahony, Paul Simon Tracey; Shane McGinty; Kevin McHugh. Subs: Tommy McBride for McGowan (half-time); Blain Curtis for McHugh (50 mins); Gary Merritt for McVeigh (76 mins).
Mayo League: Alvin McCallig; Matthew Hamilton, Keith Duffy, David Reilly, James Stretton; Paul Convey, Enda Reilly, Daniel Gorman, Mick Duffy; Brian Gallagher, Brendan Lavelle. Subs: Derek Glynn for Convey (78 mins); Danny Broderick for Hamilton (78 mins); Brian McHale for Gorman (84 mins).
Referee: Paul McLoughlin (Monaghan).