Finn Harps goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher will become the 57th player to play 100 league games for the club when he lines-up between the posts for the visit of Salthill Devon to Finn Park on Friday evening (kick-off 8pm).
Gallagher, who only turned 21 years of age earlier this month, made his Harps debut coming on as a substitute for the injured Gavin Cullen in the 1-0 away defeat to Sporting Fingal on 3rd April 2009 – just two days after this 17th birthday. Since then, Gallagher has been pretty much first choice keeper for the club.
Kevin McHugh (341 games), Michael Funston (212), Shaun McGowan (203) and Marc Brolly (136) are the only other members of the current Finn Harps squad to have played 100 times or more for the club in competitive games. Jonathan Minnock tops the table with 485 appearances for the club.
Gallagher, who has kept clean sheets in each of his last two games at Finn Park, will be hoping to celebrate the landmark by helping his side return to winning ways after their seven match unbeaten start to the season ended last Friday night in Athlone.
Harps manager Peter Hutton was far from pleased with what he saw in the 1-0 defeat to Roddy Collins side in Lissywollen.
“Yes it was certainly disappointing to lose the game, as we didn’t play well at all,” said Hutton. “We appeared very tentative and nervous and I think that the aftermath of the Wexford game seemed to have had an effect. In the lead up to the Athlone game some players had commented on the negativity surrounding the previous game and how it was crazy to think we’d remained unbeaten, kept a clean sheet and yet there was still so much pessimism, especially so early in the season.
“I won’t for one instance use that as an excuse for losing the game but that type of mentality going into the game didn’t help and it appeared that some players lacked that belief and confidence from earlier in the season. We have a young squad who will naturally thrive on confidence but on Friday night we looked cagey and hesitant and we struggled to get a foothold in the game. “
“The first half was very poor with neither side able to retain possession of the ball and subsequently it was a very poor spectacle,” continued Hutton. “The second half was a little better and we had a fifteen minute spell when we looked dominant and created three great chances with two one-on-one situations and also hit the post. Unfortunately though we didn’t take those chances and ultimately paid the price with Athlone scoring the decisive first goal.
“So, all in all it was a disappointing night in which we were poor and created very little but it merely reaffirms the fine line between winning and losing, particularly in this league, as I firmly believe had we have taken one of those earlier chances we’d have gone on to win the game.
Having lost Thomas McMonagle during the previous week’s game against Wexford Youths and with Sean McCarron and Ciaran Coll also out, Hutton took the surprising decision to make two further changes to his team for the game in Athlone when Michael Doherty and Matt Harkin were given the nod ahead of Marc Brolly and Michael Funston.
Hutton explains his reasons for doing this. “I brought in Michael Doherty and Matt Harkin at the expense of Michael Funston and Marc Brolly. Both Michael and Matt had been training well and looked extremely sharp during an11 v 11 practice game earlier in the week. That added to the fact Marc hadn’t trained much over the previous two weeks with a bug and injury and Michael had travelled after just completing an overnight shift in his workplace I decided now was an opportune time to freshen things up.
“Michael Doherty is still finding his feet at senior level and is still learning his trade but is an exciting talent and I thought he did well on his first start and almost scored. I don’t like commenting on players’ individual performances and would rather speak of the team as a whole though. I believe the changes made didn’t weaken the team in any way, the fact is, as a group we didn’t perform nowhere near to our capability and collectively we all take responsibility for that, management and players.”
On Friday, Harps face a Salthill Devon side that has only scored in one of their six previous visits to Finn Park. In those games, they have left with a point on just one occasions with Harps taking the spoils on each of the other occasions.
Although they sit bottom of the First Division pile, Hutton has warned that Friday’s game will be anything but easy.
“The Salthill game will again provide another stern test of our credentials but it is one in which we must look to acquire the three points,” he said. “We have to get back on track and there is no better way than gaining victory on Friday night.”
Harps will go into the game still minus the injured trio of Ciaran Coll, Sean McCarron and Thomas McMonagle. Hutton also has other injury concerns.
“Paul McVeigh has also complained of a very tight hamstring in the aftermath of the Athlone game so will be assessed over the next few days. Michael Doherty too came off injured against Athlone and we’ll see how he responds before Friday’s game.”
Friday’s game marks the end of the first series of games and Harps will have played every team in the Division. Hutton will now have a better idea as to how his side will fare in the promotion race.