Down the years Finn Harps supporters have fathomed the notion of one step forward and two steps backwards but there’s a level of genuine optimism as they face Wexford Youths on Friday night (kick-off 8pm).
Peter Hutton’s side are currently joint second in the Airtricity League of Ireland First Division with two useful home wins combined with a couple of away draws so far.
Sean McCarron, the scorer of three goals in four league matches this term, will miss Friday’s engagement with a suspected torn calf and he is likely to be joined on the sideline by the experienced Shaun McGowan. The former Kildrum Tigers midfielder went over on his ankle in last Friday’s 2-2 draw at Mervue United.
“Shaun McGowan’s ankle is still swollen and at the minute he’s still unable to put any weight on it,” Hutton said this week. “That would make him doubtful but it’s a case of it being something we can take a look at later in the week. We will give him every chance as he’s someone who has more than 200 appearances for the club and an important player for us.
“That’s not the case for Sean McCarron, who left the match against Mervue on Friday last on crutches and he’s definitely out, probably for a spell of three to four weeks. It’s a blow for us as he and Kevin McHugh have quickly developed an understanding.”
Hutton admitted to being content enough with the showings of his team so far this term and was impressed by the resolve shown as they clawed back a 2-0 deficit to draw 2-2 at Mervue in Galway.
Thomas McMonagle’s goal and a penalty from Kevin McHugh salvaged a point and Ciaran Gallagher saved a penalty from Jason Molloy on a weekend where the Harps goalkeeper celebrated his 21st birthday.
Harps opened with a 1-1 draw at Waterford United and defeated Cobh Ramblers 4-1 and league leaders Longford by a goal to nil on home turf.
“I’m happy overall with how things are going,” Hutton added. “So far, we’ve only really played for 45 minutes in most of the games, with the one exception being Cobh at home. We’d like to build on that.”
With the Ulster Senior League also containing a team from Harps this term, Hutton has options to fill in the voids left by his missing men.
On Tuesday night, Harps overcame Swilly Rovers by two goals to one with Stephen O’Donnell and Sean Reilly on the scoresheet for a team made up primarily of current reserves.
Wexford Youths, managed by Shane Keegan, started the new campaign tentatively, losing 5-0 against Cobh Ramblers and then 2-0 at home to Athlone Town. Their form since, though, has improved.
Following a 2-1 win at Salthill Devon, Wexford came from behind to defeat neighbours Waterford United by the same scoreline last week, with Shaun Corcoran and a Dean Broaders penalty sealing the win at Ferrycarrig Park.
Wexford have been prickly opponents for Harps down the years. In their first year as a league club, in 2007, Mick Wallace’s team grabbed their first ever senior win of their existence in Ballybofey.
Then, in Hutton’s first match in charge in May 2011, Conor Sinnott scored the only goal of the game for the visitors.
Last season, Wexford were the only side in the First Division Harps failed to beat, drawing two and losing two.
“They’re a bit like us in many ways,” Hutton continued. “They had a good finish to last season (losing only one of their last eight games) and although Wexford started poorly this term they have won their last two. No doubt they too will be trying to push on.”
Hutton also praised the Ballybofey club’s supporters, whom outnumbered their hosts in Galway last weekend. He would like to see a continuation of the rising crowds on Friday at Finn Park but is aware it’s a reciprocal agreement.
“The support we received in Galway was certainly appreciated,” Hutton said. “And we’d love to see them again on Friday at home.
“We understand that we have to cater for the supporters and give them a product worth coming to see but there was a great atmosphere at Finn Park this season at the first two games and it really helped the players get the results in those matches.”
All children under the age of 12, who are accompanied by an adult, can come along to the club’s home games at Finn Park this season for just E1 each.
“These are our future supporters and it’s a great initiative from the club,” Hutton concluded.