O’Leary: “We must not slip into lull”

Chairman Joey O’Leary says it is Finn Harps’ ambition to be a Premier Division club when they begin life at their new stadium in Stranorlar in two years’ time.

Chairman Joey O’Leary says it is Finn Harps’ ambition to be a Premier Division club when they begin life at their new stadium in Stranorlar in two years’ time.

O’Leary this week issued a rallying call ahead of the club’s first home game of the season against Mervue United on Saturday night so the sins of last year are not repeated, thus safeguarding the club’s future.

Harps were weeks from extinction and required €47,000 to cover their footballing debts to complete their licensing application to the FAI. A €20,000 grant from Donegal County Council and a number of fundraising initiatives managed to keep the club afloat.

However, since that drive before Christmas the chairman fears of a lull ahead of the AGM on Sunday night in Ballybofey and has urged the football fraternity in the north-west to get behind the club.

“We mustn’t fall back into the same position as we were in last year,” O’Leary warned. “We did fantastically well to get out of it and are, of course, very grateful to Donegal County Council but that was a one-off and it’s up to us to fend for ourselves.

“Our budget this year means we have cut our cloth accordingly and we must work very hard to keep senior football in the county. There is movement on the stadium front and it’s our ambition to be playing there in 2014 as a Premier Division club. The future of the club is bright.

“There are a lot of positives on the field with our success thus far at U-19 level and the squad Peter Hutton and Felix Healy are putting together with the seniors is getting more competitive. We have to make sure we get things in order off the field too. It’s common in these types of situations for their to be an initial surge before a slump and that’s why I am encouraging people to come and get involved.

“People are naturally reluctant in this day and age to get involved in something like the running of a football club but all we can do is ask people to consider. The board can always be strengthened and volunteer support on match nights in whatever way possible is always appreciated. It’s very important to us.”

Harps have extended their brand in recent times, operating a schools’ programme under John Campbell with 10 qualified players, some of which are players of the club. And with the new stadium development in Stranorlar also offering the possibility to increase income, the objective of O’Leary is for the club to surive in the short-term before developing in the mid to long-term.

Aidan Campbell left the role of commercial officer since November’s SGM and that position will be filled on Sunday, while O’Leary says there has already been interest in the vacancies for operations and fundraising officer.

Finn Harps’ AGM takes place on Sunday at 7.30pm in Jackson’s Hotel in Ballybofey.