LEAGUE OF IRELAND

Can Finn Harps spring a surprise in Dundalk?

Dundalk's eye might well be off the ball

Caoimhín Reilly

Reporter:

Caoimhín Reilly

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sport@donegaldemocrat.com

Can Finn Harps spring a surprise in Dundalk?

Ciaran O'Connor in action last weekend against Shamrock Rovers. The Harps man isn't allowed to play this weekend against his parent club, Dundalk.

Finn Harps will hardly get a better chance of following Bray Wanderers, Derry City and Cork City in getting a result at Oriel Park tomorrow night.
Monday’s Champions League qualifier draw has attracted most of the headlines in County Louth with Dundalk having been paired with Norwegian double winners Rosenborg in the second-qualifying round.
Stephen Kenny has as good as thrown in the towel with regard to winning their fourth league title in succession, hence another European crusade is seen as the ‘making or breaking’ of their season in general.
The Lilywhites spent their mid-season break training at Fota Island resort, where the Dundalk manager admitted to beginning their European preparations despite five games, including last week’s 6-0 drubbing of Drogheda, pending before they enter continental action.
One thing Kenny is after ahead of the upcoming games is goals. Six majors against Drogheda was a fine return, although had they been as ruthless as they were at Finn Park this time 12 months ago, it most certainly would have been more.
“You’re talking to someone who was deprived of a treble on goal difference,” Kenny quipped after Friday’s Louth derby victory.
Harps’ main cause for concern should be David McMillan, although Derry natives Patrick McEleney and Michael Duffy have shown glimpses of their best since the second phase of matches began.
McMillan has 11 goals in 11 starts this season, his brace against Harps earlier in the term included.
The striker has made no secret of the fact that he’s hoping to surpass last year’s total of 21 goals in attempting to post career-best figures.
It has been much to do with his form, and Ciaran Kilduff’s knack of bagging crucial goals, which has kept Ciarán O’Connor, the on-loan Harps forward, out of Kenny’s immediate plans.
Nonetheless, O’Connor’s parent club are said to be impressed with how he has performed since joining Harps, so much so that a decision is still pending over whether Dundalk will allow him to finish the campaign in the north-west.
O’Connor, whose short-term agreement with Harps is to end in July, is set to miss out on an appearance at Oriel Park tomorrow night due to the terms of his loan deal.
His absence is an obvious blow for the Donegal men, but that’s not to say Dundalk are expecting an easy game. As Kenny eluded to last weekend, “maintaining our standards is very important and the next few games are important to this”.