BY CHRIS MCNULTY
A STRIKER remains the item at the top of Ollie Horgan’s shopping list, but the Finn Harps manager hasn’t been having much luck finding a bargain in the January sales.
Veteran captain Kevin McHugh remains the only recognised striker on Horgan’s first-team panel ahead of the start of pre-season training on Monday night at The Diamond Park in Ballyare. Horgan is anxious to add attacking options to his squad having retained his solid defence of last season which has been boosted by the arrivals of goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher from Derry City and the versatile Matthew Crossan from Kildrum Tigers.
Offensive options are thin on the ground around Navenny Street these days. Sean McCarron has bid adieu to Finn Park and signed for reigning Irish League champions Cliftonville. McCarron made his debut in last weekend’s 1-1 draw against Dungannon Swifts.
Manager Tommy Breslin has backed McCarron to be a hit at Solitude. “It will take Sean a while to find his feet and get to know the league but, once he gets more games, he will certainly add something,” Breslin said.
“He will give us goals, movement and vision. He’s a talented lad and I think he’ll chip in with quite a few goals once he gets established in the league.”
Horgan had made tentative approaches to a couple of recognised First Division strikers, but had his advances rebuffed.
“I actually think at this stage that geography rather than money is the biggest problem for us,” the Harps manager said this week.
Darren McFadden had been another possibility, but he is set to rejoin Institute again this month.
Horgan said: “We have no news on signings and, at this stage, I think we just have what we have, but we’ll keep looking and keep trying.”
The option of a return to Ballybofey for Sligo Rovers striker Ruairi Keating has been ruled out. Keating spent four months on loan at Harps at the beginning of last season, scoring six goals in 14 appearances, but the youngster will be retained at the Showgrounds this time around. Horgan had teased the possibility with new Sligo manager Owen Heary, but has been informed that Keating is not being made available for loan.
The Harps manager said: “It goes without saying that we didn’t score enough goal last season so a striker is our priority.”
Horgan will run the rule over a number of players in his pre-season campaign, included among them will be Kyle Black, an attacker currently on the books of Cranford United, but who has played most prominetly for Swilly Rovers and Cockhill Celtic striker Garbhan Friel, who had a brief stint at Harps back in the 2011 season and who scored 17 League goals in 11 games last season in the USL.
Harps open their pre-season campaign with a game against Donal O’Brien’s Cockhill Celtic on Sunday-week, January 18th, at the Charlie O’Donnell Sports Grounds, a week out from the USL double winners’ FAI Intermediate Cup clash with St Mochta’s. Harps have also confirmed games against League of Ireland Premier Division sides Cork City, Sligo Rovers and Galway United.
Harps will face Cork on Saturday, January 31 in Roscommon before welcoming Sligo to Finn Park on Friday, February 6 and they will face Galway at Eamon Deacy Park on Friday, February 13. Harps will also take on the Inishowen League, but a date and venue for that fixture has yet to be confirmed.
American midfielder Pat McCann has joined Brenes Balompie, who are based in Seville in Spain, but could make a return to Harps in the summer transfer window.
Horgan said: “We would hope to get Pat back to the club. He is going to Spain for six months, but has expressed the opinion that he’d like to come back to us. Pat is a good lad and I hope he does well during his time out in Spain.”
At present, Horgan has 13 names on his roster: Ciaran Gallagher, Ciaran Coll, Thomas McMonagle, Keith Cowan, Packie Mailey, Damien McNulty, Caoimhinn Bonner, Matthew Crossan, Gareth Harkin, Michael Funston, Brian McGroary, Tony McNamee and Kevin McHugh.
Before Christmas, McHugh – who has confirmed that 2015 will be his last as a player at Harps – gathered the troops who’d been recruited to set the ball rolling.
Horgan said: “To be fair to them, the commitment is second to none. Sometimes that gets missed a little. There will be things the players will be looking for and things that I’ll be looking for – hopefully that can kick us on.
“They gave everything for last season. The majority of those players have come back to us and the break over the last few weeks will have done them good.
“The off-season is difficult, but I’m looking forward to Monday week and to the start of the season.”
MEANWHILE, Finn Harps have announced details of a fundraising draw which has been billed the ‘2015 Squad Building Draw’. Tickets are priced at €5 each or a book of five is €20. The draw takes place on February 7th. Tickets can be purchased from club members or via the club website, www.finnharps.com
Prizes: 1st – €1,000; 2nd – Samsung 40” TV; 3rd – 2 nights B&B for 2 at Signature Park Hotels (Kiltimagh or Mill Park, Donegal); 4th – €1,000 McElhinney’s Stores shopping voucher; 5th – 2 2015 Finn Harps season tickets; 6th 1/4 ton of coal from Quinn Fuels; 7th – Green fees to the value of €1,000 sponsored by Letterkenny Golf Club; 8th – 1 night B&B for two with complimentary spa sponsored by the Villa Rose Hotel.