Andrew Dempsey reports from Bishopsgate
Finn Harps hopes for top-flight survival took yet another shot in the arm as they saw off a toothless Longford Town by three goals to nil on Saturday night.
Goals from Ryan Rainey and Sean Boyd did the damage for the visitors as Michael McDonnell also turned into his own net on a damaging night for the hosts.
It all but condemns Longford to relegation, while it eases Harps’ automatic relegation worries as they went 14 points clear of the Red and Black with just a dozen games to play.
Fresh off the back of a 1-0 win away to Sligo Rovers, Ollie Horgan’s Finn Harps made three changes from that win at the Showgrounds, with the suspended Mark Coyle missing out.
Longford, however, made no secret of their willingness to win during the week after a devastating fifth minute injury time defeat to Shamrock Rovers last weekend.
Daire Doyle, as a result, made two changes from that gut-wrenching loss at Tallaght Stadium, with Rovers loanees Darragh Nugent and Dean Williams coming back in for the hosts.
And they started the better of the two teams, with Paddy Kirk going close early on from a cross turned shot that clipped off the top of the bar.
Town’s quick start continued in the early stages of the game, breaking with purpose and looking a real threat for the most part. But as has been the case so often this season, they could not make that count in goals.
Harps quickly awoke from their slumber, with Dan Hawkins seeing a shot deflect off the bar after some great forward play from Tunde Owolabi.
And minutes later, they would take the lead in somewhat fortuitous circumstances thanks to a Michael McDonnell own-goal in the 15th minute.
Jordan Mustoe saw his cross into the box deflect in off the foot of McDonnell, leaving Town keeper Lee Steacy flat footed and unable to keep the ball out of the back of the net.
Mustoe would then go close with a shot of his own moments after, but this time Steacy was on hand to make amends for his earlier mishap.
Town, however, grew back into the game. And they very nearly levelled matters thanks to an Aodh Dervin piledriver.
But unfortunately for Dervin and his Longford teammates, McGinley was on hand to make yet another typically brilliant save to deny the hosts a goal.
If Longford’s task was difficult enough at a goal down, it was to get a whole lot harder eight minutes before the break.
Ryan Rainey struck home with a superb volley on the edge of the Town penalty area, beating Steacy all ends up with an effort that deflected into the top corner of the net.
The term a mountain to climb probably didn’t do the scales of the task facing Longford justice as they went in at the break 2-0 behind.
They did, however, try to eat into that deficit in the early stages of the second-half, with McDonnell going close with a tame effort that McGinley saved well.
That was after the visitors almost made it 3-0, however. But Owolabi was unable to head home from an Adam Foley cross into the box ultimately.
Aaron O’Driscoll then went close himself from a Grimes free-kick, but the Mansfield Town loanee headed straight at McGinley in the Harps goal.
The hosts continued to press as the half wore on, but their lack of conviction in the final third proved to be their downfall once more.
But, it was McGinley’s saves that ultimately swung the game in their favour as the former UCD man came up trumps when it mattered most to deny De Town.
If they had any chance of securing any result in the closing stages, it was all but evaporated in the 83rd minute thanks to a Sean Boyd header.
Boyd headed home a Barry McNamee corner to score his first league goal since returning from a horrific ACL injury picked up prior to the start of the 2020 season.
All in all it was job done for the Co. Donegal side who made the most of their chances as Longford look consigned for a return to the First Division.
Longford Town: Lee Steacy (c); Patrick Kirk, Michael McDonnell, Aaron McNally, Aaron O'Driscoll; Aodh Dervin, Dylan Grimes (Conor Davis 74), Rob Manley, Darragh Nugent; Aaron Dobbs (Aaron McCabe 88), Dean Williams (Callum Warfield 63).
Subs not used: Michael Kelly, Joseph Manley, Matthew O'Brien, Aaron Robinson, Dean Zambra, Karl Chambers.
Booked: Aodh Dervin (59), Callum Warfield (90).
Finn Harps: Mark McGinley; Shane McEleney, Jordan Mustoe, Kosovar Sadiki, David Webster; Ryan Connolly (John Dunleavy 70), Barry McNamee, Ryan Rainey (Joel Bradley Walsh 90), Will Seymore; Dan Hawkins (Adam Foley 46), Tunde Owolabi (Sean Boyd 78).
Subs not used: Gerard Doherty, Stephen Doherty, Luke Rudden, Nathan Logue.
Booked: Ryan Connolly (15) ,Ryan Rainey (45) ,Tunde Owolabi (58) Mark McGinley (79).
Referee: Derek Tomney .
extratime.com Player of the Match: Mark McGinley (Finn Harps).