Finn HARPS began pre-season over the weekend with a couple of new faces and one significant one returning.
Manager Peter Hutton confirmed 18 players took part in the first session of the New Year at Optimal Fitness in Letterkenny under the watchful eye of fitness instructors Michael Black and Adam Speer and the squad will get together again tonight.
Striker Michéal Doherty, 20, from Swilly Rovers took part in the session as did 21-year-old Damien McNulty, a central defender who was last on the books of Coleraine in the Irish League. Stephen O’Donnell also took a full part, having had last season cut short with a cruciate knee injury picked up in the opening home game of last season against Mervue United.
“It’s good to get back into it,” Hutton said last night. “In fairness the boys have been working with Michael and Adam at Optimal Fitness over the last three or four weeks with their individual programmes.
“We’ve taken in Michéal and Damien for their benefit as much as ours. We will have them train with us before a decision is reached. Any decision like that has to be what’s best for the player and the club. We’d like everyone to give a certain level of commitment and sometimes when you rush to sign a player at this time of year you learn in four or five months they cannot give that level of commitment.
“It’s great to have Stephen back training at full pelt. Hugh Carlin and Blaine Curtis have suffered similar injuries of course and they’re a little behind Stephen on the recovery scale but both are now able to sprint in straight lines.”
“We have all spoken about the season ahead and the players have promised to give even more commitment this year compared to last. That’s good to hear and they’ve certainly set off on the right foot. Everyone has bought into the plans. Pre-season thus far has been refreshing and challenging.”
Hutton added that his side will confirm a number of pre-season fixtures in the coming weeks before the season gets underway in the first week in March. “We’ve been in touch with a number of clubs, possibly five or six, including a few from the Premier Division and we hope to get them announced soon,” he continued. “The teams we have spoken to are all keen to play and are just in the process of seeing if they fit into the calendar.”
Harps are also in line to benefit financially from former winger Stephen McLaughlin’s move from Derry City to Championship outfit Nottingham Forest - earning the Ballybofey club a sell-on in the region of €30,000.
A free believed to be in the region of £160,000 was agreed by Forest and Derry, which leaves Harps with 15 per cent - £24,000 (€29,496.86).
McLaughlin, who is from the Isle of Doagh outside of Clonmany, signed for the two-time European champions on Wednesday last. Twenty-two-year-old McLaughlin played for Harps in the 2008 and 2009 seasons before moving to the Brandywell.