Ciaran Coll of Finn Harps contests for possession against Shamrock Rovers striker Sean Boyd when the sides met in Finn Park last season. Photo: Thomas Gallagher INDD299816 Harps v RoversTG3
With the school year finished, Ollie Horgan was supervising exams this week.
Come Friday night, there’s another test up ahead for the Letterkenny PE teacher and his Finn Harps side in the form of Shamrock Rovers.
The game in Ballybofey marks the start of the second half of the Premier Division season and having claimed seven points from a possible nine prior to the mid-season break, Harps will go into the game in confident mood.
Horgan was this week awaiting confirmation on just how many of his players will have to serve suspensions on Friday night. The bans were eventually confirmed on Wednesday with Ethan Boyle, Caolan McAleer, Danny Morrissey and Damien McNulty all ruled out.
Add to that the ongoing confusion over the availability of Pascal Millien who despite receiving a work permit, still has to receive official clearance, and it’s fair to say Horgan’s team plans are all a bit up in the air.
They face a Shamrock Rovers side who despite a poor start to the season, are in Horgan’s opinion, able to boast one of the strongest squads in the division.
“The challenge of Shamrock Rovers brings a much bigger task, although to be fair, there’s no real lesser task in this division,” he said.
“We need to try and make it as difficult as possible for Shamrock Rovers who have a huge amount of quality.
“We’ve a few players back from injury, although we will have a few suspended which counteracts that. We’re looking forward to it, although it will be very difficult to get anything out of it.”
Last month’s victories over St. Patrick’s Athletic and Limerick, coupled with the 0-0 draw at Sligo Rovers, have helped Harps up to eighth in the Premier Division. The task for Harps is to try and stay ahead of the chasing pack.
“I think there are a couple of teams in false positions and who will kick out of there,” Horgan warned.
“I feel we also need to try and kick out of there. The last thing that we want is to drift away and have nothing to challenge for going into the second half of the season.
“A lot of people expected us to be in that situation already. We’re not, but there’s a very small gap between being in that position and being out of it. We’ve got Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk and Derry City in our next three games so we know that we’ve got huge battles ahead of us.”
Harps are likely to be busy in the transfer market once the window for signing players opens at the beginning of July. Horgan said he wants to add three players if possible, including a defender, a midfielder and a wide player.
“The players that we hope to bring and the players that we get to come in might be on two different sheets completely,” he said.
“Myself and Paul Hegarty are trying to get a number of players in. We have identified players that we want, they might not identify us as a club that they want to go to, for a whole host of reasons.
“So it’s very much up in the air. There’s no point in me giving you names and then being red-faced in the morning when these players don’t come in, but it’s not for the lack of trying.
“We’re trying to improve number-wise and squad-wise, but there’s no point taking someone in that’s no better than what’s already there.”
He added: “We’ve operated out of a very small panel. With the number of injuries we had, it made is smaller.
“With the number of suspensions we could have on Friday, it’s making it smaller again. So to have a choice in areas is important but we can’t afford a huge squad either.”
Friday night's game kicks off at 8pm