Patchwork Harps face tough proposition in Derry

Finn Harps’ striking problems have been well documented ahead of the FAI Cup second round tie against Derry City but manager Peter Hutton is now fighting to have central defender Thomas McMonagle available on Friday (kick-off 7.45pm).

Finn Harps’ striking problems have been well documented ahead of the FAI Cup second round tie against Derry City but manager Peter Hutton is now fighting to have central defender Thomas McMonagle available on Friday (kick-off 7.45pm).

McMonagle is on loan at Finn Park this season from the Brandywell club and last Sunday Derry assistant manager, former Harps boss Paul Hegarty, asked for the defender to be omitted from the matchday squad for Friday’s cup tie. Hutton, though, wants the player to line out against his parent club, insisting there is no such agreement in place and hopes to get the matter sorted.

“Paul rang me at the weekend and said Derry do not want Thomas to play,” Hutton said. “We checked his contract and no agreement is in place so we’ll talk to Derry about it again before the end of the week. He was allowed to play in the League Cup fixture in April so we didn’t envisage a problem this week. I spoke to Thomas at training on Monday and he wants to play.

“It’s against his parent club and he would like to try and impress. We’d like to get it sorted in an amicable manner because he’s an important player for us. As it is we’re down to the bare bones and could do without another player missing.”

Keith Cowan, another centre-half, broke bones in his foot on the opening night of the season against Limerick FC and although his recovery has been going well, he will not be ready until after the mid-season break in June.

“Keith was progressing well but was told to take it a bit handier as he’s been very enthusiastic in regards his rehab and we don’t want him to push it too much,” Hutton said.

With attackers Kevin McHugh and Adam Clarke serving the second match of their resepctive four and three-game suspensions as a consequence of obtaining straight red cards in the 3-0 loss against Wexford Youths a fortnight, Hutton’s hand is weakened.

Stephen O’Donnell and Hugh Carlin, both players who can slot between midfield and up front, have been ruled out for the season with cruciate injuries. Chris Breen re-signed for the club but will not be ready for another month and last Friday, in a 1-0 loss at home to Waterford, Blain Curtis hobbled off.

“At the minute we have no recognised centre-forward and that’s hardly ideal when travelling to take on a team like Derry City,” Hutton added. “Blain’s knee was still swollen on Monday night when he came to training and we’ll check him again to see if he needs a scan. A bit like Hugh and Stephen, he studded his studs in the ground and it was causing him some discomfort straight away.”

Harps have a wretched record against Derry down the years and with so many players out, it’s a tough job for Hutton, who appaeared for the Foyleside outfit more than 600 times. Stewart Greacen and Kevin Deery’s knee injuries means they might miss out, although doubts over Barry Molloy and Mark Farren’s hamstring complaints were eased as both played a part in the 3-2 Airtricity League Premier Division win over Bray Wanderers on Monday night.

“We’ve nothing to lose and it’ll be a good experience for the lads,” Hutton said.