Town's test in Ireland

FINN Harps will provide a stern test for Ipswich Town tonight as Roy Keane's side kick-off their pre-season campaign in Ireland.A youthful Harps side may be languishing eighth in the 12-team League of Ireland First Division, but they have found some renewed confidence of late.

Stuart Watson

FINN Harps will provide a stern test for Ipswich Town tonight as Roy Keane's side kick-off their pre-season campaign in Ireland.

A youthful Harps side may be languishing eighth in the 12-team League of Ireland First Division, but they have found some renewed confidence of late.

Having been relegated from Ireland's top-flight last season, the Donegal-based side - whose glory days of the 1970s saw them play in the UEFA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup - were forced into a fire sale of their best players at the start of the year.


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The new-look young Harps side struggled at the start of the current campaign, which began in February, winning just four of their opening 17 fixtures. However, recent weeks have seen am upturn in form.

The end of June saw them grab a good 1-1 draw against title hopefuls University College Dublin and, after a two-week mid-season break, Finn Harps came from behind to beat high-flying Sporting Fingal 3-2 just three days ago.

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Diarmaid Doherty, a sports journalist at the Donegal Democrat, said: “It's an honour for the club and its players to be hosting Ipswich and although they are a very young and inexperienced team, they are playing with a maturity beyond their years at present.”

“Finn Harps played Celtic in a friendly two seasons ago and they came here with a very strong squad - the likes of Thomas Gravesen, Evander Sno and Darren O'Dea all playing.

“Harps beat them 3-2 that day so there is no doubt about it, they'll be taking this match against Ipswich very seriously.”

The match is likely to draw around five to six thousand fans to the 9,000 capacity Finn Park, which is largely terracing.

Ipswich manager Roy Keane will of course bring a strong Irish contingent to the match, with Alex Bruce, Owen Garvan, Shane Supple, Jon Walters, Alan Quinn and new signing Damien Delaney all in his travelling squad.

The match is the first of three on Irish soil for Ipswich this month, with games against Waterford United on July 17 and Cork City two days' later to follow.

Keane said: “We will be taking a decent squad with us. I'll look to give as many of the players as I can a run out but I don't want to keep making changes and slow the game down so we will look at half-time as a chance to change things around a bit.

“I'm looking forward to the game. The players will have been back in training for four or five days and will have got a feel of the ball and it will be a good test for us.

“I enjoy going to Ireland for games. Their season is up and running so they will probably have the edge on us fitness wise. The Irish mentality comes into it as well. They always want to do well against the English clubs and show they can play so that gives the games a nice edge, without it being over the top. They will have players who will be looking to impress and I'm sure it will be a good challenge for us.”

Ipswich squad: Richard Wright, David Wright, Alex Bruce, Owen Garvan, Pablo Counago, David Norris, Kevin Lisbie, Jamie Peters, Jonathan Stead, Pim Balkestein, Danny Haynes, Jonathan Walters, Alan Quinn, Veliche Shumulikoski, Shane Supple, Tommy Smith, Liam Trotter, Damien Delaney.

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