- Ciaran Coll of Finn Harps competes for the ball with Ross Kenny of Athlone Town. The St Johnston man is out of the Wexford game with a knee complaint.
BY AIDAN O’DONNELL
FINN Harps have mixed news on the injury front as they travel to Wexford Youths on Friday hoping to bring an end to a run of three straight league defeats (kick-off 8pm).
Hugh Carlin and Ciaran Coll are both out with knee complaints, but goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher is in line for selection for the first time since sustaining hairline fractures in his skull six weeks ago at Waterford.
Winger Adam Clarke also returns to the fold, having missed last week’s defeat to Athlone because of a tight hamstring, while midfielder Thomas McBride is available following a two-game suspension.
Carlin was replaced after just ten minutes of last week’s game while Coll went off after seventy minutes and both players are now awaiting results of scans carried out on their knees this week.
“Hugh and Ciaran both went for scans this week so we’re hopeful that the news coming back will be positive,” said player-manager Peter Hutton. “We weren’t sure initially what the extent of Hugh’s injury was because there was quite a bit of swelling around the knee.
“You’d be hoping that it’s just medial damage and not cruciate, but the early signs don’t appear great. There’s not the typical pain you’d associate with medial damage but fingers crossed it’s not too serious.
“With Ciaran, he’s had previous operations on his knee and there has just been a bit of fluid gathering around the pins in the knee over the last few weeks.”
Hutton said the return of Clarke, who has scored four goals so far this term, and Gallagher are welcome boosts and admits he and Felix Healy now face something of a selection headache with Gallagher and Rory Kelly for the goalkeeper’s position.
He said: “Adam trained this week which is a boost and he’ll come back into the mix now. His hamstring was very tight last week but thankfully he’s feeling much better this week.
“Ciaran is also in line. He’s got the all-clear from the doctors and has taken full part in training this week so that is a huge plus. We have a bit of a selection dilemma now with Ciaran and Rory but it’s the kind of dilemmas you like to have.”
Meanwhile, Hutton said the manner of last week’s 2-1 defeat to Athlone was hard to stomach as they had worked hard on defending from set-piece situations during training in the lead up to the game.
“We were disappointed with the nature of the goals, we just didn’t deal with the corners, which was very disappointing because we’d worked very hard on showing the guys how to defend properly from those situations,” he said.
Harps now make the lengthy trip to the southeast towards Ferrycarrig to face a side that picked up something of a smash-and-grab 1-0 win at Finn Park in the first series of games.
Harps bounced back after that loss in Ballybofey to record three straight league wins to get to within a sniff of second place but three consecutive defeats have since followed and they now linger third bottom, nine points adrift of second-place Limerick.
Hutton said: “There are no easy games in the league. Everybody has improved from last year, with the likes of Athlone and Wexford and even Mervue as well. I think their position was very false because they’d lost a lot of their games by just the one goal. There are no weaker teams as such this year compared to last year where there was a bit of a gap.
“After the run of games we had we probably were starting to pat ourselves on the back but, as we’ve found out, you get your backside kicked if you take your eye off the ball. The line between winning and losing is very thin and if you don’t take the chances that fall your way and then concede sloppy goals there is only really going to be one outcome. It’s a tough learning curve for the boys but as long as their learning that’s the important thing.”