Finn Harps striker Kevin McHugh is unlikely to play again this season due to a calf strain picked up two weeks ago against Salthill Devon.
The 31-year-old Harps captain was absentee last Friday night in the 5-2 loss at the hands of Cork City at Turner’s Cross and will definitely not feature in Saturday night’s penultimate home game against Longford Town (kick-off 7.45pm). Harps round off their season with fixtures at Shelbourne and Mervue United, either side of Wexford Youths’ visit to Finn Park.
“Kevin’s groin strain means I doubt if he will be able to play for us again this season,” manager Peter Hutton said yesterday. “Right now we’re not certain whether he will or not but I would rate his chances as 60-40 against.”
Hutton added that he expects a reaction to the loss on Leeside last weekend, where both Stephen O’Donnell and Keith Cowan were red-carded in an eventful game that saw Harps’ defence breached for the first time in 412 minutes. That opening goal, which Davin O’Neill steered home from a Graham Cummins centre, appeared to be offside.
“I thought the referee (Sean Grant) was, to be fair, very poor,” Hutton added. “He’s known to be a bit card happy and we had experience of that only a couple of weeks beforehand in Waterford when he produced 13 cards during the game.
“The first goal, we questioned, because Davin O’Neill looked clearly offside when he tucked the ball home but the assistant referee claimed the ball was ahead of the play. It was a crazy decision. We picked up a couple of bookings instantly afterwards and one of them was Ciaran Gallagher, our goalkeeper, who is now due a suspension.
“Stephen then picked up a straight red card and the fact the incident occurred in front of the dug-outs might’ve influenced the decision. It was a mistimed tackle but nothing overly malicious, but the Cork bench were out on the pitch remonstrating and waving their arms.
“Keith got a second yellow in the second half and to be honest, we have no complaints about that. It’s something we have spoken to Keith about and he’ll have to curb his enthusiasm.
“Ciaran is due to miss a match having picked up four yellows although at the minute we have not heard whether it’s going to be the game against Longford on Saturday or next week away to Shels. Either way, Christopher Patton will come in. Stephen and Keith are suspended this weekend.”
As well as the suspensions and McHugh’s absence, Ciaran Coll has a hamstring complaint and will miss out although Mark McGoldrick, who also left the field against Salthill with a groin strain, will return and could well feature alongside Blain Curtis, who scored twice against Cork, up front against the midlanders.
“Blain took his two goals well and caused the Cork defence a lot of trouble on the night,” Hutton added. “As well as that, Conor O’Grady started a match for the first time in six months after his ankle operation and he brings a lot with his professionalism.
“Longford are a team with whom we’ve had a few meetings this season, between league and cup, and those games have been close. They’re an experienced and organised side who are streetwise and strong at set-pieces but we’ll be looking for a response from last week.”