Down to the wire - Finn Harps could yet pull off the great escape

League season concludes with something at stake in every game

Down to the wire - Finn Harps could yet pull off the great escape

Ollie Horgan

Finn Harps boss Ollie Horgan predicted weeks ago that the battle to avoid relegation would “go right down to the wire” - but even he could not have forecast the dramatic finish to the campaign that is in store tonight.

The Donegal club has a decent chance of pulling off yet another great escape if they can beat Waterford at Finn Park this evening and results elsewhere go their way. 

If Harps bag the three points (and that won’t be easy) and either Shelbourne or Derry City lose their final game then Horgan’s side will be guaranteed Premier Division status in the League of Ireland for 2021.

The final five fixtures all kick-off at 7.30 - and there will be no shortage of people keeping an eye on social media for updates.

Shelbourne and Derry City, who are both on 19 points, are nervously looking down on Harps who have 17.

Shels host champions Shamrock Rovers, with the latter bidding to complete the season undefeated and will hardly do their Dublin rivals any favours.

Derry, meanwhile, who have been in poor form of late, are now in the relegation quagmire, having lost 2-0 to Shamrock Rovers in Saturday’s rearranged fixture.

They travel to already relegated Cork. They have far more to play for than the Leesiders, but such is the decline of Declan Devine’s side in the last few months, it’s by no means a banker.

Harps have lost only twice in their last ten competitive games and go into their match with a degree of confidence.

Buit Horgan points out that Waterford “are a quality side” and the visitors will have plenty of hunger to get a result.

If Dundalk lose to Sligo Rovers in their match, Waterford could finish third with a win - and that would assure them of a money-spinning Europa League spot.

There are several other permutations as well. And it could all be decided on goal difference. 

Derry have a zero goal difference and would be safe if they draw in Cork, even if Harps (minus ten) win. Shels are on minus seven so a draw against Rovers would probably be enough as it would be a tall order for Harps to overcome Waterford by three goals or more.

“To beat them (Waterford) will take a massive performance and we are depending on other results,”  noted Ollie Horgan. “It will be touch and go.”

Asked whether he would have taken this scenario at the start of the season, he replied that he probably would have.

However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of games was cut from 36 to 18.

Indeed, this would only be the half-way point and you would fancy Harps on present form to stay up if they still had 18 games to play.

“We are going to have a go at it,” Horgan declared.

If Harps fail to beat Waterford - or do so but the other results do not go their way - they will stay in the position they currently occupy, ninth, and that will mean a promotion/relegation play-off next weekend against Longford next Saturday.

Tonight's final series of games (all 7.30)

Cork City v. Derry City

Dundalk v. Sligo Rovers

Finn Harps v. Waterford FC

Shelbourne v. Shamrock Rovers

St. Patrick's Athletic v. Bohemians

SSE Airtricity League Premier Division Table - with one game to go

Note: The side that finishes second bottom goes into a promotion/relegation play-off with Longford Town.

The top three sides qualify for the Europa League. The FAI Cup winners also qualify for the Europa League. Should Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians or Dundalk win the FAI Cup, and if Dundalk finish third, then the team that finishes fourth will qualify for Europe. Mathematically, St. Patrick's Athletic, Sligo Rovers and Waterford could all fill this position, so there is something at stake in each of the five games.

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