FINN HARPS’ locally based players will rack up more than 1000 kilometres to represent their club this week when they make the long journey to face Cobh Ramblers at St Colman’s Park this evening at 7.45pm.
AA Route Planner puts the distance from Finn Park to Cobh via Dublin (which is the route Harps will take to avail of the motorway) at 498 kilometres one way, and that’s before you take into consideration how far the players will have to travel to meet up, with some players coming from the depths of Inishowen.
That indicates just how much of a commitment it is to play in the League of Ireland, but Harps could get their rewards, if they can win promotion at the end of the season.
“Yeah, it’s a long trip for us, and unfortunately we will be doing it all on the one day,” said Harps boss, Ollie Horgan.
“I was hoping that we might have been able to get an overnight on the Friday, but that hasn’t been possible.
“I suppose the only consolation is that we have done it before and have still got a result.
“We beat them down there earlier in the year, and in fairness we got two late goals and were hanging on a bit at the end.
“So we’re under no illusions about what we’re facing this week. We certainly won’t be underestimating them and it is a game that could go either way.”
It’s a tricky away tie for the Ballybofey men but they have won their last three games on the road, and recorded a 2-0 win over Cobh in St Colman’s Park back on St Patrick’s Day.
Horgan said: “Yeah, we have done quite well away from home this year.
“In fact, our away form has probably been better than our home form this year which is unusual.
“But Cobh are always a difficult team to beat, no matter where you play them.”
Harps are unbeaten in four games since the summer break, and are in form at the business end of the season.
However, they were held to a scoreless draw against Shelbourne last Friday night, and Horgan felt his team didn’t do enough to win that match.
“Listen, it was a game that we didn’t play well in, and we got a draw. That might turn out to be a good result or a bad one – we’ll just have to wait and see.
“But Shelbourne are one of the strongest team in the league, and we have now kept four clean sheets in-a-row which is good going.
“We could have won it, but we didn’t and we just have to move on fairly quickly.”
Horgan felt there was some discontent from the terraces after last week’s draw, and appealed to fans to support his young players.
“I’ve said it before but we have a lot of young lads playing and they are very much still learning the game.
“Most of them have had knock backs at some stage already in their young careers.
“Their confidence might not have been great, and they are slowly trying to improve that.
“I don’t mind if someone has a go at me, but these lads are trying as hard as they can.
“It’s going to be a tough end to the season, and we need everyone pulling in the one direction.”
Horgan said at the start of the season that he expected Cobh to be challenging for promotion, but that never materialised.
Cobh are currently eighth of ten teams in the table and have only have seven wins to their name this year.
However, Harps, Longford, and Galway United are among the teams that have dropped points to the Cork side this season.
Horgan said: “Two years ago, Cobh finished third in the league. Last year, they finished second.
“They haven’t done as well this year, but I think that is more a reflection of how strong the league is this season.
“Now, I didn’t see a whole pile of the First Division last year, but from what I did see, I think there is a definitely a higher standard this year.
“But Cobh will fight to the last game – that’s the way they are.
“I remember last year, they beat Waterford in the last game of the season.
“They weren’t playing for anything. Waterford had already been promoted and there was no play-off for Cobh.
“But they try to win every game and they will be fighting tooth and nail to win this week.”
Harps do have injury concerns ahead of the trip, and could be without some of their more creative players in St Colman’s Park.
“Paddy McCourt is unfortunately out for another month or two, and we’re not sure when he is going to be back.
“Mark Coyle is injured and suspended this week. He is having trouble with his knee and is only able to play in bits and pieces.
“He came on for twenty minutes last week, but isn’t able to play the full match.
“It’s up to us to manage him as best as we can, but he definitely won’t be playing this week.
“Nathan (Boyle) is very doubtful. He hasn’t trained this week yet.
“We will do a fitness test with him on Friday, and we won’t be taking him on a long trip down on a bus if he isn’t right.”