BY AIDAN O’DONNELL
PETER Hutton has reassured his commitment to Finn Harps in the wake of Felix Healy’s resignation and is hoping to get his reign in full charge of the team off to a winning start with the visit of Waterford United to Finn Park tonight(kick-off 7.45).
Hutton, who joined Healy at Harps last May as part of a new double management team, was left shell-shocked when he received the news after last week’s defeat at Wexford Youths.
Healy has since come out to state it was always his intention to stay for just a year at Harps but the former Derry City centre-half said he had been under the impression they were both in it for the long haul.
“It was strange but that’s football,” he said. “The first I knew of it was when we were walking off the pitch and Felix just turns to me and says “that’s me kid, I’m done”. It was such a surprise because there had been no inclinations at all that this was going to happen.
“It was very disappointing because it was Felix who took me into the club. We’d envisaged a two or three year spell to turn the club around. We wanted to put good structures in place, not just trying to put together a good first-team, and that objective hasn’t really changed.”
Sean McGowan, who guided the club’s U19’s to success in this year’s Northern Section of the U19 Championship, has since been elevated to the first-team to act as Hutton’s number two.
Chairman Joey O’Leary confirmed that both men will take charge of the team for the remainder of the campaign and Hutton is fully focused on driving the club forward.
He added: “These things are part and parcel of football and it’s the old saying, ‘no one individual is bigger than the club’. It’s disappointing that Felix has gone but we just have to move on.
“Sean knows the club really well and will have a good bond with a lot of the younger guys, having managed a lot of them with the U19’s.”
SHOW OF RESILIENCE
Healy’s departure followed a fourth defeat on the bounce as Wexford inflicted a 3-0 defeat on the nine men of Harps.
Kevin McHugh received a straight red card after just four minutes before Adam Clarke followed him with a second-half dismissal, meaning both players will miss out this weekend through suspension and quite possibly the FAI Cup tie with Derry City and the league game against SD Galway.
“We played probably the best football we’ve played all year,” Hutton said of last week’s performance. “The sending off for Kevin early on was a massive blow but the response from the rest of the boys was magnificent. They completely dominated the game but just couldn’t really find a way through. Although they scored then and we got Adam sent off in the space of a few minutes, we were still the better side.
“They got their last two goals when we went three at the back late on. It was disappointing to lose but I was very heartened and proud of the effort. It showed me they have a lot of character and resilience.”
Waterford arrive in Ballybofey two points off the promotion play-off spots and on the back of a decent run of form since their 2-0 reversal against Harps at the RSC at the end of March, when goals from Paul Simon Tracey and an own goal from Seamus Long handed Harps their first win in Waterford in almost eleven years.
The south-easterner’s followed that result with a run of five games unbeaten but saw their charge halted at home to table-toppers Longford last Friday.
Hutton said: “They’ve been a bit hit and miss but there’s no doubt they’ll be tough to beat. They have quality players with the likes of Gary Dempsey and your man Sean Maguire, who is reportedly attracting a lot of interest across channel.
“We just have to continue to work hard and hopefully we’ll get that bit of luck that has so far deserted us. It’s disappointing to be without Kevin and Adam, our two top scorers, but it’s a chance for someone else to step up to the plate.”