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50 years in the League of Ireland for Finn Harps

 

Finn Harps’ thrilling 3-2 win over Waterford United on Friday was significant. It lifted them off the bottom of the table, overtaking UCD who had lost narrowly at home to Shamrock Rovers in one of Friday’s two Dublin derbies [St Patrick’s Athletic drew with Bohemians in the other]. The win also meant that, after Friday’s results and based on last five games, nobody aside from Dundalk and Sligo Rovers was in better form than Harps; since losing to Saint Patrick’s Athletic on 22 April, Harps have drawn with Sligo and Cork and beaten UCD as well as Waterford.

This is worth celebrating. I’m in a celebratory mood this week as I’m turning 50 and it’s a 50th for Finn Harps too as May 1969 saw the club confirmed as League of Ireland members for the upcoming season. The club had been formed in 1954 and an FAI Junior Cup win in 1968 allowed the club to enter the 1969 FAI Intermediate Cup and encouraged them to apply for League membership.

To say the 1970’s was a golden era for Harps would be an understatement. The club rarely finished outside the top half of the table in the League during the decade. The Dublin City Cup was won in 1972 [a now defunct competition; despite its name it allowed non-Dublin clubs to compete in it!] and the big one followed in 1974 when the FAI Cup was won, qualifying Harps for the European Cup Winners Cup in 1974-75 where they lost out to Turkish side Bursaspor.

Harps were no strangers to Europe in the 70’s, with three outings in the UEFA Cup their reward for some high finishes in the League. There were heavy defeats against Aberdeen, Derby County and Everton but that was no disgrace given the standard these clubs were attaining at the time.

Harps may have declined in the 1980’s but I remember the 1999 FAI Cup Final between Bray Wanderers and them very well [I should say ‘Finals’ because the Cup was only won after an epic suite of games at Tolka Park comprising the actual final and two replays]. Harps were favourites for the Cup as they had been on fire in the League that season, finishing 4th during an impressive 5-year stint in the top flight.

I met Ollie Horgan at the Carlisle Grounds a couple of seasons back when both Harps and Bray were in the top flight. Looking from the outside in he seems a really good fit for the manager’s seat at Finn Park. Allegedly the club were also considering Julian Dicks for the role back in late 2013; somehow I don’t think that would have worked out and they wisely made the correct choice.

Ollie’s elevation to being a League of Ireland manager with Harps was a natural progression for him. He’d managed Fanad United to 3 Ulster Senior League titles and his time at the club saw them enter an U19 side in the inaugural League of Ireland U19 campaign. He also had a national profile from managing the Republic of Ireland schoolboys team.

Here’s to the next 50 years!

Brian Quigley

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