LEAGUE OF IRELAND

Finn Harps welcome the champions Dundalk

Oriel Park club won 7-0 last season

Diarmaid Doherty

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Diarmaid Doherty

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sport@donegaldemocrat.com

Finn Harps welcome the champions Dundalk

Ciaran Gallagher takes the ball off the toe of Dundalk's Dave McMillan during last May's meeting in Ballybofey.

It’s not often that supporters will applaud the opposition team from the pitch when their own side has just been beaten.
Last May, the Dundalk players headed to the dressing rooms to warm applause from a large section of the Finn Park faithful who had just watched a mesmerising display from the champions.
Despite the fact that Harps had just been soundly beaten 7-0, the home supporters were keen to show their appreciation for one of the best performances from a visiting side in Ballybofey for many years.
Dundalk won all three meetings between the clubs last season on their way to another league title. This Friday night, they come back to Ballybofey to meet a Harps side who can be more than happy with the start they’ve made to their campaign.
But Harps boss Ollie Horgan didn’t need any reminding of what happened last season, when asked about his thoughts ahead of tomorrow night’s encounter.
“They beat us 7-0 here last year,” he said.
And suggesting that it could have been even worse for Harps, he said: “I don’t know what score it could have been. It’s the biggest hiding we’ve got.
“We’ll have to try and bridge that gap to some degree and see have we improved from last year.”
The general feeling is that Harps have improved. Dundalk, however, have been finding the going tough and while they sit second in the table, they’ve already lost twice this season, and are six points adrift of leaders Cork City.
Horgan, speaking after his team’s EA Sports League Cup win over Cockhill Celtic, was quickly turning his attentions back to this weekend and what’s another big test for his team.
“It makes no odds who we are playing on Friday on the basis that if you play the team at the top of the table or the bottom of the table, it’s a hugely difficult game for us,” he said. “Obviously there’s the added difficulty in playing the champions for the last three years.”
Harps won’t be helped by the absence of three key players, all due to hamstring injuries. Damien McNulty, Danny Morrissey and Ciaran O’Connor, on loan at Harps from Dundalk, are all ruled out.
Gareth Harkin has also emerged as an injury concern. He was taken off at half time against Cockhill Celtic as a precaution but the hope is that he’ll be okay to start on Friday night.
Dundalk aren’t without their injury problems either. Midfielder Robbie Benson has been ruled out for up to eight weeks because of a hamstring problem and Sean Gannon, stretchered off in their derby win over Drogheda United last weekend, is also going to be out for up to two months.