Macdara Ferris reports from Dalymount Park
Finn Harps had found Dalymount Park a desolate place to visit in the last two decades. They had lost their last ten league games against Bohs in the venue.
So with Harps once again this season in a relegation battle, it was a great time on Saturday to beat Bohs in Dublin for the first time since 1999.
The result meant Harps avoided the automatic drop into the First Division - sending Cork City down instead on a night when Shamrock Rovers were crowned league champions thanks to Bohs being defeated 2-0 by Ollie Horgan’s men.
Harps still have a chance of avoiding the relegation play-off as they are now within five points of Shelbourne, St. Patrick’s Athletic and Derry City - with the Ballybofey side having two games in hand on Shels, one on Derry but having played one more than the Saints.
Not one to talk up his chances though, unsurprisingly Ollie Horgan was just happy after the game with avoiding the automatic drop and, rather than focussing on overhauling one of the teams above Harps, he is preparing for the playoff - which is in a revised format this year.
“We managed to win here for the first time in god knows how many years,” said Ollie Horgan speaking to the media pitchside after a win earned thanks to two goals from Mark Russell.“At least we know with a couple of games to go we are in the playoff and we can prepare as such.”
If there is one club that knows all about the League of Ireland promotion/relegation playoffs, it is Finn Harps. With nine appearances to date in playoff series, no club has more.
Having failed to gain promotion in the playoff in their first five attempts (1993/94, 94/95, 2001/02, 02/03 and 2003), they are since unbeaten when being involved in the playoffs.
They won promotion from the First Division through the playoff route three times (2007, 2015, and 2018) and last year as a Premier Division side they stayed up defeating Drogheda United 2-1 on aggregate.
“It is going to be a hell of a battle against whoever comes into it with the momentum they’ll have of winning a semi-final and final of a First Division playoff.
“A one-legged playoff makes it more difficult. We were told it was status quo (on the league resumption) which meant a two legged playoff but the second leg seems to have disappeared somewhere along the way! If we don’t win it in one leg that will be our own fault.
“It will be a lottery, whatever about home and away where could maybe change things for a second leg, but if you don’t get it right first time, you are gone.”
Of course if they can move up one position in the table, they will avoid the playoff but Horgan is suggesting he doesn’t expect that to happen but he is often fond of talking down his teams chances.
“We have three home games against Pat’s, Shamrock Rovers and Waterford. If you had bodies and you had more time to prepare for games, you might say we’ll have a cut off it but we were 20 days without a game there tonight and now we have three in a week.
Horgan it seems is always the pessimist with his remarks but nobody will be discounting his team if Harps have to preserve their Premier Division status in this season’s one off playoff.