FINN Harps’ current crop of players may have gone on a seven match unbeaten run, but when one takes into account that any wages earned are normally eaten up in fuel costs to get the players to training sessions, then things appear to be changing at Finn Park these days.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Harps capped their fine recent run with a thoroughly deserved share of the spoils against First Division leaders, Limerick, on Saturday night and Hutton was the first to heap praise on his young squad.
Describing Limerick as a “Premier Division team in waiting,” the Derry man was delighted with the effort put in and he felt recent results had created a new hunger in Ballybofey.
“I think we were good value for the point,” he declared afterwards. “We battled hard and the players showed great character having fallen a goal behind, but we got our just reward in the end,” he added.
“We took the game to them despite the fact that they are a Premier Division team in waiting, given their financial backing. They are odds-on favourites to win the league and I believe that will be the case, but we opted to concentrate on ourselves. Over the last few weeks we’ve managed to build a bit of momentum with good results and I think that confidence also showed in this performance.
“We’ve now built a run of seven matches undefeated and I’m delighted with that. We always felt we could go on a run but we had to win a game first and then build on that.
“We secured a superb victory in Longford in our previous match and to have held a strong Limerick team, tells me we are progressing.”
And with the players having embraced the changes Hutton has put in place, he felt he was involved with a hard-working, committed group.
“The players have been brilliant. We have a good work ethic and we’ve developed a camaraderie where we work hard for each other. The players have made so many sacrifices and when one considers that any wages they earn is actually spent on petrol money to get them to training, then I think that tells its own story.
“They really are a dedicated bunch, an excellent, honest group and I’m delighted for them as they are finally getting their rewards for the efforts they have put in,” he concluded.
Watched by an attendance of 439 on Saturday night, Harps supporters certainly got behind their young charges as they battled with Limerick for every ball. Prepared to mix it with more seasoned senior players, Harps also produced some superb passages of flowing football but, Limerick always looked dangerous when going forward.
In fact, others would have wilted when Limerick’s Shane Tracy netted the opening strike two minutes from the break, the player’s free-kick deflecting off the defensive wall to wrong-foot keeper, Ciaran Gallagher, before the ball found the net.
Harps, however, regrouped after the break. Having continued their battle and refused to be intimidated, they struck with what was probably their only clear-cut scoring chance when former Fanad player, Paul McVeigh stroked the ball past Barry Ryan from six yards following James Doherty’s cross for a 73rd minute equaliser.
should have won?
Limerick boss, Pat Scully, was happy with the share of the spoils but he felt his side had enough clear-cut scoring chances to win the game, but failed to take advantage in the final third.
He said: “I thought we created enough chances to win the game but we didn’t take advantage. However, our goal was a bit fortunate having deflected off the defensive wall, but I know how difficult it is to come to venues like this in search of favourable results.
“Playing at Finn Park has never been easy, so we’ll take the point and move on. “
He was disappointed with Harps’ equaliser, suggesting that the strike could have been avoided.
“I think we tried to be a little bit too intricate when operating in around their goal and we seemed to switch off for that goal which was unfortunate.
“But this has never been an easy place to come and given that they are playing very well at the moment, then I think a point is a good result for us and, as I’ve said, we’ll take it and move on to the next match.”
He refused to take anything for granted as his side continues to steer towards a guaranteed place in the top flight for next season.
“People have talked about this and that in relation to our progress but we’ve decided to take absolutely nothing for granted. We’ve been told we are a few wins away from winning the league title, but so much can change and we’re not interested in anything outside the next game,” insisted Scully.
“Tonight I felt we should have beaten Harps but we simply were not ruthless enough in front of goal. I believe we should have had a stonewall penalty in the first half but the referee decided otherwise, but we’ll take the point.”
FINN HARPS - Ciaran Gallagher; James Doherty, Thomas McMonagle, Keith Cowan, Ciaran Coll (Mark Scoltock 66); Gary Merritt (Adam Clarke, 66), Aaron O’Hagan, Shaun McGowan, Matthew Harkin; Paul McVeigh, Kevin McHugh.
LIMERICK - Barry Ryan; Shaun Kelly, Robert Kluciar, Pat Purcell, Shane Tracy; Jeffrey Judge (Stephen Bradley 83), Joe Gamble, Sean Brosnan, Corie Treacy; Dom Foley (Denis Behan 85), Rory Gaffney.
REFEREE - Mr. Ray Matthews (Dublin).