Finn Harps manager, Peter Hutton, takes high-flying Harps to Galway tomorrow (Good Friday) to face Mervue United, in a top of the table clash in the Airtricity First Division.
Harps and Mervue are joint leaders of the division with seven points from their three games to date, with the Galway club taking the top spot by a single goal in scoring average.
And adding an extra edge to the game is the fact that Hutton is still chasing his first win over the Galway outfit on their home turf.
“They are all big games but I did say to the players at the start of the season that we had never beaten Mervue in Galway since I took over and this was going to be a big game,” said Hutton.
“The fact now that they have, like us, got off to good start means that it is possibly even a bigger game now. But in fairness they are all big games. All the games in the first half of the league are big games as teams suss each other out and I always felt that was the way it was going to be and thankfully we have got off to a good start and are on the pace.”
Hutton is expecting a tough challenge and nothing easy against Mervue and insisted they are a quality side.
He singled out Jason Molloy, Tom King, Brendan Lavelle, a new signing from the Mayo League, and former Harps and Sligo Rovers player, Gary Curran, as players to watch.
Other than long term injured Ciaran Coll, who has just had an operation on the knee injury picked up pre-season, Marc Brolly is the Harps manager’s only other concern this week.
“Marc has been down with the ‘flu since Saturday night. He had a touch of the bug before Saturday night and played against Longford, but he was shattered afterwards. The game took a lot out of him and he has been in bed ever since and is very weak; otherwise we have everybody.”
Hutton’s options are strengthened by the return from suspension of Thomas McBride. The midfielder was sent off in controversial circumstances in the closing minutes of the opening game against Waterford United down in the RSC.
He has missed the last two games, last week’s 1-0 victory over Longford Town and the previous week’s 4-1 comfortable win over Cobh Ramblers, both games in Finn Park.
With Brolly lying low, McBride looks like an obvious choice to return to centre midfield to partner Michael Funston, Aaron O’Hagan and Sean McGowan.
Otherwise Hutton is expected to stick very much along the lines of the side that started against Longford, with Ciaran Gallagher in goals behind a back four of Damien McNulty, Thomas McMonagle, Keith Cowan and Matthew Crossan.
Kevin McHugh and Sean McCarron, who are working well together up front once more, are expected to spearhead the Harps strike force.
“We have got off to a good start and confidence is good in the squad,” Hutton added.
“The players now realise that they are more than capable of competing with the top teams. We face another of those teams in Mervue, but it is a challenge we are confident we are up to and we are going to Galway looking for that first win over Mervue.”
Mervue United so far have drawn 0-0 with Athlone Town (away) and had a 2-1 home victory over Salthill Devons. But by far and away their most impressive performance and result was their 4-0 away win over Waterford United last Saturday night.