Despite the relief of not ending up in the relegation play-offs after Monday night’s defeat for Wexford Youths in Cork, the Finn Harps team has been preparing as normal for the visit of Bohemians to Ballybofey for the final match of the Premier Division season.
This Friday night’s match, which kicks-off 15 minutes earlier than normal at 7.45, is also an opportunity for the fans to acknowledge the huge achievement of part-time players in managing to keep the club in top flight football for next season.
And despite criticism from some quarters their manager Ollie Horgan deserves great credit for the massive amount of work he has done in assembling a squad that has stuck together through the tough times in the Premier Division.
In team news for the visit of Bohs, Horgan will definitely be minus the injured Kevin McHugh and Keith Cowan while both Damian McNulty and Gareth Harkin are suspended and Josh Mailey will not be available due to college studies in England. Mailey did travel over for the Cork and Wexford matches but with the Premier Division status now secured the Letterkenny man will not make the trip for Friday night’s game. Barry Molloy is a big doubt for the game while the manager also rates Ruairi Keating’s chances of making the squad as slim due to an ankle ligament injury that has kept the young striker out of action for three weeks.
So there will be at least two changes from Wexford with Tommy McMonagle the natural replacement for Mailey at centre-half while Tony McNamee could be included instead of Harkin in the middle of park. Dave Scully is another option in attack with Ryan Curran dropping into a wide midfield role if Molloy fails a late fitness test.
Horgan and his squad are approaching the Bohs game like any other home fixture and will be hoping to give the home fans something extra to cheer about with a victory to finish of the season in style.
“We have been preparing for the Bohs game like every other match we have played this season. We don’t know any other way. It’s going to be difficult against them because they have quality and are a very good side as they showed against Dundalk on Sunday night. They only lost 2-1 to a team that was going for the league title. We haven’t scored against them this season so that shows the scale of the challenge that is ahead of us.
“But we’re going out to win even though we will be struggling squad wise with Damian McNulty and Gareth Harkin both suspended. Keith Cowan and Kevin McHugh are obviously out and I would rate Barry Molloy as extremely doubtful. It’s the same for Ruairi Keating who is just recovering from that ankle injured he picked up in Sligo. So I’ll likely have B.J. Banda, Gareth Doherty and Daire O’Baoill in the squad again. Gareth and Daire were both with us in Wexford and B.J. came on as a sub,” Horgan said.
It will also be an opportunity to bid a big farewell to Kevin McHugh who is retiring from League of Ireland soccer after an outstanding career. When the two sides met in Ballybofey at the beginning of May it took an injury time penalty save by Ciaran Gallagher to get a very relieved Harps out of jail with a scoreless draw.
Gallagher pushed away Anto Murphy’s 95th minute penalty in the only real excitement of a poor match. But there was no joy for Horgan’s men at Dalymount in early August as second half goals from Jake Kelly and Ismail Akinade gave the hosts all three points. With the pressure of Harps will now hope to end the season a high note with a victory against Bohs.
Suspended: Damian McNulty, Gareth Harkin
Unavailable: Josh Mailey
Injured: Keith Cowan, Kevin McHugh
Doubtful: Barry Molloy Ruairi Keating
RECORD AGAINST BOHEMIANS (All Competitions)
Friday’s game will be the 73rd meeting of the two clubs, and the 34th to be played at Finn Park.
Total Games: 72 (33 at Finn Park)
Harps Wins: 19 (11 at Finn Park)
Bohemians Wins: 40 (13 at Finn Park)
Draws: 13 (9 at Finn Park)
Harps Goals: 73 (39 at Finn Park)
Bohemians Goals: 127 (41 at Finn Park)