Finn Harps will begin pre-season training this weekend as preparations for the new 2018 season move into gear.
The new-look Harps squad, which are preparing for life back in the First Division, will train together for the first time on Saturday morning.
It gives them around seven weeks of preparation before the first competitive game of the new campaign away to Drogheda United on Friday, February 23rd.
The Donegal club have also arranged a number of pre-season friendlies in the lead-up to the Drogheda fixture.
They include games against Bohemians, Dundalk, Sligo Rovers and Derry City, all away from home.
The date and venue for the Derry City has yet to be confirmed. However, there’s a chance the match could be part of the official opening of the newly revamped Brandywell stadium.
Harps will travel to Dublin to play Bohemians on Friday, January 26th with a game arranged with Sligo Rovers the following week. In between, they play Dundalk away on Tuesday, February 6th.
Other games against League of Ireland opposition are also likely to be confirmed over the coming weeks.
Speaking this week, Harps boss Ollie Horgan, said the venue for this Saturday’s first pre-season training session will all depend on the weather.
“We’ll have the U-19s in training with us as well and it’ll be good to get up and running again,” the manager said.
“The new season starts a little earlier this year again, and it won’t be long coming round.”
Harps confirmed this week that goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher has agreed a new deal which will keep him at the club for another season.
“It’s fantastic to get Ciaran back on board again,” Horgan said.
“Everyone knows what he brings to the team. He has been such an important player for us for so many seasons, and it’s great news that he has agreed to stay.”
While Gallagher has agreed a new deal, two more players have parted company with Harps with Damian McNulty signing for Carrick Rangers and Killian Cantwell joining Crusaders.
Cantwell’s departure was perhaps unexpected but many Harps supporters will have been surprised to see McNulty (26) end a successful spell at the club.
It’s five years since McNulty made his Harps debut under Peter Hutton, and he has become a firm favourite among the Finn Park faithful during that time.
He returns to the Irish League having had spells with Limavady United and Coleraine in the early part of his career.
McNulty’s departure will open the way for new signing Aidan Friel to stake a claim for a regular place at right back in the Harps defence.
Friel, Darren McFadden and the returning Ciaran O’Connor are among the new faces to join the Donegal club. Ciaran Gallagher has become the seventh player from last year’s squad to agree a new deal along with Ciaran Coll, Shane Blaney, Paddy McCourt, Gareth Harkin, Mark Timlin and BJ Banda.