Owolabi hat-trick steers Harps closer to safety with win over St Pat's

Tunde Owolabi (right) became the first Finn Harps player to score a hat-trick in the league since Davitt Walsh in 2006 Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

Hat-trick hero Tunde Owolabi could be just the man to keep Finn Harps out of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division relegation quagmire this season.

The Belgian striker became the first Harps player to score a hat-trick in the league since Davitt Walsh in 2006 (in a 4-1 Division One success over Monaghan) as Harps stunned St. Patrick’s Athletic in a 3-1 success on Friday.

In fact, you have to go back to 1997 for the last hat-trick scored by a Harps player in the Premier Division. That honour belongs to Sion Mills great, Jonathan Speak - although on that occasion Harps lost 4-3 to Sligo Rovers.

Owolabi has been threatening to explode in front of goal in recent outings - and he certainly came good against the Saints in a cracking game.

“It was definitely nice to have the fans back, it was a great atmosphere and we put in a massive performance against the second best team in the country,” he said.

"I'm proud of all three (goals)."

“On a day we are a match for anyone,” he declared, noting that Harps have now won four on the trot, three in the league, plus an FAI cup win.

Owolabi was used sparingly during the first part of the season, but in recent weeks he has shown just why manager Ollie Horgan took the punt on bringing him to Donegal.

The 26-year-old, who had been with Hamilton in the SPL, peaked with FC United of Manchester in the 2019/2020 season where he scored 35 goals.

“Tunde is a great lad,” Harps boss Ollie Horgan said. “That’s a damn good side that we beat.”

Owolabi struck in the 13th minute and although Chris Forrester equalised four minutes later, the Harps striker got a super second after some deft footwork on 41 minutes and added the third in the 53rd minute after beating the offside trap.

Harps are up to seventh, but Horgan knows that it’s going to be a real scrap to try and avoid finishing in the relegation play-off spot.

And he cautioned: “I don’t know how many points will be needed to reach safety this year but it certainly will be a hell of a lot higher than in other years.”

Meanwhile, St Pat’s manager Alan Mathews said they were disappointed with the result. “We probably did not play well enough to get anything out of the game.”

Harps have now won four games in the spin, three in the league and one in the FAI Cup.

And their next outing is against arch-rivals Derry City in the FAI Cup in Ballybofey on Friday.

City have won their last four games in the league, so it should be quite an occasion at Finn Park.

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