Finn Harps manager Ollie Horgan has warned his emerging young players that they’ll have to bide their time.
Harps earned a first win of 2019 on Monday night via a 2-1 extra time win over Sligo Rovers in the EA Sports Cup.
Picture: Finn Harps manager Ollie Horgan at a press conference ahead of the game against Derry City.
Debutant Stephen Doherty netted the winner in extra time while another senior first-timer Michael Gallagher impressed. Young Liam Walsh came on as a substitute while Ryan Finn and Corey McBride were listed among the replacements not used.
“The young lads did well,” Horgan said this week.
“They fully merited playing in that game. They have done very well in training and in the Under-19 and Ulster Senior League games that I’ve seen.”
Harps, who are winless in the Premier Division, host Derry in Ballybofey on Friday night and Horgan has asked supporters to be patient with the club’s youth. Last season Declan Boyle’s team won the League and Cup double at Under-17 level and Harps representation at international level has never been higher.
He said: “There’ll be a much bigger crowd with higher stakes, but one or two of them may play a part on Friday night, albeit not a full game.
“There is a core group coming through. I watched the under-19s against Athlone and there is no comparison in playing Athlone in the Under-19 or playing in Tallaght against Shamrock Rovers, who are as good as I’ve seen in ten years.
“I was there with Fanad United in the early years. Yes, it has improved. It is a step up to the First Division, but it’s a big, big step to the Premier Division.”
Horgan has quite the lengthy injury list. Mark Timlin and Gareth Harkin are out long-term, while Raffaele Cretaro has been ruled out of Friday’s derby and Harry Ascroft will be missing for what Horgan described as ‘the foreseeable future’.
On-loan John Kavanagh is rated as ‘extremely doubtful’ for the visit of the Candystripes.
All of that means squad places for some of Horgan’s rookies, but he says they must wait and work.
The Harps manager said: “It is a savage step up. Some of them will be fit to step up, but they have to be patient.
“There aren’t too many young lads in the Premier Division. The one in the Waterford squad that we’d have worked with, John Martin, is 20. The standard has gone seriously up. Had we been in the First Division, we’d be using young lads more so.”
While clearly buoyed by Monday’s win, Horgan admits he would swap the victory for one Premier Division point.
He said: “Monday night was a good result and a good performance, but it wasn’t in the League. Had it been in the League, we’d be much happier. But we’re better to win it than lose it. It should give the lads confidence to build on.
“Friday will be much more difficult. Derry are very much up and at it.
“They have put in serious work and are getting results out of it. They’re in a European spot and that will be a much more difficult ask. We’re playing a team that will be right on form.
“We played them in pre-season when they wiped us off the pitch. They destroyed us physically and football-wise. We were way out of sorts. We need Derry not at their best and us to be similar or better than Monday.”