BY AIDAN O’DONNELL
FELIX Healy has poured cold water over any notion that Finn Harps will be challenging for promotion this season ahead of their meeting with Mervue United tonight, Friday, at Fahy’s Field (kick-off 7.45).
The Harps Director of Football has reiterated his belief that securing the long-term future of the club is much more important than immediate success.
The Ballybofey outfit, currently just a point off third-place Wexford Youths, went into last weekend’s clash with Limerick on the back of three league wins on the bounce but the big-spending Shannonsider’s handed Harps “a reality check”, according to player-manager Peter Hutton.
“If anyone thinks we are going to be competing right at the top of this division this season they are sadly mistaken,” said Healy.
He added: “Let’s get things real here. Limerick have probably got two players that are taking home more every week than our whole squad. That’s the reality.
“This is a tough division and one in which every team is scrapping for points. But the way I see things right now, if we lose two or three games let’s no get too despondent or downbeat, just like we’ll not get too excited if we win a couple of games.
“We have a young squad of players and things are ticking over nicely now from a squad point of view. The U19’s did very well to win their league and there will be further good news to be announced in the coming weeks. We must stabilise.
“We want to be competitive for the time being and build things up. It’s the best way and by the time we get into the new stadium in a couple of years we hope to move on from there.”
Meanwhile, Hutton said it was important to learn the lessons from last weekend’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Pat Scully’s side.
He said: “It was very disappointing because they are a very big, physical side and we let them impose themselves on us too easily instead of enforcing our own game-plan. We were doing okay in the first half, hanging in there, but we just didn’t really come out for the second half and showed a lack of fight and desire.
“It’s obviously a young team and these are things that the players need to learn to possess, but we need to learn quickly because it’s a tough league.”
A night of frustration against the title favourites was further compounded when midfielder Thomas McBride was given a straight red card for a lunge on Limerick full-back and Killybegs native Shaun Kelly ten minutes from time.
The former Derry City player, an ever-present in the side since joining in pre-season, will now serve at least a one-game suspension and although Hutton said his absence is a blow, he said it’s up to someone else to try and stake their claim for selection.
He added: “It’s very unfortunate for us because Tommy has been doing really well for us in the middle of the park alongside ‘Wizzy’ (Shaun McGowan). He is out for at least this game and then it depends on what the referee says in his match report, so it’s a chance now for someone else to come in and stake their place.
“We had a friendly there last Sunday and Blain Curtis and Ciaran Greene got on the score-sheet and played really well. It was encouraging to see that the players are prepared to roll their sleeves up and fight for their place.”
Harps played out a seven-goal thriller with Mervue last month, with goals from Thomas McMonagle, Adam Clarke and a brace from Kevin McHugh handing Harps their first win of the season.
The Galway-based side are rooted to the bottom of the First Division and are yet to pick up a single win from eight games played, with six defeats and two draws to their name.
“You have to be very wary of playing against a side that has yet to pick up a win. We saw the perfect example of that with Cork City in the Premier League, having gone several league games without a win before turning around and hammering Monaghan 6-0.
“By all accounts, Mervue were very unlucky not to get something off Longford last week. They will turn things around eventually and get their first win, we just have to make sure it’s not on Friday night against us,” warned Hutton.