Whether or not to play at centre-back is the biggest crux facing the Finn Harps manager Peter Hutton ahead of his side’s fixture at the RSC against Waterford United on Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm).
The 39-year-old lined out for the first time this season against the Mayo League on Monday night when an own goal from David Reilly and Kevin McHugh’s second sealed a comfortable 2-0 win in the EA Sports League Cup first round tie - Harps will now take on holders Derry City at the Brandywell in the next round, with the tie to be played on the week of Monday, April 8.
As Harps had conceded eight goals in their first four league outings, picking up just three points from 12, Felix Healy and Hutton decided to go with experience and afterwards the director of football was content enough with how things went.
“We kept a clean sheet, which was good and it was good to see Peter back out there,” Healy said. “He is a good voice to have there. There are still one or two things around him that aren’t right. We aren’t defending properly from the front, not just as a back four. We aren’t winning too many second balls in the middle of the park.
“There have been one or two poor goals conceded, but we need to start defending a bit better all around the pitch and that comes from the front. I felt he did remarkably well given that he hasn’t been playing or doing an awful lot of training. Sometimes when you get to that age you don’t need to train as long as you play the games. The rest has done no harm.”
Keith Cowan, still on crutches, was a spectator at Finn Park on Monday and he will be an absentee for another month at least, while Stephen O’Donnell was in Dublin for an MRI scan on a troublesome knee injury. Seventeen-year-old Shane McGinty made his first start for the Ballybofey club up front, while Paul McVeigh and Paul Simon Treacy did likewise on the right and left of midfield respectively.
“Keith Cowan and Stephen O’Donnell being out is a big blow because they have presence on the pitch and we don’t have physically strong guys,” Healy said of the absentees.
“Sometimes in this league you need that wee bit of power. For all our clever play, there are other side to the game that we need to work at and we need more physical presence in the side.”
Waterford have had a curious season to date. On opening night, they lost 6-0 to the team who were perceived - certainly in the bookmakers’ eyes - to be the weakest in the division, Wexford Youths. Then, a week later, they defeated the runaway favourites for the title, Limerick FC, by three goals to one. A 1-0 win over SD Galway was followed with a 3-2 loss against Longford, before, on Monday, they were hammered 6-1 at home by UCD in the League Cup, with Letterkenny native Cillian Morrison scoring four goals.
“They lost six at Wexford and beat Limerick the next week,” Healy added of Waterford. “We have played four games and have probably been the better side in all four, so it is criminal and crazy that we have only got three points, but we have only got ourselves to blame. When we go to Waterford, as I say every week, unless we are at it ourselves and approach the game properly, you can get your backside kicked. We think that we have a good side, a good young side and we’re still building and still evolving.”