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County give title favourites a good test

Finn Harps    3 Kildare County   1

The odds are that last Friday’s trip by County to Ballybofey may be the last for some time as the Finn Park side have the destination of the first division championship in their own hands now and will almost certainly be plying their trade in the Premier next season.

Although Harps were deserving of their win the scoreline does not do justice to a Kildare side who matched the champions elect for most of the game and indeed had the better of the exchanges at times, particularly in the first half.

Harps opened the scoring on 14 minutes when Kildare struggled to clear the ball from defence and Stephen Parkhouse, who scored the winner for the Donegal club last week, fired low and hard past Colin Cassidy. Earlier Marc Brolly had gone close following a corner and Michael Funston was then shot across the face of goal as Harps dictated matters.

However, Kildare drew level on 22 minutes. Harps midfielder Shaun McGowan lost possession and Cathal Brady played the ball through for Philip Gorman, making his return to the side following his trip to India for the World Military Games, to score his twelfth goal of the season.

Eloka Asokuh was then denied by young Kildare goalkeeper Colin Cassidy but Kildare were by far the better side for the remainder of the first half. The game cruelly swung in Harps favour seven minutes after the break. A great build up by County saw Gorman beat Harps keeper Cullen all ends up with a low drive but the ball hit the foot of the post and ended up somehow in the keeper’s possession. The ball was punted upfield and Harp's  Marc Brolly crossed for the in-rushing John O'Loughlin to beat Colin Cassidy. This score came in the 52nd minute.

The clinching goal for Harps came in the 57th minute when Thoroughbred’s keeper Cassidy, whose performance on the night belied his young age, made his only mistake of the evening. He failed to hold a cross and McGowan was on  hand to tap home. As County chased the game in the final quarter Conor Gethins and Michael Funston had chances but Cassidy was equal to the task on both occasions.

It was far from Harps' best performance in recent games, but they have now won eight games in a row and the destiny of the title is in their own hands. They have now stretched their winning run to eight in a row but on this occasion they were well tested by a battling Kildare side, that played some very attractive football in front of a full house at Finn Park on the night.

County now entertain Kilkenny City in the penultimate game of the season at Station Road next Saturday at 7.30 and they travel to Dundalk for their final outing of the season the following Saturday, when all first division games kick off at 7.45pm

Finn Harps: Cullen, Asokuh, Minnock, McLaughlin, Holmes, Funston, O'Loughlin, McGowan, Parkhouse, Gethins, Brolly. Subs: Divin for Brolly, Breen for Gethins (both 86 mins), Brown for O'Loughlin (90 mins)

Kildare County: Cassidy, McCrossan, Stapleton, Kavanagh, Byrne, Cooling, Donnelly, Clancy, Gorman, Robinson, Brady. Subs: Rigney for Donnelly (61 mins), McArdle for Brady (67 mins), Mooney for Robinson (69 mins).

Referee: Mr Tom Connolly (Dublin)

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