Stuart Connolly reports from Finn Park
Finn Harps’ unbeaten run of six matches came to an end on Sunday evening as they lost 2-0 to champions Shamrock Rovers.
They now must win on the last day of the season to avoid the Relegation Play-off while also needing other results to fall in their favour.
Waterford present that final day challenge after Ollie Horgan’s side tasted defeat for the first time since the start of September.
Joey O’Brien netted his first of the season shortly after the half hour with substitute Max Murphy adding the second on debut midway through the second half.
Finn Harps had been written off and dismissed by many people only a number of weeks ago with relegation seemingly lurking in the shadows. However, a first Premier Division win in Dublin since 2017 and their most recent win over St. Pat’s at Finn Park has given them renewed hope of avoiding the play-off spot too.
That win away to Bohemians sealed Cork City’s relegation fate while also gift-wrapping the title for Shamrock Rovers who finished at the summit for the first time since 2011.
Ollie Horgan noted that after the win over St. Pat’s, that they must go for it in a bid to avoid the play-off but should they fall short they run the risk of being down bodies due to injuries/suspension.
Prior to kick off, Finn Harps lined up to give Shamrock Rovers a guard of honour with the champions testing Mark McGinley within 60 seconds of kick-off with Sean Kavanagh forcing McGinley to save a low shot.
The skies opened as the hosts began to get forward but their ventures were cut short as Alan Mannus had a relatively quiet opening 15 minutes.
Tony McNamee fashioned Harps’ first solid shot towards goal approaching the half hour, but to his annoyance it flashed wide.
Rovers went close to taking the lead via an own goal shortly after, with a Sam Todd clearance ricocheting wide off Dave Webster following a fast counter from the visitors.
The deadlock was broken from the resulting corner on 33 minutes with O’Brien in the right place to prod home as he followed in on Dean Williams’ effort that came back off the crossbar.
Rovers had the ball in the net once more with a little under ten minutes to go in the half but unfortunately for Sean Kavanagh, he was flagged offside.
Kavanagh, who was making his first Premier Division start of the season, was in the thick of it again seconds after the restart, forcing a smart save from McGinley after meeting a low cross from Aaron Greene.
As the clock ticked on, very few concrete chances graced the field, which after some rather horrid rain looked worse for wear.
Shortly after the hour the 2020 Champions had doubled their lead. Greene found Max Murphy in space on the left and the substitute cut inside before firing low in the far corner.
The goal was quickly followed by both teams making a triple substitution. One such sub, Thomas Oluwa, had pace to burn and perhaps too much in one incident as he was flagged offside when clean through on goal.
Harps forced the issue late on with a number of long throw-ins and the odd set-piece but Rovers stood firm as they returned to Tallaght with the three points.
Finn Harps: Mark Anthony McGinley; Kosovar Sadiki, David Webster (Raff Cretaro 73), Sam Todd, Stephen Folan (Mark Russell 73); Leo Donnellan (Mark Coyle (53), Gareth Harkin, Barry McNamee (Adrian Delap 82), Tony McNamee, Ryan Connolly (Alexander Kogler 73); Adam Foley.
Subs not used: Patrick McGarvey (gk), Ruairi Harkin
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Joey O’Brien (Roberto Lopes 73), Lee Grace, Liam Scales, Sean Kavanagh (Max Murphy 63), Rhys Marshall; Aaron McEneff, Dean Williams, Ronan Finn (Darragh Nugent 73), Dylan Watts (Brandon Kavanagh 73); Aaron Greene (Thomas Oluwa 69).
Subs not used: Leon Pohls (gk), Aaron Bolger
Referee: Rob Hennessey
extratime.com man of the match: Dylan Watts (Shamrock Rovers)