By Oisín Bradley
Galway United 1-0 Finn Harps
Galway United’s Francely Lomboto struck late in the day to seal victory for his side on home turf as both the Tribesmen and Finn Harps made a return to action for 2021.
Lomboto displayed a killer’s instinct and a sense of ruthlessness to pounce upon on mistake in the rearguard from Lee McLaughlin to find himself one-on-one with debutant goalkeeper Luke McNicholas. Lomboto, who is entering his second season with United, showed an unerring sense of calmness under pressure to slot the ball under the outstretched McNicholas and into the net to make it a winning start to the season for his side on the banks of the Corrib.
Whilst the goal spelled defeat for Harps and Ollie Horgan on his return to his hometown, there will be plenty learned from a dogged clash in Eamonn Deacy Park, not least regarding the new faces on show for the men from Ballybofey.
The visitors made a number of changes from their last eleven in their FAI Cup loss to Shamrock Rovers, with five different players coming into the fold from the off. One player who was not present on the day was Conor Barry. The Galwegian recently made the switch from Galway to Harps, but was unavailable.
John Caulfield’s eleven on the other hand was vastly different, with only Maurice Nugent remaining from their promotion play-off defeat at the hands of Longford Town. Ex-Finn Harps man Mikey Place started the clash against his former club on the bench, but came on at half-time.
A lot of ring-rust was on show in the opening 45 minutes, as both sides were looking to shake off the shackles of the long gap between fixtures. That said, the first half was marginally one where Galway United caused the most issues and they probed from the off, utilising the power and physicality of Padraic Cunningham, who recently resigned following his stint with the Galway Gaelic footballers. Cunningham’s presence on balls over the top proved to be difficult for the Harps defence to handle
It would be Harps who tested the goalkeeper first, with Stephen Doherty’s speculative shot from 25 yards barely challenging Conor Kearns between the sticks for the Tribesmen. At the other end, Cunningham’s power saw him nip into the box and get a header off. The header was somewhat tame and proved a simple catch for Mark Anthony McGinley in the Harps goal, but not before the linesman raised the offside flag.
The 17th minute saw a moment of quality from Galway United new man Ruairi Keating as he surged down the flank, however his dangerous ball across the six-yard box was dealt with by Kosovar Sadiki, who displayed a sense of composure himself to turn it behind.
It wouldn’t be long after before the Finn Park outfit were causing issues themselves, when Adam Foley called Kearns into action after getting the ball out from underneath his feet and unleashing a powerful snapshot. Kearns was forced to make a smart save and concede the corner.
In the 24th minute, Horgan’s men were on the edge of their seats momentarily once more, as a looping Mark Russell cross found the head of Jamie Browne. Browne’s close-range attempt narrowly sailed over Kearn’s crossbar.
Whilst the defences performed well to snuff out the danger on a number of occasions across the opening half, the fluidity of the passing and interplay was somewhat lacking on occasion.
There was cause for concern for Harps as the clock ticked towards the half-time whistle. Stephen Christopher’s attempt from a tight angle on the left caused some issues for keeper Mark McGinley as it squirmed away from his gloves. However, Foley was on hands to spare the blushes of his number one as he headed the ball over the bar and behind for the corner kick.
Both sides made a multitude of substitutions at the changeover, with net-minder McNicholas, Ethan Boyle, Ryan Rainey and Will Seymore all making their first appearances since signing for Harps in the off-season. For the Tribesmen, Conor McCormack and David Hurley made their debuts amongst a raft of other changes.
Harps undoubtedly started the half as the brighter of the two sides, and put significant pressure on the hosts under the Galway sun. Nine minutes in, Sean Boyd found himself unopposed on the edge of the penalty area. The shot from his left-boot contained a great deal of power, and Kevin Horgan had to be at his very best with a strong glove for his first save of the afternoon.
Will Seymore tried his luck with Horgan wrong-footed, however his first shot since signing from Sligo Rovers was a pea-roller which inched wide of the left upright.
Try though they might throughout the half, both sides struggled to break the deadlock and find their groove as they tried to get back up to speed.
In fact, the deadlock lasted until the 84th minute, when Lomboto displayed the ice in his veins when faced with the simple task of converting his one-on-one against Sligo Rovers loanee McNicholas.
Lomboto’s finish was simple, and means that Galway United can leave Eamonn Deacy Park content with their lot in their first outing of the season. However, when the first whistle blows on March 26th in Eamonn Deacy Park for the League of Ireland opener against Shelbourne, that this result will be in the minds of very few.
Galway United: Conor Kearns, Chris Horgan, Carlton Ubuazuonou, Maurice Nugent, Stephen Walsh(triallist), Gary Boylan, Stephen Christopher, Mikie Rowe, Colin Kelly, Ruairi Keating, Padraic Cunningham.
Subs Used: Kevin Horgan (GK), Chris Horgan, Shane Duggan, Conor McCormack, David Hurley, Killian Brouder, Mikey Place, Wilson Waweru, Francely Lomboto, Liam Corcoran Ethan Connolly
Finn Harps: Mark Anthony McGinley, Mark Russell, Jamie Browne, Kosovar Sadiki, David Webster, Shane McEleney, Tony McNamee, Ryan Connolly, Stephen Doherty, Adam Foley, Karl O’Sullivan.
Subs Used: Luke McNicholas (GK), Ethan Boyle, Christy McLaughlin, Sean Boyd, Will Seymore, Ryan Rainey, Ryan Sharkey, Lee McLoughlin, Joel Bradley, Ronan Gallagher.