First Division runners-up Finn Harps were promoted to the Premier Division at the RSC when they consolidated their first-leg win with a confident, stylish performance that always had struggling Waterford United on the back foot.
The visitors had arrived on Suirside in confident and determined mood. With a three-goal lead under their belts and one foot already in the top flight, they had no intention of loosening their grasp on the coveted prize.
In truth, the Donegal side looked head and shoulders above their opponents and could have won the leg by a bigger margin.
Harps gave their highly vocal fans something more to shout about when they opened the scoring on 16 minutes. The unmarked Michael Funsten steered the ball into the net from six yards after Conor Gethins rolled the ball enticingly into his path.
The visitors should have scored again 28 minutes when Tony Shields and Stephen Parkhouse broke clear with only the goalkeeper to beat. But Shields choose to take the shot and Dean Delaney deflected the ball out for a corner when the better option would have been to pass the ball to the waiting and unmarked Parkhouse.
However, the second half was less than two minutes old when Funston fired over a pin-point cross from the right and Gethins almost took the net off the stanchions with a fierce volley from 15 yards.
Somewhat against the run of play, United pulled a goal back on 51 minutes when Cathal Lordan scored from a 20-yard free-kick that was struck powerfully and accurately into the top corner of the net.
The Blues levelled the leg on 67 minutes when Kenny Browne climbed highest in a crowded penalty area to head home from a Dave Warren free. But three minutes later Harps regained the lead when Gethins robbed Alan Mulcahy before passing to the unmarked Parkhouse who drilled the ball to the net from close range.
United kept trying to climb the mountain and Dave Warren bundled the ball over the line on 90 minutes to make it 3-3 on the night.
This is the second season in succession for the hapless Blues to be relegated but, last year, they were reinstated to the Premier Division when Shelbourne were demoted.
Manager Gareth Cronin offered his resignation after the first-leg at Finn Park but later in the week, after talking to the Blues’ management committee, he ‘reaffirmed his commitment’ to the club.
The Corkman, who took over the Waterford hot-seat in August 2006, has another year to run on his contract. Referring to recent speculation linking him with the managerial vacancy at Shelbourne, he said: ‘I will be the manager of Waterford United until my contract expires or until the management committee feels a change is needed.’
Waterford United: Delaney, Browne, Kearney (Scully, 56 minutes), Hayes (Hedderman, 50 minutes), Breen (Lordan, 22 minutes), Warren, D. Mulcahy, McCarthy, Sullivan, Kiely, A. Mulcahy. Substitutes not used: Grincell, Holden.
Finn Harps: Gallagher, McLaughlin, Minnock, Boyle, Holmes, Shields, Funston, McGowan, Parkhouse, Gethins, Brolly (Divih, 66 minutes). Substitutes not used: Brown, Roddy, Ascua, Cullen.
Referee: Dave McKeon, Dublin.