Finn Harps manager Peter Hutton has not ruled out Packie Mailey re-signing for the club, despite the fact former club captain currently training with Derry City.
Twenty-three-year-old Mailey is currently out of contract and was in discussions with Harps about prolonging his stay before taking the opportunity to prove himself to former Harps manager Paul Hegarty and Declan Devine, who took over from Stephen Kenny at the Brandywell two weeks ago.
“We made Packie an offer and when he spoke with Felix he said he would like to keep his options open,” Hutton said of the Convoy native. “He then met with Derry and at the minute is trying to earn a contract there.
“We have to wish Packie well. He’s given good service to Harps and is a great role model. Of course we would be sad to lose him but if that’s the case then we will move on. If it doesn’t, I wouldn’t necessary say the door is closed on him. There’s not a huge abundance of talent around but, as I said, at the minute he’s training with Derry City.”
This week, the Harps management team of Hutton and director of football Felix Healy added to their playing squad by re-signing two young men who served the club well last season. Goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher and central defender Aaron O’Hagan have signed one-year deals. One player who won’t be at the club for the season ahead is Mark Forker.
“It was awkward in terms of travel with Mark, who is at college in NUI Maynooth,” Hutton added. “We are trying to have as many locally based players as we can so everyone can attend training sessions in midweek but it was tough for Mark but I’m sure whatever he does it will work out for him. He’s a good lad.
“To be honest, with the budget we have it would be fair to say all of our squad will be based in the north-west. It means the players are more involved and it also builds a good rapport within the squad, which is also important.”
Harps returned to pre-season last Saturday in Raphoe and spent this week in the Twin Towns Boxing Club gym as well as some outdoor training in Ballybofey. This Saturday the squad will train at Rathmullan and a number of trialists will continue to try and impress Hutton and Healy.
Harps will open pre-season against Limavady United on Tuesday and are hoping to welcome Derry City to Finn Park at the end of the month. Harps are also confirmed to visit Dundalk’s Oriel Park on February 19.
“To be fair to the lads, we gave them a close season programme and the vast majority of them are in good shape,” Hutton said. “We’re enjoying pre-season thus far and are looking forward to playing a few games. Derry are willing to come to Finn Park to help us hopefully get a good gate later in the month although this depends on the floodlights getting repaired, after they were damaged in the storms. We’re also going to plan another few games.”
Harps also this week confirmed Kevin McHugh, after Con McLaughlin, John Gerard McGettigan and Jonathan Minnock, will become only the fourth player in the club’s history to be awarded a testimonial.
McHugh, who is 32 today, has scored 148 goals for the Ballybofey club in his two spells. Manager Hutton, who also lined up alongside the Killea native at Derry City, has paid tribute to the striker.
“Kevin is a legend at Harps,” Hutton said. “He’s one of the top strikers in the league and will continue to be so. He certainly deserves his testimonial for his commitment to Finn Harps.