Finn Harps director of football Felix Healy travelled to the Irn-Bru League Cup final in Ballymena yesterday to try and arrange pre-season fixtures with finalists Crusaders.
Healy and manager Peter Hutton’s Harps were forced to cancel Friday’s outing against pre-season at Curragh Athletic in Killygordon as a reult of a waterlogged pitch and due to the fact the Donegal League side had a free weekend, it means the chances of a reschedule are unlikely.
“It was frustrating as the lads have been putting a great effort at training and working very hard and we were looking forward to getting some football under our belt but instead we had to train as the pitch was unplayable,” said Healy.
“That’s what happens though when you’re undertaking pre-season in January and I’ll be talking to Crusaders, who play Coleraine in the League Cup final, and perhaps someone from Cliftonville. They, like Dundalk who we are are due to play, have 3G pitches so there’s no chance of the game not going ahead, which is important at this time of year.”
Harps have two further friendlies arranged, all away from home because of floodlight damage at Finn Park during the storms. They visit the Brandywell for a fixture against Derry City on Tuesday, February 7 and Dundalk’s Oriel Park on Sunday, February 19.
Healy has said he and manager Peter Hutton have pinpointed two positions that need strengthening before Harps open their Airtricity League Division One campaign against Limerick FC on March 2. At the minute Harps have re-signed Ciaran Gallagher, Aaron O’Hagan, Ciaran Coll, James Doherty, Keith Cowan, Ciaran Greee, Adam Clarke, Hugh Carlin, Stephen O’Donnell, Tommy Bonner, Chris Breen, Blain Curtis, Kevin McHugh and Barry O’Mahoney.
“We considered putting a reserve team in the Ulster Senior League but that won’t be happening now so we don’t need a squad as big as we would have had that been the case,” Healy continued. “We’ve 14 players now and also have the U-19 players to come. Peter and I have identified two areas that we’d like to strengthen and if that happens then great, but if it doesn’t then we will get on with it.
“The lads have shown great commitment and that’s been no surprise to me. But I have to thank them for the attitude they have shown. They have trained four and five nights a week with no expenses and when the season kicks off they take unpaid leave from work to play away to Cork or Limerick or whoever on a Friday and to be honest, without them they club wouldn’t be able to survive.”
Harps learned on Thursday they open the new campaign against favourites Limerick FC, while Mervue United will be the first visitors to Finn Park on March 10. Harps will play their home fixtures on Saturdays in the eight-team league, which does not include Galway United. Salthill Devon have renamed themselves SD Galway and will play at Terryland Park, while the other seven sides are those who did not obtain promotion last season.
“The fixtures are what they are and Limerick is certainly a tough start,” Healy added. “But we’ll be all right. In regards the make-up of the league it’s better to have teams playing one another four times instead of nine or 10 side playing against each other three times. That’s no disrespect to Tralee, Cobh Ramblers and Carlow, who had been trying to get into the league. The way it is now gives us more home games and less long away trips, which is important considering the financial situation at the club.”