Pitch Battle at Finn Park

Match referee Tomas Connolly books Derry's Jordan Allan and Finn Harps Damien McNulty.
Match referee Tomas Connolly books Derry's Jordan Allan and Finn Harps Damien McNulty.

‘Bloody hell, Football!’ Sir Alex Ferguson’s reactions to the late, late goals which completed Man United’s famous 1998 ‘Treble’ was almost applicable at Finn Park on Friday night, though you could leave out the word ‘football’.

For, on the pitch provided by the Harps ground staff for our first visit – sadly we’ll have to go back there later on this season – football just was not an option.

I don’t think I’ve ever been at a match where so much was amiss. We arrived to find that the pitch (I use the word in the comedy sense) had been narrowed by at least 20 yards! Then, just as the teams were about to kick-off, referee Tom Connolly lifted the ball from the centre spot and threw it high into the air. Down it came to a resounding ‘plop’; not even an inch of a bounce! That, as I understand it, is the official test for calling the game off; except, seemingly, in the League of Ireland.

Here, player safety is governed by how many people are at the game! In the first 20 minutes of action Harps committed NINETEEN fouls to Derry’s ZERO.

Add on the fact that both Harps’ goals emanated from free kicks which should have gone the other way, their winning goal came from a player who couldn’t get a game at Brandywell, and you’ll see that we’ll not be doing the Lotto anytime soon.

On the matter of the treacle that passed for a pitch, the best I can say is that, for the first time ever, and, hopefully, the last, I’d have settled for Dundalk’s plastic!

So, that’s it then, The width of the pitch, the surface, the referee, Uncle Tom Cobley ‘n all. I’m glad I got all that off my chest! Sour Grapes? Of course! Three points will be hard enough to get this season without having to lose them in a lottery.

When the records are written this one should have an asterisk beside it. Those who would say that the pitch ‘was the same for both sides’ have little understanding of the game. A bad surface will always penalise the team with the greater skill and, on Friday evening, there was only one team trying to play football.

So what can we say of the prospects of the two northernmost clubs in the league? For City, we’ll have to reserve judgement. You just couldn’t make any kind of informed assessment here. For Harps, I’m afraid the picture is more clear-cut. I expect them to get a trouncing in Dundalk, for all they had going for them last week were the conditions.

At places like Turner’s Cross, Tallaght, Dalymount, Richmond Park and anywhere there’s a decent surface, I fear for them.

And, as for my plans to go to Finn Park on the Friday nights when Derry are away, I’m afraid I’ve already revised them. Unless I’m sentenced to community service in the meantime, that is!