Preview: Finn Harps host St. Patrick's Athletic in the FAI Cup this evening

Harps hope to bounce back from defeat against same opposition in the league on Friday

Preview: Finn Harps host St. Patrick's Athletic in the FAI Cup this evening

Tony McNamee in action against St. Pat's last year. PICTURE: STEPHEN DOHERTY

Finn Harps will be hoping to bounce back from Friday night’s defeat against St. Patrick’s Athletic in the SSE Airtricity League when they host the same opposition in the first round of the FAI Cup at Finn Park this evening. (Kick-off is 7.45 pm.)

In the revised format this season, there are just 19 teams involved - and no junior or intermediate minnows - and the eight quarter-finalists after round two will get a financial bonus from the FAI during the remaining stages of the competition which will be held after the league programme has finished. The final will be on Sunday, November 29.

There are only three first round games - the rest of the teams have got byes - and this fixture has only complicated a hectic schedule for the Donegal club since the action resumed.

But, at least they don't have to travel, and despite losing 2-0 at Richmond Park, boss Ollie Horgan was able to take some positives from the game.

“I don’t think our performance was all that bad (on Friday), it was the individual errors that I was disappointed with, “ he said. “There wasn’t a wide gap between the two sides. Yes, there was a gap and the better side won, but I felt we gave them a helping hand along the way.”

With survival in the Premier Division the priority, Horgan is expected to use this evening’s game to give some valuable game time to a number of players who have had limited or no game time since action recommenced.

Likewise, St. Patrick’s Athletic are expected to make changes, although they will surely keep Donegal native Georgie Kelly in attack. The 23-year-old Inishowen man, on loan from champions Dundalk, got a brace against Harps on Friday, and has a great record against Harps, having scored against them on several occasions previously with Dundalk and also his first League of Ireland club, UCD.

“It was good for him to get off the mark,” commented St. Pat’s manager, Stephen O’Donnell.

Turning to the cup, he told “We want to be in the hat for the next round. Four games will get you into the final. We know it will be tough against Finn Harps who will want some retribution and it will be physical. We want to be in that band of eight teams who are there for the last three weeks when they will run off the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. That will be a bit of a novelty in itself in the season that we are in.

Harps will be hoping to fare better than when the sides last met in the FAI Cup, back in 2014 when the Saints emerged 6-1 winners in a semi-final clash played at Richmond Park. 

Pat’s will be hoping to emulate the success of that year when the season ended in a perfect manner as they won the FAI Cup after a 53-year wait following a 2–0 win over Derry City.

That said, Harps’ sole FAI Cup final success was back in the 1974 decider against the Inchicore outfit.

The two other first round games are tomorrow (Tuesday) featuring Cork City against Longford and Dundalk at home to Waterford.

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