There was a large turnout at Badgers Place in Derry on Friday night of former Finn Harps players and officials from Derry, Donegal and Inishowen.
The assembled heard Patsy McGowan, manager of the Harps FAI Cup winning team, state that Derry was especially famous for its quality of footballers.
Over 40 players from the past attended the function organised by past Harps and Northern Ireland international Terry Harkin and reminiscing was the order of the night as past accolades and untold stories surfaced in what was a night of nostalgia.
Addressing the attendance, the former Finn Park chief McGowan went on to quote the famous Manchester United manager Tommy Docherty, who had once told him that “Success in football management was 10% psychology and 90% kidology!”
He continued that he never claimed or claims to know much about football, but that he just loved football and that he was lucky to live near Derry where the people were ‘especially famous for music, dance and their football talent!’
This, he said, ‘was not in the least disrespectful to the people or players from Donegal or further afield who had worn the Finn Harps colours with pride, either in the past or at present.’
Mr McGowan was merely stating that, due to its size, the city of Derry was a natural hinterland in his search for players as Finn Harps established themselves as Donegal’s representatives in League of Ireland football.
The reunion was organised by Eddie McGroarty, Terry Harkin and Declan McDowell and had been over a year in the melting pot culminating in a successful night for all.
Players present on the night included Jamesie Nicholl, Joe Nicholl, Tony O’Doherty, Joe Healey, Con McLaughlin, Kenny Harkin, Peter Hutton, Tony Hutton, Harry Sharkey, Kevin Mahon, Paddy Doherty, Jimmy McGroarty, Kevin McCool, Charlie McDermott, ‘Roper’ McDermott, Con McLaughlin, Kenny Harkin, Paul O’Keefe, Eddie Mahon, eclan Forbes, Tom McGuinness, Charlie Ferry, Terry Leake, Barry McCafferty, Brian McIvor and Stevie Wilkinson, and were joined later in the night by Liam Coyle and Harry McCourt.
Not surprising players talked about the scoring feats of the legendary Brendan Bradley and the battles against top teams of the time including Shamrock Rovers and Waterford who boasted stars such as Mick Leech, Johnny Matthews, Alfie Hale among many other classy opponents.
The clashes with Shamrock Rovers were legendary and the 5-2 win against Rovers at Ballybofey in the early seventies was looked on as partial revenge for the inauspicious 10-2 defeat that was endured in the first senior game at the Donegal venue.
Donal O’Doherty recalled the US tour of 1973 with relish: “What a trip that was. Joe Nicholl led the singing throughout the tour. His songs sung in Italian had many of the nuns on board some of the flights overcome with emotion.” Donal’s brother, Tony added: “This type of trip was unheard of back in the 1970s but it showed the ambition and spirit of the club that was Finn Harps.”
Patsy McGowan drew events to a conclusion by thanking the organisers of the reunion and also praising all the players for the many happy memories that they had provided for him.
He said that any heartaches caused by some nameless individuals were clearly outweighed by the ‘good times' enjoyed by all.
The former Harps supremo concluded: “You know that I love you all and thanks for the happy times.’
In response, James Nicholl, spoke on behalf of all gathered, to thank Patsy for his contribution to the club and to ask him a question often asked in the early days - ‘When do we get our wages?’ The players then joined in a rousing chorus of ‘We love you, Patsy, we do.’ It is fair to say that a good night was had by all in the Derry hostelry!
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