“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” (Alexander Pope)
A quote fitting of tomorrow night’s SSE Airtricity League match at Finn Park where the supposedly overachieving Harps host their visitors from Dublin 7, who have failed to quench the high expectation levels of their following this term to date.
Harps were regarded as being a prime contender for relegation pre March 4th when they kicked off their return to the top flight with a 2-1 home victory over neighbours Derry City in the north-west derby.
That tag has somewhat been forgotten in league of Ireland circles in recent weeks though with Ollie Horgan’s uncompromising style omnipresent in his players. Arguably, the most dogged and determined team in the top tier, the Ballybofey side have blended this with the scoring prowess of Ryan Curran and Dave Scully and now appear destined for a comfortable year in mid-table.
The point that Horgan’s men got in Wexford last weekend was significant as it was only the second point Harps have gained away from fortress Ballybofey this year. Indeed, they have yielded three wins from five league fixtures at home in 2016 with Derry, Longford and Bray being their victims.
With Horgan now back patrolling the sidelines following his ban for their visit to Ferrycarrig Park, Harps will fancy their chances against a fragile Bohs side, but the Galway native is aware of the quality the Gypsies possess.
Horgan said: “Bohemians are an excellent club and have a very strong side both physically and technically. On paper they have a far better side than ourselves but we will try to make it difficult for them when they come to Finn Park on Friday.”
For the match itself, Dave Scully will return to the squad having been suspended for their encounter with Wexford Youths. Josh Mailey (groin), Micheal Rafter (ankle), Raymond Foy (hamstring) and Matthew Crossan (knee) will all remain sidelined, while Damien McNulty, Kevin McHugh, Adam Hanlon and Keith Cowan are all rated as being doubtful due to pending injury concerns.
Second season syndrome is a disease that Bohs and their hapless manager Keith Long have been plighted with this season. High expectations coupled with a myriad of high quality signings including back-to-back league winner Kurtis Byrne had the Jody Stand dreaming of European qualification pre-season.
This fantasy though has proven to be unfounded since the beginning of the league term. Six league defeats, some of which have been embarrassing (St. Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers in particular), added to the fact that key components like Ismahil Akinade have been injured, means that Bohs could be facing a relegation fight rather than mounting a challenge for Europe, as was anticipated.
Strangely though performances, if not results have picked up of late. Last Friday’s defeat to champions Dundalk portrayed this. Having dominated large chunks of an uninspiring first half, while also being denied what seemed on second viewing as a stone wall penalty, the Gypsies folded after the concession of the first of Daryl Horgan’s brace.
Their general play and defensive set-up is quite good, but they don’t seem to have a striker available who will register double figures over the course of the eight-month season. The only player likely to do so is the aforementioned Akinade, but his absence means that Long must persevere with Kurtis Byrne leading the line, a role he does not seem entirely comfortable fulfilling.
Long is still hopeful that he and his side can turn their season around and bring success to Phibsborough though. He said: “We have a group of lads who are all working really hard. I’ve said it before, but if we maintain that effort and build upon it, our luck will change.
“We’ve played great in patches throughout the season. Now we need to replicate that for the whole game and give 90-minute performances. Ultimately we need to start putting the ball in the net.”
Referee: Dave McKeon
This will be the 33rd meeting of the sides at Finn Park. The record at the Donegal ground reads: Finn Harps 11 wins; 8 Draws; Bohs 13 wins.
Harps haven’t beaten Bohs in any of their last ten meetings stretching back to April 2000. The Dubliners have won eight of those 10 matches.
The last league meeting between the teams came in September 2008 at Dalymount Park. Bohs won 3-0 on their way to a league triumph. Harps ended that season by being relegated.
Finn Harps 11/5; Draw 11/5; Bohemian FC 6/5.
Finn Harps 0-1 Bohemians.
Injured: Josh Mailey (Groin), Raymond Foy (hamstring), Michael Rafter (ankle), Matthew Crossan (knee)
Doubtful: Damien McNulty, Keith Cowan, Kevin McHugh, Adam Hanlon.
Injured: Ismahil Akinade (hamstring), Adam Evans (virus), James Kavanagh (virus)