BY CHRIS MCNULTY
FINN Harps manager Ollie Horgan is hopeful of renewing a loan deal for Ruairi Keating, but the Sligo Rovers striker is unlikely to feature in the squad for Sunday’s First Division clash against Shamrock Rovers B at Tallaght Stadium (kick-off 3pm).
Keating scored six goals in fourteen appearances for Harps in an initial loan move that ceased after he scored the winner against Waterford United in Ballybofey last Friday. That effectively meant he was reinstated as a Sligo Rovers player again, but Harps remain keen to secure his services again until the end of the season.
While Horgan and Harps were anxious to tie up the terms this week, Sligo’s departure on Tuesday morning for a Europa League game in Lithuania saw talks between the relevant people cease for the time being. Sligo were set to take on FK Banga in Gargzdai on Thursday evening.
Horgan was in close contact with representatives from the Showgrounds club and while he will again touch base upon their return, the Harps boss is planning without the Mayo native for this weekend’s trip to Dublin.
“I would like to have him between now and the end of the season,” Horgan confirmed.
Sligo’s recent change of manager stalled the process somewhat, with John Coleman replacing Ian Baraclough, who had been content for Keating’s spell at Harps to continue.
Sean McCarron has returned from a fractured ankle and, following an appearance off the bench against Waterford, is said to be ‘flying fit’ and in line to take the spot vacated by Keating.
Harps are awaiting clearance in order to allow new signings Marc Brolly and Thomas McMonagle to take their respective places in the squad. Strabane man Brolly, a left winger, is signing from Dungannon Swifts for his third spell at Finn Park, while McMonagle is back at Finn Park having been a part of Peter Hutton’s squad last season.
Nothing came of a pre-season spell at Derry City and the defender was last registered to a club in California, USA.
In relation to both players, Harps are at the mercy of the haste of the FAI’s process for dealing with such cases and Horgan described as ‘very much doubtful’ if they would be able to take their place in the squad on Sunday.
Both have featured for the club’s Ulster Senior League side, as has goalkeeper Mark Anthony McGinley, but the ex-UCD player has yet to put pen to paper with the Harps senior team, meaning Conor Winn is likely to retain his place between the sticks this week.
Damien McNulty returns from suspension and is expected to be reinstated to the starting XI, with a slight hamstring injury reported as ‘not too mad’ by his manager.
Horgan has confirmed that his eyes are peeled for new faces, but to make additions to his squad there will first need to be subtractions. Earlier this week, it was confirmed that Jonny Bonner had left and will join USL side Letterkenny Rovers having become frustrated at the lack of regular game time, although the Buncrana man did manage to tot up eleven appearances (starting six) this season.
Youngsters Chris Flanagan and Joe McIntyre have begun to train with Derry City, but Derry’s Ulster Senior League team manager, John Quigg, said: “Chris and Joe are in training with us but I don’t expect them to play this season.”
Elsewhere, Harps have no injury worries and, in a welcome change, have no suspensions this weekend. With Keating, Keith Cowan and Josh Mailey one yellow card away from four bookings, which would activate a suspension. In a season where his team has been riddled by red card, Horgan has been happy with his side’s recent disciplinary record.
“We haven’t changed anything,” Horgan said.
“We have had a lot of suspensions, but we came through last week without activating those ones. The bookings ones you’ll always accumulate over a period of games, but the sending off ones, some of them were very naive.”
Harps defeated Rovers 3-0 in Tallaght in the second game of the season but, in the return fixture at Finn Park, on a night when Packie Mailey was sent off, Stephen Confrey scored an 82nd minute winner for the Dubliners, who are managed by Colin Hawkins.
Horgan said: “We were disappointed that night. Shamrock Rovers will have new players coming in, I suspect, and I imagine that they will have a couple of their senior players for the weekend too.
“They had most of the possession that first day we played them. The score was a bit flattering but, of course, we took it at the time.
“We looked like we weren’t going to lose the home game, but we got caught late in the game. It was a disappointing one, but it was one point lost rather than three. They have improved during the season.”
The Harps manager was particularly pleased with the application of Gareth Harkin, who came in for his first League start of the season last week against Waterford.
He said: “Gareth showed promise on Friday.
“To his credit, he has got himself into shape and he has kept the head down in training. He never whinged once and never complained that he wasn’t starting.”