Adam Foley 27' -
Stuart Connolly reports from Finn Park
A goal in the first half from Adam Foley coupled with Shelbourne losing to Shamrock Rovers saw Finn Harps leapfrog the Reds and finish outside of the relegation play-off.
Foley netted before the half hour, but that goal doesn’t tell the full story. Kosovar Sadiki netted in the second half, but it was ruled out for a push by the defender.
Deep into added time, Kurtis Byrne thundered a close-range effort off the base of the post, had it gone in, it would have broken Harps’ hearts.
Ollie Horgan’s side finished in 8th place in the league, securing their spot for next season while Shelbourne must face Longford Town in a one-off Play-off next week.
Ollie Horgan made three changes to his last line-up ahead of the crunch match against Waterford FC with Shane McEleney, Alexander Kogler and Mark Russell returning to the set-up as Sam Todd and Tony McNamee dropped to the bench while Leo Donnellan missed the match through suspension.
Fran Rockett made only one change after his side’s last game on the 25th of October with Robbie McCourt stepping up in place of Will Fitzgerald who dropped to a seat on the bench.
The hosts started on the front foot enjoying some good possession in the opening ten minutes, but it was Alistair Coote who fired wide for the first solid effort of the encounter.
It was Route One which was the source of the next two chances in the match, Adam Foley was first up after latching onto Ryan Connolly’s pass, but the angle went against him as he ran down on goal.
Brian Murphy provided the pass for Waterford’s chance as Kosovar Sadiki misjudged the ball and cushioned the header into the path of Matty Smith, lucky for Sadiki, Mark McGinley was there to bail him out.
Having enjoyed much of the early exchanges in an otherwise equal opening half hour, Finn Harps took the lead just shy of it.
David Webster started the move with a close-range pass to Alex Kogler who played through Barry McNamee. He continued the move into the box before a low ball across from the right and Adam Foley was alert to bundle it over the line.
Foley nearly grabbed a brace a few minutes later after a neat flick from Kogler had played him through but once more the angle narrowed for the hosts allowing Brian Murphy to smother the chance.
Alex Kogler had two opportunities in as many minutes as the half neared its conclusion, the first of which he headed over the bar following a corner. Robbie McCourt was a relieved man after the next chance with Brian Murphy bailing him out after a weak back pass nearly allowed Kogler to take advantage.
Waterford fashioned the last chance of the half and it was met with a few cheers, but they were short lived after the realization that John Martin’s shot had rustled the nets from behind after his effort had fizzed narrowly wide.
The second half was slow to start as Harps nursed their slender lead, it came close once more to being extended but Murphy saved from McNamee.
Niall O’Keeffe fired wide for the visitors’ first chance of the second half and Matty Smith had an effort saved which was closely followed by big penalty appeals from the forward, but the ref was unmoved.
Harps again pushed for a bit of breathing space after the hour and they were denied once again, this time by the crossbar after a header from Webster.
The defender had a hand in Harp’s next big chance, he met a Raff Cretaro cross from the right and headed it back across goal only for Barry McNamee to slip at the crucial moment.
The home side thought they had the second goal with a little under ten minutes to go but Sadiki was penalised for a push in the box.
As stoppage time neared its end, with results going their way elsewhere, Harps needed to hold on for a huge result. In the dying embers, there looked to be heartbreak on the cards, condemning the hosts to a play-off as Kurtis Byrne lay in wait in front of the goal to strike after a fortunate ricochet but to the delight and surprise of the home dugout and gathering fans outside the ground, Byrne’s strike from inside the six yard box cannoned off the post.
At the moment the final whistle was blown, the Harps players couldn’t hide their joy, avoiding the play-off and looking forward to another year in the top-flight.
Finn Harps: Mark McGinley; Kosovar Sadiki, David Webster, Shane McEleney (Mark Coyle 72), Mark Russell, Stephen Folan; Gareth Harkin, Barry McNamee, Ryan Connolly; Alexander Kogler (Raff Cretaro 55), Adam Foley(Sam Todd 79).
Subs not used: Patrick McGarvey, Adrian Delap, Tony McNamee, Ruairi Harkin.
Waterford: Brian Murphy; Jake Davidson, Robbie McCourt, Darragh Power(Shane Griffin 58), Tyreke Wilson(Dean Walsh 89); Ali Coote(William Longbottom 89), Niall O’Keeffe(Will Fitzgerald 66), Robbie Weir; John Martin(Kurtis Byrne 89), Daryl Murphy, Matty Smith.
Subs not used: Tadhg Ryan, Alex Phelan.
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.