The extra six days before a second league outing after last weekend’s water-logging in Athlone means there is a silver lining for Finn Harps.
Packie Mailey would’ve been an absentee in Lisseywollen with a chest infection, while Ciaran Coll was a doubt with a knock on the knee. However, both are expected to play tonight against Monaghan United with the only absentees from last week’s travelling first-team squad being Mark Forker, who is suspended after his red card against Limerick, and the work-committal Keith Cowan.
The long-term injured, Garbhan Grant and Christy Connaghan, received good new themselves this week. Friel was expected to be out of action for up to five months after an unusual injury picked up against the Northern Ireland Junior selection in pre-season when a tendon become detached from his bone.
However, after meeting with a surgeon this week, it was learned the tendon has organically re-attached itself. The former Cockhill Celtic frontman can now look forward to making his first-team debut in six to eight weeks. Connaghan, who has been suffering a knee injury since last summer, has resumed full training.
“It’s great news on Garbhan,” manager James Gallagher said. “It really was an unfortunate injury, which would have required surgery, but he has since learned there is no need for an operation so he will do some physiotherapy and to be honest, the whole thing has left the surgeons baffled. They maintain how his injury solved itself is totally freakish. Christy is chomping at the bit and we are delighted he is ahead of progress. We don’t want to rush him into it but he should take part in a couple of A games in the next fortnight.”
The ‘Monday Night Soccer’ crew made an infrequent dip into First Division life this week as they followed Roddy Collins on his first fixture as Monaghan manager and his second will see him come to Finn Park.
The national broadcaster are not expected to be in Ballybofey tonight but there still should be plenty of interest in the fixture. In the sprinkled First Division, a meeting of the two Ulster sides is as close to a derby as there is and in recent years the balance has shifted.
Monaghan were traditionally chicken feed to Harps but Mick Cooke took the side to the brink of promotion last season and when he headed east to take up the reigns of Drogheda United, former Bohemians manager Collins took over.
He opened with a fine 2-0 win over Waterford United at Gortakeegan. Gallagher attended that fixture and believes there will be change of tact under the Dubliner.
“Monaghan are a side that have improved over the last three seasons and were hard to beat, well organised and capable of hitting you on the counter,” he said.
“But Roddy himself has said he would like to play an attacking style and although it took them a while to settle last week, I think we will see a change in the coming weeks, when he gets a chance to put his stamp on it. It has the potential to be an open and entertaining game. We are trying to play an attacking game too so it will be interesting.”