Finn Harps’ nine-game unbeaten run stretching back as far as June has “given them something worth fighting for” according to manager Peter Hutton.
The Ballybofey side are four fixtures from concluding their season now and on Friday take on a Wexford Youths side that have caused them consternation already this season (kick-off 8pm). Harps have a full squad to choose from with the only real doubt hanging over Gary Merritt, who has a groin injury.
Hutton is of the opinion that maintaining fourth place in the standings is now the target for his players between now and the end of the season.
“It’s all down to the hard work the players are putting in,” he said. “We’ve got a little bit of the rub of the green in recent weeks but I always think that happens more when you’re working hard.
“The players have shown great attitude and commitment of late and they’re getting their reward now. We’ve been hampered with a lot of injuries and suspensions this season and they’ve eased up a lot recently so maybe that’s another reason for the improvement.
“We have good competition for places here now and that good run has given us something worth fighting for between now and the end of the season.”
Tom Elmes scored the only goal of the game to give the visitors three points at Finn Park in March and then, when they teams met at Ferrycarrig Park in May, it turned Harps’ season upside down.
Felix Healy resigned as director of football on a night Harps finished with nine men following Kevin McHugh and Adam Clarke’s dismissals, while Wexford picked through the holes to win 3-0. Elmes, Danny Furlong and Aidan Keenan scored the goals that particular night.
Wexford then left the Twin Towns with a point in July, when Elmes was again the scourge of Harps, nailing a last minute leveller in an exciting 3-3 draw.
Shane Nolan had Wexford in front before Thomas McMonagle equalised. Joe Mulcahy then made it 2-1 to the visitors before McHugh and then Shaun McGowan were on target to force Harps in front.
“Wexford have caused us problems all season,” Hutton continued. “And they’ve still plenty to play for, especially against us as they’re only a point behind us right now. The last time we went down there was eventful of course.
“We actually didn’t play that badly that night, but with the two lads being send off and us one down, we had to chase the game and ended up getting punished.”
Hutton confirmed the club this week signed the Toland brothers from Swilly Rovers in Ramelton, Ryan and Jordan, who are aged 18 and 16 respectively. Both will play for the Harps U-19 side, who had an away fixture in the in the Dr Tony O’Neil U-21 Elite League.
“We are delighted to bring in the two boys from Swilly Rovers and have another few irons in the fire right now, as we’re in discussions with a few clubs,” Hutton said.
“Youth is very important to the club here and the players coming in will work with Séan McGowan and the U-19 team. They’ve made a good start to the season in the more competitive Elite League and will improve the more the season goes on I feel.
“We will focus on the youth policy and hopefully people can see what we are trying to do and that we’re a progressive club. Between now and the end of the season I would also like to put one or two of the U-19 team into the first team squad just to see how their progress is going”.
In the week that’s in it, Hutton also went on the record to wish Jim McGuinness and the rest of the Donegal panel well in Sunday’s All-Ireland football final against Mayo at Croke Park.
Hutton was a player at Derry City when McGuinness was hired on a freelance basis as a trainer and motivator in 2007 when Scot John Robertson was in charge.
“I’ve worked with Jim before and he’s very professional and from everyone here at Finn Harps, we would like to with him and all the rest of the lads all the best on Sunday.”