Work on Finn Harps’ new €6m stadium set to resume this year
Donegal club has its first home game back in the Premier Division against Dundalk
Work on “Donegal Stadium”. It will not just be for Finn Harps, but for the wider football family in the county
Finn Harps have been given a major boost as they prepare to begin their 50th season in the League of Ireland. Work on their new €6 million stadium is set to finally resume this year, and officials are upbeat about a new era for the Donegal club.
Antiquated Finn Park has long been one of the most rundown stadiums in the league, and it is clearly inadequate with only 300 seats and limited facilities. It falls far short of what is required for top-flight soccer – Harps’ first home game back in the Premier Division is against double-winners Dundalk on February 22nd – but the club has been given a derogation from the FAI as it is in the process of developing its new ground.
Paul McLoone, the former chief executive of North-West Tourism who is spearheading the stadium project team, said he was confident they would move into their new home in Stranorlar – less than a mile across the river Finn from Finn Park in Ballybofey – in 2021.
Speaking at a pre-season launch, McLoone said they hoped to complete the work within 24 months, and stressed that “Donegal Stadium” as it will be known will not just be for Finn Harps, but for the wider football family in the county.
Phase one will see the completion of the main stand with 1,900 seats, changing rooms and offices, the laying of a new pitch and the installation of floodlights.
The club has also signed a deal to lease adjoining land, and will develop three more pitches.
The second phase will see a stand being built with 1,700 seats, and this will be followed by the development of terracing for 900 spectators at either end. The total capacity will be 5,400, down from the original planned 6,600 capacity.
The club believes it is a “sleeping giant”, and has the potential to be one of the best-supported teams in the country. When Harps last got promoted a sell-out 4,400 crowd packed into Finn Park for their Premier Division opener against Derry City in 2016.
The first sod for the new stadium was turned in 2008, but the end of the Celtic Tiger and legal and financial issues hampered progress. McLoone acknowledged it has been “an extremely complex project”.
Last July, the Department of Sport announced a €304,000 grant towards the relaunch, the redrawing of plans, and fees towards the restart of the stadium build. The rest of the project will be funded through Government and FAI grants, as well as matching funding from the club.
The club sees the new stadium as a catalyst to propel it into a new era. Aside from first-team affairs, the club has set up an academy, and has teams in the FAI’s national underage leagues. Last year its under-17 side won the league and Mark Farren Cup.
The club’s schools programme has involved 6,800 boys and girls playing football.