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‘I don’t know how we’ll do, but we’ll go again next year,’ insists Finn Harps boss Ollie Horgan

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Finn Harps manager Ollie Horgan: 'It doesn’t get any easier, that was the fourth year in a row where we just survived.' Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Finn Harps manager Ollie Horgan: 'It doesn’t get any easier, that was the fourth year in a row where we just survived.' Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Finn Harps manager Ollie Horgan: 'It doesn’t get any easier, that was the fourth year in a row where we just survived.' Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Dubliner Dave Webster jokes that in those days with his previous clubs, Ballybofey, Co Donegal, was the last place in Ireland he wanted to visit.

I hated coming up here, hated it,” says the defender, who has just completed his second season with Finn Harps, after earlier spells with Bray Wanderers, Shamrock Rovers, Waterford and St Patrick’s Athletic.

Now, he’s one of their own. Asked by a fan on his way out of the Finn Park dressing-rooms after Friday’s 5-0 win over Longford Town, where his side secured their Premier Division status, if he was staying up in the town for the night, Webster joked that he was up for the weekend, maybe even a week if he could manage it. Celebrations carried on into the weekend, on the back of their feat of staying up, another great escape orchestrated by long-serving manager Ollie Horgan.

“You see the crowd we had on Friday, people buy into the club. Players buy into it,” says the Galway native. “It doesn’t get any easier, that was the fourth year in a row where we just survived, it isn’t easy to do but fair play to the players, they will be better people for all of this.”

The annual question over Harps is, can they do it again? With Shelbourne planning to make a big statement next season on their return to the top flight, massive investment into Derry City on the way, Dundalk regrouping and the likes of St Patrick’s Athletic and Sligo Rovers buttressed by guaranteed European revenue, it’s certain to be harder for member-owned Harps to compete with their vast resources.

“I don’t know how you go again but we’ll try,” says Horgan.

A key factor for Harps over the last two seasons was the financial cushion the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) afforded in terms of paying wages, and that support will not be there in 2022.

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“Yes, we won’t have the PUP next year. But we didn’t have the PUP two or three years ago and we did ok, we paid our bills and managed, so it’s not just that,” says Horgan.

Bringing in players is not easy, given Harps’ part-time status. But Horgan’s recruitment has been superb, and blow-ins like Webster, Adam Foley and Seán Boyd (Dublin), Ryan Connolly (Galway) and Karl O’Sullivan (Limerick) blend in alongside more exotic imports like Kosovar Sadiki (Canada), Will Seymore (USA) and new local hero Tunde Owolabi (Belgium/England).

“The foreign lads just bed in, just look at Luca Asokuh, he came here years ago and is still in the town, and doesn’t want to leave, but with the displays we have had I can see clubs banging down the door to get some of our players,” says Webster.

“I have loved my two years here, the league needs clubs like Harps, it needs to be a national league, for the league to grow you need that interest across the country,not just in Dublin. So to be here now and see what it means is fantastic.”


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