Finn Harps – The Early years: 1954 & 1955 By Bartley Ramsay

There was good feedback to my article in the previous match programme on the foundation and first year that Finn Harps appear to have been in existence.   As a result I will look at the middle nineteen fifties in this article.

In May of 1954 an all Donegal XI was picked by the Donegal League selection committee. Unfortunately the names of the selectors are not known.   This was a side to play against Sligo in the All-Ireland Inter-county competition.  Possibly a forerunner for the FAI’s Oscar Traynor Cup competition.  It was indicated that “as a result of the haste of the competition, the selectors have gone for an experienced team rather than one based on current form.”  The report did indicate in the event of the Donegal side winning the game that a trial match would be used to choose the team. There was only one Harps man included in the squad Danny McNulty who was one of the two reserves.  Included in the team were such luminary soccer men as Ian McGarvey, Brendan McDaid, Charlie Bovril Collins, Teddy Blaney and Bobby Toland who was later a manager of Finn Harps.

The match ended up in a win for Sligo by the odd goal in five.   I have reproduced the match report alongside this article.  The match took place in the Showgrounds in Sligo.  Sligo would go out to Longford in the next round, who in turn were defeated by Galway in the semi-finals.  Galway would win the trophy by defeating Westmeath in the Final.

I have discovered that Harps played in the East Donegal Association Football League in 1954 and uncovered match reports from Harps taking part in the Convoy Cup – one of the many Donegal Summer Cups that were played during the fifties, sixties and early nineteen seventies.  Not all the results for the East Donegal Football League are recorded and as a consequence I have not been able to establish whether it was completed or not.

This version of the Donegal League had been inaugurated the previous year and comprised of five areas, namely, Swilly Area, Eastern Area, Inishowen Area, Southern Area and Burtonport Area.   Presumably, there was some form of play off to crown the champions of Donegal, but, I have been unable to establish if this was the case. If anyone can throw any light on the Donegal League of the time I would greatly appreciate it.

Moving into 1955 I have found match reports for games from both the Convoy Cup and the Letterkenny Cup.   In fact Finn Harps were defeated by Letterkenny side Deele Rovers by four goals to one in the final of the Convoy Cup.  One Eunan Blake, later to play and manage Finn Harps appeared for Letterkenny in the Final.

Make sure to tune in for the next installment, as mention of what became Finn Park is made in 1956. Does anyone know where in Ballybofey football would have been played prior to the opening of Finn Park?