Finn Harps manager Ollie Horgan says the departure this week of defender James Doherty is a major blow for the club.
Harps announced on Tuesday that the player had left the club by mutual consent due to work and personal commitments.
In a club statement, Doherty said his work and personal situation didn’t allow for him to give 100% commitment to Harps at this present time.
Horgan said he first became aware of Doherty’s intentions when they spoke before training on Sunday morning.
“I was taken aback,” Horgan told the Democrat this week.
“To be honest, I tried to talk him out of it. I tried to get him to change his mind.
“It’s not just as a player that we’ll miss James, it’s what he brings to the squad and the club. He’s a great lad and his approach is always first class.
“He’s been in and out of the team a bit this season, but he was still a very important part of the squad.”
Ironically Doherty’s departure couldn’t have come at a more awkward time for Harps who play the league leaders Shelbourne in Ballybofey on Friday night (kick off 8pm).
They will be without Caoimhinn Bonner who was sent off against Galway last weekend and must serve an automatic one-game ban. With Doherty now gone from the squad, Bonner’s place at right back would have probably gone to Damien McNulty but he is considered a major doubt for this weekend after sustaining a wrist injury.
“Damien’s injury is a strange one,” Horgan added.
“He came in for training tonight (Tuesday) and was complaining of a sore wrist. He hurt it in Galway and didn’t really do anything about it since. I have to say, it doesn’t look great and he has to be a doubt for Friday night too.
“It’s not ideal. We have three players who can play right back and now we have none available for Friday night. But I suppose, that’s football and you just have to get on with it.”
The vacant right back position could well be filled by Thomas Bonner who has played in defence before. However, Horgan is unlikely to decide on his final selection until closer to the game on Friday.
On the plus side, Harps are likely to have Ciaran Coll available for this weekend. The left back was brought by ambulance to University Hospital in Galway on Friday after being stretchered from the pitch because of injury.
His manager said Coll’s situation didn’t look at the time.
“It was very worrying. You never want to see a player being brought to hospital in an ambulance,” Horgan said.
But Coll suffered only bruising to his ribs and came through training on Tuesday night without any complaints.
Another player who will be in line to return to the squad this weekend is Kevin McHugh.
The striker got his first competitive outing for some time last Sunday when he played for an hour for Harps Reserves against Swilly Rovers in the Ulster Senior League.
McHugh hadn’t played since the opening game of the season back in early March.
The visit on Friday night of the league leaders is sure to generate plenty of interest. Shelbourne come to Ballybofey as the runaway leaders but Horgan insists his team is more than capable of upsetting the form.
“Why not? We’re at home, and if our approach is right, we can cause them problems,” he said.
“But they’re a good side, there’s no doubt about that. The few times that I’ve seen them this season, even in the match that we played against them, you could see why they are going so well.
“They are easy on the eye. They get the ball down and play a quality game.”
Shelbourne currently hold an eight point advantage at the top of the table, although second placed Wexford Youths have a game in hand.
Harps lie second from bottom but just to underline how tightly packed this division is, they are only three points off second spot.