Untimely suspensions weaken Harps’ hand for Limerick opener

An outstanding suspension from last season means Finn Harps manager Peter Hutton will be banned from the technichal area as Stephen O’Donnell also serves a ban for the season opener against Limerick FC at Jackman Park on Friday night (kick-off 7.45pm).

An outstanding suspension from last season means Finn Harps manager Peter Hutton will be banned from the technichal area as Stephen O’Donnell also serves a ban for the season opener against Limerick FC at Jackman Park on Friday night (kick-off 7.45pm).

Hutton, pictured right, was sent to the stand in the penultimate match last season at Tolka Park against Shelbourne for querying a decision, while striker O’Donnell picked up a yellow card - his fourth of the campaign - in the Ballybofey side’s final outing against Mervue United.

“I was conscious of the sending off but it was disappointing to get the news this week, so near to the first game,” Hutton said.

“It’s a farce. Everything should be wiped clean from the previous season. It’s absolutely crazy when you think managers are trying to sign players to better their squad and then they find out the week before the season starts the player cannot play. It’s a joke.”

Aside O’Donnell missing out, Hutton and director of football Felx Healy have slight concerns over a number of players ahead of the trip to Shannonside.

Keith Cowan has a tight hamstring, Blaine Curtis is suffering with a slight strain on the knee and James Doherty’s general fitness, having missed most of pre-season with a virus, will be assessed, as will Tommy Bonner, who had Achilles bother.

Chris Breen, who re-signed for the club in the close season from Limerick, is currently undertaking a green-keeping apprenticeship in Douglas in Cork, has been training with Cork City but will not see any action on Friday.

Pat Scully, the Limerick manager, already had the likes of former Cork City players Joe Gamble and Denis Behan, as well as Killybegs native Shaun Kelly on his books.

Over the winter, Shane Guthrie and Stephen Bradley joined from St Patrick’s Athletic, Derek O’Brien from Cork City and former Republic of Ireland international Dominic Foley came home from Belgian club Cercle Brugge. Only Dave Ryan and Garbhan Coughlan are not up to full fitness.

“We’re looking forward to getting into battle mode and getting down to the nitty gritty,” Hutton added. “You’re looking to get a competitive edge and we’ll certainly get that against Limerick. The players they signed are Premier Division players and Limerick are a Premier Division club in waiting. At the Airtricity League launch someone joked Pat Scully might get the sack if they even concede a corner!

“Everyone will be up against them to compete with them and we can only do our best and hopefully progress from last year. We’re not putting any targets on it at the minute and to be quite honest, the club wouldn’t be ready for Premier Division football. We want to progress on and off the field and develop the young squad the right way. That’ll be better for the club in the long run.”

Hutton was also critical of the composition of the First Division, which is made up of eight teams, none of whom are from Dublin. The scattered make-up of the division sees a 200-mile round-trip, from Ballybofey to Longford, is the closest thing football followers in the north-west will get to a derby.

“I don’t like it,” he said. “Eight teams playing one another four times can mean teams and supporters can get fed up. Teams get too familiar with each other and can cancel each other out. But that’s what the FAI have gone with and we’ll see how it goes.”