Finn Harps joined the League of Ireland back in 1969 and have endured a real roller coaster of a ride ever since. Each week, we ask a fan just what the club means to them. We start off with Ciaran Cannon from Kilcar, a massive Harps fan who does some media work for the club as well as being a GAA match reporter for Ocean FM.
Why do you support Finn Harps?
Being from Kilcar, a GAA driven parish, I get asked this question a lot. It all started back on Easter Sunday 1999, Finn Harps were playing live on RTE 2 television against Galway United in the FAI Cup Semi-Final. I will always remember watching this match with my dad and celebrating Donal O’Brien and Johnny Speak scoring the two Harps goals to send the Donegal club into their first FAI Cup Final since 1974.
I guess my mother, Carmel (neé Quinn) being from Ballybofey might have played a part. There is something special about the buzz and atmosphere in Finn Park on match night and to this day I still get the same buzz and feeling heading down Navenny Street. Finn Harps is a real family club full of volunteers from the tea and soup ladies to the club shop people and not forgetting Nigel and co for their vocal support.
I still watch the matches from behind the home dug out where I am in good company with John O’Donnell, Seamus McBrearty (Patrick's father) and Gerard McBrearty (all Kilcar), Brian Mc Granaghan (Leterkenny) and Harps legend Con Mc Laughlin.
Tell us about some of your childhood memories supporting Harps?
The first match I attended in Finn Park was Finn Harps v Leicester City in a pre-season friendly in the summer of 2000. Leicester at the time were managed by Martin O’Neill and the side included stars such as Steve Guppy and Robbie Savage.
I then started to attend Finn Harps matches on a regular basis, thanks to Gerry Kennedy who took me to all of the Finn Harps home matches for at least seven full seasons. Gerry did a lot for soccer in my area and was one of the founding members of Carrick Town FC.
What football gear or memorabilia do you have?
I got my first Finn Harps jersey for my birthday in 1999, two weeks before the FAI Cup final. In my opinion it is still the nicest Finn Harps jersey. In 2002, thanks to Kilcar native Gerry Haughey, a Finn Harps steward at the time, I received the away Finn Harps strip kindly given to me by Paddy “Rivaldo” McGrenaghan.
In 2009, when I turned 21, Ann Kelly and her sister Mary Doogan who lives in Kilcar kindly gave me a birthday card signed by all of the Finn Harps squad. Recently I received a Finn Harps birthday cake from my parents Michael and Carmel, sister Breedge and daughter Caitlin, a gift I will always remember.
Select three major highlights as a fan
1. In 2002, Harps, who were then in Division One, defeated high flying Shelbourne in Finn Park in the FAI Cup. The Dublin side travelled to Donegal top of the Premier Division and were deserving red hot favorites. Former Harps manager Dermot Keely was in charge of Shels who had Wes Hoolahan, Dessie Baker and Stephen Geoghegan. Donegal native and Harps legend Johnathon Minnock was also lining out for Shels and scored the first goal of the match. Niall Cooke equalised for Harps and Kevin Mc Hugh netted the winner. I went to the match that night with my grand uncle George Quinn (RIP) and the atmosphere was electric.
2. In 2004 being in Finn Park to watch Finn Harps lift the First Division trophy was a must for all Harps fans and I certainly was no different. I even manged to help organize a bus to the match from my native Kilcar. Finn Park was packed to the rafters as Dundalk came to town for the last match of the season and had little to play for as they finished mid table in the First Division that season.
Felix Healy was in the hot seat at Finn Park that season in a side that included Shane Bradley, Tom Mohan, Eloka Asokuh and Paddy McGrenaghan. The Donegal public, young and old certainly got behind the Harps that season.
3. Early November 2015 is one night I will never forget for all the right reasons. Ollie Horgan’s side was in the promotion/relegation play-off. Limerick won the first leg 1-0 so Harps had it all to do in front of a packed Finn Park. Mickey Funston got the all important goal which meant it was 1-1 on aggregate after 90 minutes.
As we approached the end of the second period of extra time BJ Banda grabbed a late winner for Harps. The crowd went absolutely crazy. As me and seven year old Conor O Donnell headed on to the pitch to celebrate with hundreds of other Harps fans Finn Harps were heading back to the top tier of Irish soccer for the first time since 2008.
Select three major disappointments
1 Not winning the FAI Cup Final in 1999.
I will never forget the first replay. Harps were leading 2-1 where Bray got a late equaliser. My heroes were players such as Fergal Harkin, Johnny Speak and not forgetting the manager Charlie Mc Geever.
Above: The Finn Harps side that beat Galway United at Terryland Park to reach the FAI Cup Final in 1999.
2. That terrible night in Derry in December 2003.
Finn Harps and Derry played out a scoreless draw in Finn Park in the first leg so it was the case of winner takes all in the Brandywell. Harps were managed by Noel King. I will never forget Kevin McHugh's goal but it was Derry City who would go on to win this match 2-1 thanks to a goal from Liam Coyle.
3. Getting relegated in 2008. The club went fully professional that season and were managed by Paul Hegerty. Some great players were in this side including Tony Shields and Shaun Williams who later went on to represent Ireland.
First time you saw Finn Harps live
The first time I saw Finn Harps live was on May 9, 1999 when Harps played Bray Wanderers in the FAI Cup Final in Tolka Park. Although there were no goals in the match it was a trip to Dublin I really enjoyed. I was that excited the night before the match I only slept for two hours. I stayed in Dublin on the Sunday night and we went to the team hotel that night, this is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. As an 11 year old child getting to spend time with Johnny Speak and Tom Mohan meant so much to me.
Your all-time Finn Harps XI
Ciaran Gallagher, Eloka Asokuh, Declan Boyle (Captain), Shane Bradley, Jonathon Minnock, Johnny Kenny, Tom Mohan, Paddy McGrenaghan, Johnny Speak, Kevin McHugh, Paddy McCourt.
And also worth a mention
Mike Turner (in a short spell at the club he scored important goals), Shaun McGowan (a real work horse), Niall Bonner (he had the potential to make it cross channel), Neil Fitzhenry and James Mulligan.
Players who never got the recognition they deserved
Ray Kenny, Brian McKenna, Damien Whitehead, and Gareth Harkin
Other teams I have a soft spot for
It would have to be Sligo Rovers. A hard working community club. The Showgrounds is always a nice place to visit as a away supporter.
Favourite team outside of the League of Ireland
Being a Kilcar man GAA is a huge part of my life so therefore it would have to be the Kilcar GAA team. I am as passionate about my local GAA Club as I am Finn Harps however, Kilcar people may disagree.
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