Finn Park, home ground of
Finn Harps was formed in 1954 as a junior club. They first
came to national prominence by winning the FAI Junior Cup
in 1968. This then enabled them to play in the FAI Intermediate
Cup in 1969. After they were knocked out of that competition,
local men Fran Fields and Patsy McGowan took the decision
to apply to the League of Ireland for membership. The club
was admitted into the senior ranks in May of 1969 and Harps
were due to play their first senior game on 17th August 1969.
Harps were beaten by ten goals to two in that match by the
mighty Shamrock Rovers and there was much comment in the following
week by the national press, that the club were not up to the
task and it had been a foolish decision by the League to accept
a team from Donegal. However, during the seventies Finn Harps
went on to become one of the most consistent and top sides
in the country.
Harps won their first senior trophy, the Dublin City Cup
in 1971/2, when a Brendan Bradley goal defeated Cork Hibernians
in Dalymount Park. Two years later Dalymount Park was again
the scene of Harps' first and to date only FAI Cup Final victory.
Two goals from the legendary Brendan Bradley and one by Charlie
Ferry seeing off the challenge of St Patricks Athletic by
three goals to one. Click Here for Cup Winning Team pic
Four times during the 1970s Harps played European football.
Three times as runners up in the League Championship, playing
in the UEFA Cup against Aberdeen, Derby County and Everton.
Once in the European Cup Winners Cup when they appeared against
Turkish Cup winners Bursaspor.
Harps also finished runners up in the League Cup finals of
1974 and 1975 to Waterford and Bohemians respectively. Throughout
the seventies Harps never once finished in the bottom half
of the table and were widely respected for their attractive
and attacking football style.
Sadly the eighties 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 Shield final defeat by EMFA (now Kilkenny City)
were the highlights of the decade 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 wasnt until the
early 90s that Harps once again began to become a force to
be reckoned with.
Patsy McGowan stepped in as manager for the third time at
the start of the 1992/93 season. The next three seasons saw
Harps finish in the play off position twice. Sadly, Harps
were beaten both times, once by Cobh Ramblers and once by
Athlone Town. Patsy was let go by the club half way through
the 1995/96 season before the job could be completed, but
Harps went on to win promotion with Dermot Keely at the helm.
Thus ending eleven seasons in the dreaded First Division.
During that summer a consortium of business men attempted
to take control at Finn Park, and when this offer was finally
rejected it lead 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 season and by the
seasons end he ensured that Harps Premier Division status
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 truly cared about it. A blueprint for the
future was put in place that will include a school of excellence
for the young Donegal footballers. Major plans for the renovation
of Finn Park were also included in the blueprint, and certain
sections of the work have already got underway.
In their third season in the Premier division Harps finished
in fourth position, one point behind Shels in third, just
missing out on Europe. More notably however they made the
FAI Cup final against Bray Wanderers. After a marathon series
of matches Bray won leaving Finn Harps with nothing to show
for possibly their best season ever but the Irish News Cup.
After a very disappointing start to their fourth season having
only one point from a possible twenty one Charlie Mc Geever
resigned. Gavin Dykes was installed as manager. Once again
Harps retained their Premiership status but the club was forced
to go public with their financial difficulties which made
it known that they were around £280,000 in debt.
Dykes resigned after an absymal run of games and fan's favourite
Jonathan Speak took over as first team manager. New financial
structures were put in place and and a newly appointed fundraising
committee with numerous supporter clubs set up around the
country. After a run of 14 games undefeated and an amazing
fightback from Harps they were still relegated to Division
One on the last day of the season after 5 years in the top
Speak has managed to hold most of last seasons squad together
as they prepare for another assault on Division One including
the top scorer in the country last term, Kevin McHugh. Last
season, Harps were pipped to the First Division Championship
by Drogheda United and were then cruelly beaten on penalties
by Longford Town.This year again, only one team is to be promoted
automatically, and that being the champions. Only time will
tell if Speakie and his troops can deliver the first ever
national title to the banks of the Finn and bring The Harps
back to the Premier Division and to where they rightly belong!