BY CHRIS MCNULTY
FINN Harps captain Kevin McHugh will sit out Sunday’s game against Shamrock Rovers B at Tallaght Stadium (kick-off 3pm) because of an injury.
McHugh has been struggling of late with a hamstring complaint and, although he played against Waterford United in last week’s season opener, the veteran striker did not play any part in Monday night’s League Cup win over Cockhill Celtic.
The Killea man looks set to be confined to a watching brief this weekend in what is the first competitive away fixture of Ollie Horgan’s tenure.
“Kevin is very much in doubt for Sunday,” Horgan confirmed.
“We don’t want to aggrivate the injury any more, but we’re hoping that he’ll be able to play some part next week against Cobh Ramblers.”
McHugh took no part in training on Tuesday night and while full-backs Damien McNulty and Ciaran Coll also sat out the session, Horgan is confident of being able to include both in his team to take on the Hoops.
McNulty was absent due to a virus, while a rib complaint sidelined Coll. However, the manager said he was ‘hopeful’ on McNulty and added that Coll ‘will make it’.
McNulty put in a big shift in last Friday’s scoreless draw with Waterford and was close to being named Man of the Match. Horgan said: “Damien did well for us on Friday. He put in a lot of effort. He did most of his good work in the first half when we were poor so that was encouraging.”
Goalkeeper Shaun Patton is another who is struggling for fitness, with a back complaint curtailing the Letterkenny man’s agility and Conor Winn seems certain to get the nod in goal again.
The game will come too soon for Josh Mailey and Gareth Harkin, both of whom took minor parts in training on Tuesday, while Horgan has also confirmed that Under-19 players Chris Flanagan, Darragh Black and Ryan Curran are currently training with the first team squad.
Flanagan and Black won’t be included for Sunday’s game in Tallaght as they play for the Republic of Ireland Schoolboys team, managed by Horgan, against Northern Ireland in the Centenary Shield at 3pm on Monday in Sligo.
Horgan said: “They are in working with us, but they need to earn their place. They’re good lads, but at the end of the day they’re only young kids and we’ll be careful with them.
“There are a number of positions up for grabs. We have a far-from-settled side and we have a couple to get back.”
Sunday will be the first home game for the Rovers B team, a new entrant into the First Division’s ranks this season. Rovers, managed by Colin Hawkins, are permitted to play a maximum of three outfield players plus a goalkeeper from their first-team squad on a given weekend.
They drew their opening game last Saturday, a one-all draw away to Cobh Ramblers. With their first team playing Derry City on Sunday, Hawkins didn’t have any strengtheners – but Horgan expects that to change this weekend.
He said: “They could bring in four of their senior panel – and you can imagine the quality that would include. They should have beaten Cobh on Saturday night – I had them watched – and they didn’t have any of their senior panel with the first-team playing on the Sunday.”
Daniel Purdy had put Rovers ahead against Cobh, only for an 88th minute equaliser from James Carson to deny them. Aside from the first-team squad, Rovers can still call on plenty of League of Ireland experience.
Purdy has played for Longford Town previously, while Chris Lyons was on the books of UCD and Bohemians, Corie Tracey has played for the Rovers first team as well as Drogheda United, Longford and Limerick and Ryan Coombes counts St Patrick’s Athletic, Athlone Town and Bray Wanderers among his former employers.
Horgan said: “We’re under no illusions about the task facing us on Sunday. It is a very difficult away trip. At home, we will make it hard for any team, but this is a different story, going away up to Tallaght Stadium. They are still a bit unknown because, even though I had them watched on Saturday night, they have that option of the senior players this Sunday.”