Finn Harps kick off their league campaign tomorrow evening with an away game against one of the favourites for the Airtricity First Division title, Waterford United. (Kick-off at Waterford RSC, 7.45pm).
And as the Donegal club prepare for the start of another season, team manager, Peter Hutton insists his team is good enough to challenge for promotion back to the Premier Division.
“We might not be the front runners, especially when you consider the kind of budgets that the likes of Waterford, Longford and even Athlone have compared to other clubs,” he said.
“But we are more than capable of mounting a challenge. If we can stay on the coat-tails of the leading clubs, I think we can be up there fighting later in the season.
“The disappointing thing about last season was that we struggled early on and enjoyed a decent spell after that. If we can get off to a good start this year, that could make all the difference.”
A good start for Hutton’s men might well be key but they face a difficult opening few weeks. Tomorrow night they open their league programme against Waterford United and then there are two games at home against Cobh Ramblers and then another one of the fancied teams, Longford Town.
Harps will make the long journey to Waterford this evening and will train there tomorrow morning ahead of Friday night’s match at the RSC. Hutton feels his team have got to prepare properly for what’s a hugely important game.
“In fairness to our chairman, Joey O’Leary, and the rest of the Harps board, they were very keen to make sure we would be okay for this trip,” Hutton added. “We might not have a pile of money to spend on players’ wages but one thing’s for sure, the board is doing it’s bit to ensure the squad is looked after properly ahead of matches like this. They deserve great credit for that.”
Last Sunday, Harps played their first competitive game of the new season and recorded a 4-1 win over the Mayo League in Castlebar in the EA Sports League Cup. Hutton is not expected to make too many changes from that side although he’s boosted by the return from suspension of defender Keith Cowan. On the downside, James Doherty is banned for tomorrow night and the manager says he has yet to decide on who will fill in at right back, although Thomas Bonner is an obvious candidate.
Looking back on Sunday’s win, Hutton said he could have few complaints with his team’s performance, apart from the concession of a poor goal. “We just seemed to switch off and conceded a poor goal,” he said.
“But overall, it was a case of job done. We got the win we wanted, although I was very disappointed with the quality of the pitch. The surface was extremely poor.”
In other team news, Ciaran Coll underwent an operation this week on a serious knee injury sustained in the recent pre-season friendly with Sligo Rovers.
Right: James Doherty, suspended for trip to Waterford.