A hairline fracture of the foot sustained by Finn Harps’ Thomas McMonagle means Peter Hutton must shuffle his pack ahead of Friday’s Airtricity League First Division fixture against Athlone Town at Lisseywollen (kick-off 7.45pm).
McMonagle lasted only 14 minutes of last Friday’s drab scoreless draw against Wexford Youths in Ballbofey before picking up the injury and being replaced by James Doherty. Damien McNulty moved into centre-half alongside Keith Cowan and Doherty slotted in at right-back.
Hutton believes the timeframe on McMonagle could be the guts of a month and another man who picked up an injury against Wexford, Marc Brolly, faces a race against the clock to be fit for Friday’s game in the midlands.
“Thomas’s foot got planted in the ground and he said himself afterwards he could feel it go,” Hutton said of McMonagle’s injury. “He did a little bit of damage when we learned there’s a hairline fracture but it depends on what type of healer his is. It could take around for weeks.
“James Doherty came in last week and that’s how we finished the game but we will look ahead to Athlone and think about it before deciding.
“Marc Brolly was involved in a hefty tackle and has still got a bit of a dead leg as well as bone bruising on his foot. We will see how he gets on.”
Another player who got a rather nasty injury this week was Jordan Duffy, who was lining up for what was effectively the Harps reserves against Erne Wanderers on Monday night at Finn Park.
Duffy picked up a knee injury and will undergo an MRI scan. He had scored in the 4-0 win, with returning long-term cruciate injury victims Stephen O’Donnell and Blaine Curtis, who scored two, also on the scoresheet.
O’Donnell, Curtis and indeed Hugh Carlin will continue to develop match fitness before knocking on Hutton’s door. Sean McCarron’s absence was felt last week and the Derry native will not return for a couple of weeks just yet due to a calf injury.
Matthew Harkin, though, has returned to full training following a dead leg picked up in a pre-season friendly against Letterkenny Rovers that forced him to miss the start of the season.
Friday’s 0-0 draw was perhaps Harps’ most disappointing outing of the season to date and although Hutton concurred with that notion, he has since taken the positives.
“I said after the match last week that some of the players weren’t as up as they had been for games beforehand, games that would’ve been considered more ‘top of the table’ clashes.
“We certainly were very flat and it was tough to get going on the dry pitch but you have to give Wexford credit too. They came up with a gameplan to flood the midfield and play it tight and it worked for them.
“It was disappointing not to win at home but we’re not too despondent. It was a good learning experience for some of the boys.
“A lot of them are learning their trade still and they are young so it will help them improve as they prepare for each game.”
The Athlone Town Stadium is Roddy Collins’ latest port of call. The midlanders are seeking their second win of the new campaign when Harps come to town.
Athlone have played three out of their five fixtures at home and drew 0-0 with Mervue United, 1-1 when they played Cobh Ramblers and then 3-3 against Salthill Devon.
Their solitary win of this term came when Ryan Coombes scored two goals to seal their 2-0 victory at Wexford.
David Breen of Waterford United scored a 78th minute winner, which was the only goal of the game, when Athlone travelled to the RSC last weekend. Roddy Collins Jnr was given a straight red card for his rash challenge on Paul Quilty after 16 minutes.
He will be suspended for Friday’s match as a consequence. Nineteen-year-old Coombes, who is on loan from St Pat’s, has three goals this term. Philip Gorman and Noel McGee are names that Harps followers will be familiar with down the years.
Athlone got the better of Harps in the opening two league fixtures last season. McGee’s brace sealed a 2-0 win in April before Mike Kerley’s team came to Ballybofey and won 2-1. Stephen Relihan and Brian McCarthy scored either side of Kevin McHugh.
Harps’ Aaron O’Hagan and McGee traded goals in a 1-1 draw in Westmeath before the Ballybofey club finally got the monkey off their back when Paul McVeigh and McHugh made sure of a 2-0 win last September.
“Athlone are a different animal with Roddy Collins in charge,” Hutton said. “We’re expecting a tough game but the boys are looking forward to it.”