Finn Harps relegated to First Division after UCD loss

UCD came from behind to beat Finn Harps and relegate the Donegal club to the First Division after four seasons in the top flight
Finn Harps relegated to First Division after UCD loss

DISCONSOLATE: Finn Harps manager Ollie Horgan consoles Filip Mihaljevic of Finn Harps after the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division match between Finn Harps and UCD at Finn Park in Ballybofey, Donegal. Pic: Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Finn Harps 1 (Tourish 29) UCD 3 (Dignam 30, Lonergan 72 (pen), 77)

UCD came from behind to beat Finn Harps and relegate the Donegal club to the First Division after four seasons in the top flight.

Harps took the lead in the first half at Finn Park through a Conor Tourish header but the students equalised within 30 seconds courtesy of a cracking long-range effort from Mark Dignam.

And Tommy Lonergan then bagged a brace after the break to ensure that UCD got the victory that will earn them a promotion/relegation play-off date irrespective of what happens in the final series of games next week.

UCD Manager Andy Myler - starting a two game touchline suspension - made three changes from the side that drew 1-1 away to Shelbourne last Monday with Michael Gallagher, Evan Osam and Tommy Lonergan in for Jamie Duggan, John Haist and Harvey O’Brien who all dropped down to the bench.

Harps, with one win in eight, made a single alteration, as Jaime Siaj started in preference to Dylan Duncan.

Given that Harps had only one clean sheet in nine and UCD had just one in 13, goals were always likely.

That said, the first quarter was cagey stuff. Harps forced a couple of corners and had more of the possession but it was UCD who had the first real chances, with a Jack Keaney free that was comfortably saved, a Sean Brennan long range effort wide of the target, and a close range header from Dara Keane that wrestled up in the side-netting.

But Harps took the lead in the 29th minute when Tourish got onto the end of a Regan Donelan free to head home from close range in a crowded box.

But UCD were back on level terms straight from the kick-off when Dignam - who got his first goal of the season earlier in the week - let fly with a rocket of a shot from over 30 yards that stunned the Finn Park faithful.

Harps almost restored their lead in the 35th minute with Kian Moore going full stretch to tip over a Donelan free.

At the other end during an increasingly entertaining contest, Dignam saw another fine effort smacking off the foot of the post before half-time while Donelan had a curling free that was narrowly wide.

Second half Dara Keane and Tommy Lonergan had chances for UCD before the hour mark as the intensity waned compared with the first half.

But Tommy Lonergan then broke through the Harps defence as he latched onto a Dara Keane pass and plant the ball past James McKeown in the 72nd minute to make it 2-1.

And five minutes later UCD were awarded a penalty for handball against Tourish which was duly despatched into the net from the spot by Lonergan.

Finn Harps: McKeown; Boyle, Slevin, Tourish, Donelon (Nicholson 6, 63 mins); Boylan, Connolly (O'Donnell, 76 mins), McNamee; Siaj (Duncan, 78 mins); Mihaljevic, Jones (Rainey, 63 mins). 

UCD: Moore; Gallagher, Keaney, Todd, Osam (Higgins, 87 mins); Brennan, Caffrey; Nolan (O’Brien, 87 mins), Keane, Dignam; Lonergan (Haist, 90 mins).

Referee: N. Doyle (Dublin).

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