Former Harps player Michael O'Connor is now with Waterford
Rejuvenated Waterford are the visitors to Finn Park this evening for what is Finn Harps’ final home game in this season’s Airtricity League Premier Division campaign. Kick-off is 8.00 pm.
Strangely, rather than being potential a crunch game for both sides as was being forecast not so long ago, the outcome of this contest will almost certainly have absolutely no bearing on the final standings of both sides.
Harps lie six points ahead of bottom rung UCD with two games left, and have a goal difference that is 17 better that the students so it is the latter who face automatic relegation.
For the Ballybofey club, attention is now already switching to a two-legged relegation play-off against either Cabinteely or Drogheda United from the First Division.
“We can start preparing for the play-offs now,” commented Harps manager Ollie Horgan.
While he acknowledged that his team have “huffed and puffed” to get where they are and avoid automatic relegation, he knows that the weeks ahead will be tough.
And he is anxious that Harps can get something from the Waterford game - and their last league outing, away to Derry City - so at least they can go into the play-offs with some momentum.
“It’s going to be tough but we would have taken this at the start of the season,” he added.
For Harps the play-offs will be like “two cup finals”.
Horgan is certainly well aware of the demands of the play-offs, having been involved previously in 2015 and 2018. On both occasions, Harps triumphed. And both times it was against Limerick.
The one big difference this time is that Harps go into the play-offs as the Premier Division side.
And Horgan has warned that it is often the First Division side that enters into them with more momentum, and a run of good results.
Barely two months ago, Waterford were still in danger of being sucked into the relegation quagmire, but they have turned around their season and come to Ballybofey in seventh spot, a full 15 points ahead of the Donegal side..
Alan Reynold’s in-form Waterford have won four out of their last five Premier Division games - the only defeat being a 1-0 set-back at home to champions Dundalk.
One of their stars has been former Harps striker Michael O’Connor who joined the Munster side from Linfield as part of a deal that saw French midfielder Bastien Hery going into the opposite direction.
In the previous games between Harps and Waterford this season, Harps won 3-2 in Ballybofey and notched up their only away win of the league with a 1-0 success at the RSC.
In the other game at the Waterford venue, Harps lost 4-0.
With the club’s finances still in a far from healthy position, Harps will be hoping for a decent crowd for this last league home clash, and an even bigger one for their home tie in the play-offs.
Harps will be away for the first-leg, on Monday, October 28, with the second-leg at Finn Park on Friday, November 1.
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