This game will go down in the history of Waterford United as perhaps the club’s worst ever result.
They go into this evening’s second leg of the Eircom League Premier Division promotion-relegation play-off needing to score three goals in a game for the first time in the league this season.
It was nothing short of a shambles. Seconds after the full-time whistle, manager Gareth Cronin said he was prepared to tender his resignation to the Management Committee ahead of the second leg. Bitterly disappointed, Cronin was close to tears when he said. “This is the worst night of my life in football, both as a player and as a manager. I thought we had made progress in recent months but on the evidence of what I had to watch this evening we have not gone forward. As a matter of fact we have gone backwards.
“Not one player out there tonight in a Waterford shirt performed. We prepared in the proper fashion and the spirit in the camp was good leading up to the game but then they go out and turn in a perform like a group of strangers.
“We gave away silly goals and then when we were getting into the game Pat Flynn gets sent off, and I can tell you now that he will never play for this club again. It was dreadful, truly dreadful and every one of them will have to take a long hard look at themselves. It was a disgrace and I cannot stand over a performance like that. I just dont know what is going to happen now”.
The management committee members who were present at the game refused to accept his resignation and many telephone calls were made to those members who were not at Finn Park. A spokesman for the committee said that Gareth Cronin was under contract for next season and that they expected him to honour that contract.
Unless there is a massive improvement this evening (when top-scorer, seven-goal Vinny Sullivan should return after suspension) it’s now odds on that Waterford United will be playing in the First Division next season. They will be relegated twice within the space of 12 months, and it is unlikely that there will be another ‘Shelbourne’ to bail them out this time around.
Finn Harps took the lead after 18 minutes when defender Declan Boyle rose totally unmarked to head home a right win corner-kick taken by Marc Brolly. The game was turned after 61 minutes when the Waterford full-back Pat Flynn appeared to head-butt Jonathan Minnock after Willie John Kiely had fouled Declan Boyle.
Referee Paul Tuite gave Flynn his marching orders and two minutes later the reduced Waterford defence could not deal with a long ball played forward by Michael Funston and that gave Conor Gethins the chance to lob the ball over the stranded Dean Delaney in the Waterford goal.
A terrible night was rounded off on 88 minutes when Robbie Hedderman played the ball back to Delaney. The experienced goalkeeper for some reason best known to himself decide to pick up the ball inside his penalty area.
Jonathan Minnock’s free kick from 12 yards was blocked but when the ball fell to Stephen Parkhouse he hammered the final nail into Waterford’s coffin. Waterford had one shot on target all night and that was a long-range effort from Dave Warren after 71 minutes.
Finn Harps: James Gallagher, Paddy McLaughlin, Jonathan Minnock, Declan Boyle, Shaun Holmes, Tony Shields, Michael Funston, Sean McGowan, Stephen Parkhouse, Conor Gethins, Marc Brolly. Sub.: Declan Diven for Brolly (71 mins).
Waterford United: Dean Delaney, Pat Flynn, Robbie Hedderman, John Hayes, David Been, Dave Warren, Dave Mulcahy, Paul McCarthy, Alan Kearney, Willie John Kiely, Ray Scully. Subs.: Alan Mulcahy for Scully (H-T), Kenny Browne for Breen (67 mins), Cathal Lodan for Kearney (79 mins).
Referee: Paul Tuite (Dublin).