A sprained ankle picked up by James Doherty in a friendly against the Defence Forces is the main point of frustration felt by Finn Harps player-manager Peter Hutton this week.
Doherty received a late off-the-ball kick and although Hutton admits the damage could’ve been worse it wasn’t the ideal preparation for Harps’ home fixture this Saturday against Wexford Youths (kick-off 7.45pm).
“It was madness really,” the former Derry City captain said in relation to the incident. “The ball was gone and the player has just lashed out and kicked James for no reason whatsoever. It’s frustrating. It looks as though the ankle is sprained but I wouldn’t rule James out of Saturday just yet. We’ll see later in the week.”
Hutton fielded a reasonably strong and experienced side on Tuesday in the 5-1 win at Finn Park, with a lot of his younger players currently involved in the U-19 section of the Foyle Cup. Kevin McHugh scored a hat-trick and Keith Cowan and Matthew Harkin were also on the mark.
One player who also sustained an ankle injury this week and will not play against Wexford is Michael Funston, thus denying the Letterkenny native a second home debut - for the meantime at least.
Hutton only learned on the way to Lisseywollen that Funston and another new signing, Mark Scoltock, had just received international clearance having sat out the 3-2 win over Mervue United six nights’ beforehand.
Paul McVeigh scored twice in that game and he is in line for a recall as he is due back from Cordoba in Spain tonight, Thursday, where he has been representing Letterkenny Institute of Technology at the European Universities Games.
Hutton admitted that training in the lead-up to the 1-1 draw with Athlone - Harps’ first time drawing all season - had centred on planning without the two players in case their clearance didn’t arrive, while also integrating them in the shape in case it did. Funston was taken off in the first half with his ankle injury as Noel McGee cancelled out Aaron O’Hagan’s opener.
“In retrospect, it was a good enough point,” Hutton said. “We didn’t play particularly well and Athlone might admit too that they didn’t play particularly well. It was a dire affair, although both teams had late opportunities to steal the points.
“We were glad to hear beforehand that Michael Funston and Mark Scoltalk were cleared to play. We had prepared in terms of training for both eventualities, one scenario without them and another with them. It’s good to get them on board as I’ve always said what we want here is competition for places.
“Michael will not play this weekend because of the injury he picked up against Athlone but it doesn’t look too serious and we could hope to have him back next week. He’s a good addition and I’ve a couple more irons in the fire at the time being. Of course an awful lot depends on budget but it’s good to have competition.”
Harps’ director of football Felix Healy resigned following their last encounter against Wexford back in May. McHugh and Adam Clarke both picked up straight red cards that evening, as the south-easterners ran in an easy 3-0 win with Tom Elmes opening the scoring and Danny Furlong netting twice in the last four minutes.
Harps’ recent record against Wexford isn’t great. Last season, during Hutton’s first game as manager they left Finn Park with a 1-0 when Furlong scored a late volley. This term, it was the same score when Elmes scored.
“Wexford are a team that always work hard for one another,” Hutton said of Saturday’s opponents. “They got a good draw last weekend against Longford Town and from what I’ve read they should have won the game. We were well beaten down there the last time we played them and it was a night when we didn’t do ourselves much justice. Hopefully we can put that right on Saturday.”