Finn Harps F.C.
|Full name||Finn Harps Football Club|
|Ground||Finn Park, Ballybofey,
|Capacity||7,500 (400 seats)|
|League||League of Ireland
|Website||Club home page|
Finn Harps Football Club (Irish: Cumann Peile Chláirsigh na Finne) are an Irish football club playing in the First Division of the League of Ireland. The club was founded in 1954 and elected to the league in 1969. They hail from Ballybofey, County Donegal and play their home matches at Finn Park. The club's colours are blue and white, and they go by the nickname the Harps. The main successes of the club include winning an FAI Cup in 1973–74 and the First Division title in 2004. Due to the regular frequency of the club's relegation from and promotion to the Premier Division, they have been labelled a "yo-yo club".
The Early Years
Finn Harps was formed in 1954 as a junior club. The club's name derives from the river that runs through Ballybofey — the River Finn — and a traditional Irish symbol — the harp. They first came to national prominence by winning the 1968 FAI Junior Cup. This enabled them to compete in the 1969 FAI Intermediate Cup. After they were knocked out of that competition, club directors Fran Fields and Patsy McGowan decided to apply to the League of Ireland for membership. The club was admitted into the senior ranks in May 1969 and played their first senior game against Shamrock Rovers on 17 August 1969. They lost the game 10–2. After initial worries that the club were not of sufficient standard the club became a considerable force during the 1970s.
70s: A Decade Of Dominance
Finn Harps won their first senior trophy, the Dublin City Cup, in 1971–72, after a Brendan Bradley goal defeated Cork Hibernians at Dalymount Park. Two years later, Dalymount Park was again the scene of the club's only FAI Cup win. Two goals from Brendan Bradley and one by Charlie Ferry saw off the challenge of St. Patrick's Athletic. Finn Harps qualified for European competitions on four occasions during the 1970s. They appeared in the UEFA Cup three times against Aberdeen, Derby County and Everton respectively after finishing as runners-up in the league, and once in the European Cup Winners Cup, where they played Turkish Cup winners, Bursaspor. The club was again runner-up in the League of Ireland Cup finals of 1974 and 1975 to Waterford and Bohemians respectively. Through the 1970s, the club never once finished in the bottom half of the table and were widely respected for their attractive and attacking football style.
The 1980s saw a gradual decline of the club in terms of competing with the best in Ireland. An FAI Cup semi-final in 1981 and a League of Ireland First Division Shield final defeat by EMFA were the highlights of the decade for them and by 1985 the club had been relegated to the newly formed First Division. A series of managerial changes were effected over the next few years in an attempt to raise the club, but it was not until the early 1990s that there were signs of improvement. Patsy McGowan took over as manager for the third time at the start of the 1992–93 season. The next three seasons saw the club finish in the play-off position twice, although they were beaten both times; once by Cobh Ramblers and once by Athlone Town. McGowan was let go by the club before his aim of promotion could be completed. Nevertheless, Finn Harps went on to win promotion at the end of the 1995–96 season to end their eleven-season spell in the First Division. During the Summer of 1996, a consortium of businessmen made an offer to take control of the club, but when their offer was rejected, it led to resignations of the manager and certain members of the club committee. Charlie McGeever was appointed manager and despite time being against him, he managed to assemble a squad for the opening of the 1996–97 season. By the season's conclusion, he had ensured that the club's Premier Division status was retained. Off the field, the remaining committee members set the club up as a co-operative society, selling shares to the ordinary supporters, to ensure that the club would be owned and run by the people who they felt would truly care about it. A long-term blueprint for the future was put in place.
In 1998–99, Finn Harps finished fourth in the Premier Division; one point behind Shelbourne in third position and just missed out on Europe. They made it to the FAI Cup final and after a number of replays against Bray Wanderers they lost, leaving themselves with nothing to show, bar the Irish News Cup, for what is considered to be one of their most impressive seasons. After a very poor start to the 1999–00 season and having managed to win one point from a possible 21, Charlie McGeever resigned. Gavin Dykes was installed as manager and managed to retain the club's Premier Division status, but they were forced to go public due to financial difficulties and debts amounting to £280,000. The following season, Dykes resigned after an abysmal run of results and fan-favourite Jonathan Speak took his place as new financial structures were put in place and a newly appointed fund-raising committee was established along with numerous supporter clubs around the country. After a run of 14 games undefeated and a late-season fightback, Finn Harps were still relegated to the First Division on the last day of the season. This ended a 5-year run in the top-flight.
The Yo-Yo Years
Speak's first full season in charge saw the club finish second in the First Division to Drogheda United and they were then beaten on penalties by Longford Town in the play-off for promotion. The subsequent season saw the club finish third and lose at the play-off semi-final stage to Galway United. Speak managed to hold most of the squad together despite interest from a number of Premier Division clubs in top-scorer Kevin McHugh, who formed a successful forward partnership with English striker Damien Whitehead. Installed as the bookmaker's favourites to lift the 2003 title and win promotion, they made a good start but fell to fourth position after going without a win for a month by mid-September. This poor run included a home-loss to northwest rivals Sligo Rovers and a home-draw against league-leaders Dublin City in a game billed as a must-win match. Despite having only lost two games all season, the nine draws cost Speak his job. Speak's assistant, Sean McGowan took temporary charge until a suitable placement was found and steadied the club with two wins from two. Noel King was then appointed as the new manager going into the final third of the season. The club were rejuvenated and stormed back to the top of the First Division table with a club record equalling six wins on the trot. With only four games remaining, Finn Harps led the table by a point but losses away to Bray Wanderers and Dublin City handed the title to Dublin City and left Finn Harps in the now-dreaded play-offs once again. They disposed of Bray Wanderers in the semi-finals but lost in the final to local rivals Derry City, who had finished ninth in that season's Premier Division.
Noel King lasted six games into the 2004 season and left the club by mutual consent with the amount of travelling the Dubliner had to endure being cited as one of the main reasons for his departure. Sean McGowan, his assistant, once again took charge for two games but within ten days a shock replacement was announced. The new manager was former Derry City player and manager, Felix Healy, who had won all domestic major honours with his home-town club. Fans viewed the move by the Finn Harps board of directors as bold to give someone with such a history with the club's fiercest rivals the manager's job. However, Healy, in the club's golden jubilee year, won the club's first First Division title and achieved the promotion to the Premier Division that had eluded so many managers before him. However, the following season saw the club struggle in the Premier Division and Healy was sacked in July. Anthony Gorman agreed to become player-manager until the end of the season. However, at season's end with Finn Harps relegated again, Gorman agreed to take the position on a full-time basis but left following the 2006 season as his attempts to lead the club to promotion failed. In 2007, after Paul Hegarty took charge of managing the team, the club put all of their players up for sale due to financial difficulties and struggled in the lower half of the First Division while still trying to eradicate the debts that nearly left the club bankrupt a number of seasons earlier. The 2007 season started sluggishly with a number of defeats and 'bore draws' notably against Monaghan United, but a lengthy unbeaten run left the club in second place in the league, only one point behind Cobh Ramblers. They emerged victorious from the first division play-offs with a 2-0 win over Dundalk. The play-off final, 1st leg against Waterford United at Finn Park, ended with Harps taking a 3-0 advantage to the Waterford RSC in the return leg, which ended 3-3 and saw Harps promoted to the Premier Division 6-3 on aggregate.
In 2008, the Harps began the conversion from a semi-professional, part-time club to a full-time setup over the off-season, with 16 full-time players on the books as of the opening day of the season. Though the conversion was a successful one, the Finn Harps got relegated on the final day even though winning on that day. It was Galway United's win which in the end sealed the Harp's fate. In 2009, the Finn Harps played in the FAI First Division, on a semi-professional basis once again.
On 11 May 2009, Paul Hegarty left the club, stating "personal reasons" and was replaced as manager by James Gallagher.
On 3 May 2011 Peter Hutton took over as manager along with former Northern Ireland international and fellow former Derry City player Felix Healy. Hutton was declared as the new manager while Healy took on the role of Director of Football at the club. Following the final home game of the 2013 season, a 3-2 win against champions Athlone Town, Peter Hutton announced his resignation as manager.
Colours and crests
The traditional colours of Finn Harps are blue and white. The club played in white jerseys and blue shorts upon entry into the League of Ireland. Their away strip was all green. Since that time Harps have played in either white or blue jerseys as their primary colour and used green or yellow as their away colours. In the 1975/76 and 1976/77 Harps wore blue and white stripes and repeated this during 1983/84 and 1984/85. The current home strip is all blue and the current away strip is all green.
Finn Harps have sported various crests throughout their history. All, largely circular in composition, have featured a harp and new designs have essentially been modernised updates of the previous crest. The harp has traditionally been a symbol of Ireland. Footballs have also been a common feature.
The modern stylised crests contain the club's name in a Gaelic-style font, similar to the Gandalf typeface.
For the club's golden jubilee year, 2004, they introduced a new golden crest which was very similar to their early crest. Bar this crest, blue, green and white have been common colours used.
In 2010, Finn Harps decided to play in an all-white kit due to demand from supporters after they wore an all-white kit against Shelbourne to celebrate 40 years in the League of Ireland in 2009. They reverted to blue home kits in 2011.
Finn Harps play at Finn Park in Ballybofey, County Donegal. Finn Park is formed mainly of open terracing surrounding the football pitch. In 2005, the terraces were renovated for health and safety reasons as new concrete surfaces replaced the old viewing slopes. In total, the ground's capacity accommodates approximately 7,500 spectators. The stadium has one covered stand, which also caters for 500 seated supporters. The pitch dimensions measure 110 yards in length by 80 yards in width. Sitting on the banks of the River Finn, Finn Park is prone to waterlogging in times of wet weather.
The club planned to move to a new covered 6,600 all-seater stadium just across the River Finn in Stranorlar. The proposal will also feature an FAI Regional Development Centre. Club shareholders gave the club's board a mandate in 2005 to proceed with the stadium plans. Planning permission was obtained in mid-2005. Approval to proceed to tender was obtained from the Football Association of Ireland in early 2006 and local developers, Joseph McMenamin and Sons, won the tender process and had their tender approved a year later. Finn Harps received funding of €750,000 in 2007 in order to commence works at the new stadium. They hope to be in the new stadium for the 2013 season. Work ceased on the new stadium due to the recession and lack of funds. Work was expected to resume on the stadium in early 2011 .
Finn Harps supporters share a friendly rivalry with their neighbours in the North-West, Derry City F.C. The most exciting encounter between the two sides was perhaps the 2003 relegation play-off between the two sides. With a Brandywell Stadium packed with both sets of fans and a Finn Harps managed by a former Derry manager in the form of Noel King, it was a highly charged affair that finished 2-1 to Derry after an extra-time goal from Derry City favourite, Liam Coyle. A friendly rivalry is maintained between the two clubs, yet both have encountered times of trouble in recent years. One team has often been helped by the other in this regard. Phil Coulter, in particular, is known as a fan of both sides, and has been instrumental in keeping them as operational football clubs.Harps have a good relationship with Shamrock Rovers. The clubs have provided financial assistance to each other in the past and both sets of supporters socialize together when the clubs play one another.
Finn Harps and Derry City share what is called the Northwest Rivalry. Although Sligo Rovers also play in the Northwest of Ireland, the clubs' respective games with this team are not considered to represent the playing of the traditional Northwest Derby. It has been hotly contested since Derry entered the League in 1985. The close proximity of the two clubs, being only 40 miles apart, has contributed to the rivalry with Sligo being further away for both clubs. The strong contrast between the two clubs, Rural/Urban and the gulf in success, has aided the rivalry. Both sets of fans can be frequently heard singing songs about each other. Many players have played for both clubs, the most notable of which is Kevin Mchugh.
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
- FAI Cup: 1
- FAI Junior Cup: 1
- Dublin City Cup: 1
- "Malseed to Albion from Finn Harps", BBC Sport Online, 31 August 2006. Retrieved on 6 June 2007.
- Ramsay, Bartley & Dullaghan, Rodney. "Finn Harps Club History", FinnHarps.com, 2006. Retrieved on 5 June 2007.
- This plan, upon eventual completion, will include a school of excellence for young County Donegal footballers. It also made way for the renovation of Finn Park, of which certain sections of the work have already gotten underway.
- "Hegarty is new Finn Harps manager", BBC Sport Online, 20 December 2006. Retrieved on 6 June 2007.
- "Peter Hutton tenders resignation at Finn Harps", Donegal News, 2013. Retrieved on 5 October 2013.
- "Temporary Works at Finn Park continue", FinnHarps.com, 12 April 2005. Retrieved on 6 June 2007.
- "Final preparations continue at Finn Park", FinnHarps.com, 2005. Retrieved on 6 June 2007.
- Finn Harps, What's the score?, 2000. Retrieved on 6 June 2007.
- "Harps welcome Minister O'Donoghues announcement", FinnHarps.com, 16 November 2006. Retrieved on 6 June 2007.
- "Harps allocated €750,000 to start new Stadium this year", FinnHarps.com, 6 April 2007. Retrieved on 6 June 2007.
- Derry To Stay In Top Flight
- Honours, FinnHarps.com, 2007. Retrieved on 6 June 2007