Call for fresh blood to help Harps reach full potential

FINN Harps commercial Officer Aidan Campbell says that the club are 
relishing the prospect of competing against the best teams in the SSE 
Airtricity League Premier Division next season.
Harps move into their new environment as a result of their 3-0 
aggregate play-off win against Limerick FC last weekend.
As players and supporters continue to celebrate promotion this week, 
it’s very much as case of ‘business as usual’ behind the scenes.
“The new season started for us last Monday. We’ve just learned 
that the first game will be on February 15 and we have to be ready for 
that date,” Campbell said.
Members of the Finn Harps Co-operative committee will meet first team 
manager Ollie Horgan in the coming days to clarify their strategy on 
the club’s direction. The Harps boss will be looking for a substantial 
increase to his budget for 2019 but, even then, there’s little 
realistic hope that they’ll be fighting for honours against the likes 
of Dundalk and Cork City. While it cost approximately €500,000 to run 
Finn Harps last season, Dundalk’s budget was in excess of €2 million.
“The supporters’ co-op owns the club and we’ll do what we can to help 
Ollie but we also have to be realistic when it comes to our annual 
budget,” Campbell said.
“We don’t have any rich benefactor unlike a number of other clubs in 
the league and we would welcome any such investment into Finn Harps 
with open arms. They would be buying into a project that spends its 
money wisely,” he added.
As commercial officer Aidan Campbell doesn’t take a wage. Nobody on 
the Harps board takes any money from the club. The only paid employees 
are those on schemes, working in the club’s office or around the ground.
He’s joined on the board by Sean Quinn (Chairman), Derek Wilkinson 
(Vice Chairman), John Campbell (Secretary), Lorna McHugh (Treasurer), 
Paul McLoone (New Stadium Development Officer), James Rodgers (Youth 
Development Officer) and Kathy Taaffe (Match Night Operations Manager).
Why would anyone work for nothing?
“I started supporting Finn Harps when I was a young lad and I do it 
for the love of the club. The most pressurised job is that of 
Treasurer and Lorna (McHugh) does a fantastic job. The likes of Joey 
O’Leary and Denise O’Neill came on board at a time when there was a 
downturn in the economy and Donegal was hit harder than most. A number 
of clubs went bust but we couldn’t let that happen to Harps.
“There was a lot of hard work involved and, for a while a least, we 
couldn’t really focus on the football side of things as much as we 
would have liked. A few years back we reviewed things to see where we 
wanted to take the football club,” he explained.
“We didn’t have money but we wanted to compete against the best teams 
in the country so we decided to invest in our underage structure. 
Ollie (Horgan) might have been a surprise choice as manager but, at 
the time, he came back to us with the type of detail we were looking 
for,” he said.
It will cost Finn Harps €100,000 to run teams in the U13, 15, 17 and 
19 National League competitions next season – money which could be 
added to Horgan’s budget – but Campbell believes it’s money well spent.
“We have invested in top coaches and all our underage teams reached 
the latter stages of their respective competitions this season. The 
U17s won the double and some of those younger lads will, hopefully, 
graduate to the senior team over the next few years,” he said.
“With the success we’ve enjoyed at underage level and with the senior 
team back into the Premier Division I think there’s no better time to 
invest in the club. I’ll be saying to prospective investors that 
they’ll be buying into a project which spends its money well – that’s 
the key thing,” he added.
Horgan is half way through a two-year contract but that’s not the case 
with his players.
“We have an agreement with Ollie that takes in two years and we want 
him to stay. We’ll sit down with him over the coming days and we’ll 
start planning for next season. Most players are on one year contracts 
– that’s the culture in the League of Ireland – but I’m sure that 
Ollie already has an idea who he would like to keep,” he said.
2019 represents the 50th anniversary of Harps playing League of 
Ireland football.
“We’re putting together a sponsorship package to mark our fiftieth 
year. It’s a huge achievement. If you look back through the last fifty 
years there’s a lot of clubs that have since gone by the wayside,” he 
The Donegal Stadium
Last month, the club announced that the next phase of work on the new 
stadium for Finn Harps will start in spring of next year. It will be 
known as ‘The Donegal Stadium’ in a €12m project with a capacity of 
Plans for the new stadium in Stranorlar have been ongoing for more 
than a decade, with work stalling in 2014 because of the recession.
“We want facilities to match the club’s ambition off and on the pitch. 
The initial grant figure that was announced (€300,000) will be spent 
by the design team and, hopefully, we’ll be back working on the main 
stand, which had already started, early next year and that the pitch 
will open in 2021,” he said.
Historically, fund-raising has been the main source of income for 
Harps with money raised through the club lotto, half-time draw and the 
500 club. The next biggest income stream is gate receipts 
(approximately 25%) and then commercial sponsorship.
“We’re looking at a new membership scheme. There’s a lot of young 
people who would be happier paying an annual membership that being out 
the expense of buying a share,” he said.
“We have to sit down with Ollie and decide a budget which, in turn, 
has to be approved by the FAI Licensing Department. It has to be 
realistic and we’ll try and get that balance right with the manager as 
we all know the pressures that come with competing in a ten-team 
league – most of whom are full-time professionals.
“We’re a part-time club and we have to do what we can to sway the odds 
in the manager’s favour,” he added.
Harps will be hoping that the new stadium plans will act as a carrot 
to attract new talent into the club but money, facilities and location 
are three issues which continue to hamper Horgan when it comes to 
bringing players to Finn Park.
“Finn Harps are greatly admired in the footballing world for the way 
the club is run. We’re fully transparent and we spend our money 
wisely. We’re in the middle of an exciting project but we need fresh 
blood to come on board and help us reach our full potential.
Top quality manager
“Clubs that get into Europe are shopping in a different place to us. 
That was the biggest revenue stream for these clubs before benefactors 
came in and raised the bar. While we mightn’t have the riches of other 
clubs we do have a top quality manager in Ollie Horgan, a man who has 
shown in the past that he’s prepared to give players the opportunity 
to showcase their talents.
“We’ve taken the project to a certain point and we’re open to the 
right people coming on board and helping us out. Finance remains the 
single biggest issue but we’ve already shown that we can compete with 
the best at underage level.
“Three lads (Shane Blaney, Doncaster; Conor Reilly, Ipswich and Mark 
Walsh, Swansea) have gone cross-channel in recent times and I’ve no 
doubt more will follow in the not too distant future,” he said.
“Unlike the GAA pyramid, where local clubs all feed into Donegal, 
we’re not seen as a parent club. It’s not unique to Donegal but we’re 
working hard to nurture better relationships with the different 
leagues across the county.
“We’ve made mistakes in the past and we’re determined to learn from 
them which, hopefully, will help foster and promote soccer throughout 
Donegal,” he added.

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