BY AIDAN O’DONNELL
DERRY City have requested Finn Harps not to play on-loan centre-half Thomas McMonagle in tonight’s northwest derby in the second round of the FAI Cup at the Brandywell (kick-off 7.45).
McMonagle is currently on a season-long loan at Harps and having already played against the club he is signed for in the EA Sports Cup earlier this year, the request from Derry officialdom seems a tad bizarre.
Harps manager Peter Hutton, who is already without experienced centre-half Keith Cowan, insists there is nothing in the defenders contract that states he may not play against Derry and is hoping that common sense will prevail.
He said: “They contacted us saying they didn’t want Tommy playing which we found strange because there are no stipulations or conditions in his loan deal stating that he can’t play.
“He’s already played against them in the league-cup so we’re hoping the situation can be resolved amicably because we’re very short at the minute. Tommy wants to play himself; he sees it as an opportunity to impress the Derry management so that’s not an issue.”
Hutton, who took over the managerial reigns in full after Felix Healy’s recent resignation, has not been blessed with much luck when it comes to injuries and suspensions.
Kevin McHugh and Adam Clarke are both suspended for the trip across the border, while Hugh Carlin and Stephen O’Donnell are both out for the remainder of the season with cruciate injuries respectively.
On top of that, striker Blain Curtis is also a definite absentee for tonight’s clash by the Foyle after twisting his knee in last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at home to Waterford United.
“He damaged his ligaments in his knee and we’re assessing whether he needs to go for a scan,” Hutton said of Curtis. “It wasn’t even a tackle; it was more of a kick in the ground, very similar to Stephen O’Donnell and Hugh Carlin’s injuries. Obviously we’re without those two lads for the season so we’re hoping that it isn’t the same for Blain.”
With McHugh, O’Donnell and Curtis not at their disposal, the Ballybofey outfit are without any recognised first-team strikers for tonight’s meeting with Declan Devine’s side.
Jordan Duffy, who was top scorer for the club’s U19’s side that claimed the U19 League Northern Section this year, came off the bench last week for his first senior appearance for the club and could be in line for a full debut.
Harps have a poor record at the Brandywell and, given their recent run of form of five defeats on the bounce, allied with Derry’s surge towards the business end of the Premier Division, it appears that record isn’t about to change anytime soon.
“It’s always a difficult place to go to at the best of times so we’re under no illusions as to how tough it will be, especially given that we’re down to our bare bones and the recent form Derry have shown,” acknowledged Hutton, who insists his players are in good spirits despite everything that has gone on over the last few weeks.
He added: “We’re under no pressure going into the Brandywell. We’re a young side and they should be relishing the chance to go in and play against a good side like Derry. We’ve played them twice already this season in there, once in a friendly and once in the league-cup.
“I’ll be hoping that the players will have learned from the mistakes that cost us in the league-cup and as long as we show the same desire and commitment that we had against Waterford last week I’ll be more than happy.
“The boys have been through a bad run of late and the manner of last week’s defeat was tough with their goal coming so late on, but they haven’t got down on themselves. The mood has been very bright in training this week and they’re all really looking forward to the game now.
“It’s a good stadium to go and play football in and our boys like to get the ball down and play, so they’ll be encouraged to do just that.”