BY CHRIS MCNULTY
PACKIE Mailey’s return from suspension gives Finn Harps manager Ollie Horgan something of a selection dilemma ahead of Friday night’s clash against Galway FC at Eamonn Deacy Park (kick-off 7.45pm).
Mailey missed last week’s 2-0 win over Cobh Ramblers after being sent off in the previous week’s game against Shamrock Rovers B in Ballybofey, but the return of the Convoy man once again opens the door for a change of formation to Horgan.
Horgan again has the option of a return to the 3-5-1-1 formation deployed in the early part of the season to good effect. Caoimhin Bonner, the recent signing, would be comfortable on the right-hand side of the wing-back operation with Ciaran Coll on the left. It is one of the possibilities afforded to Horgan who can report something close to a full-strength side for the game against Tommy Dunne’s outfit.
Team captain Kevin McHugh resumed full training this week, but ‘has a bit to go’ before he’ll see game time. While Ruairi Keating took part in Wednesday’s training session, the on-loan Sligo Rovers striker remains a ‘serious doubt’.
McHugh’s continuing absence has been a source of frustration for Horgan, who was more upbeat about the player’s situation this week than he has been.
“We can see light at the end of the tunnel now,” Horgan said.
“A month ago we didn’t know when, where or what as regards Kevin. We’re still a little unsure, but he’s back in full-contact training which is a big positive. Please God, he’ll have no reaction and can keep recovering now.”
Michael Funston picked up a minor knock in Cobh, but will be available for selection as Harps look to regain momentum. Their win last weekend, secured by goals from Pat McCann and Damien McNulty, was their first since a five-nil battering of the same opponents in March.
Despite a run of six games without a win, Horgan and Harps remained positive, even after a 1-0 defeat to the League’s youthful newcomers Shamrock Rovers B two weeks ago.
He said: “I don’t really do being on a downer after a defeat. I don’t operate that way and neither do the team.
“The Shamrock Rovers one was a cruel defeat in a lot of ways. We were poor, yet we didn’t deserve to lose it. The following morning, though, we had a great recovery session. Anyone coming in at the end of that session wouldn’t have been too sure how we did.
“Last week, we beat Cobh but no-one was getting too excited.
“We don’t get too down hearted after a defeat, although that Shamrock Rovers one was a hard one to take.”
Friday’s will be Harps’ third game of the season against Galway FC, following a one-all League draw at Finn Park and the EA Sports Cup game won by Galway (1-0) on Monday-week past.
“We know what we’re going into this week,” Horgan said.
“I watched them playing Longford a couple of weeks ago, when they drew two-each. I know Galway well – too well maybe. Without doubt the best performance I’ve seen from any team in the League was by Galway that night against Longford.
“While we huffed and puffed before losing to Longford, Galway totally outplayed them. They drew, but really should have won at a canter. Their side is so well balanced and they create a lot of chances.
“They will have a crowd of 1,000 or maybe more, they’re on a great pitch and intent on beating us. They have some absolute quality in their squad, too, Ryan Manning, Jason Molloy, these are top players. It will be a long ninety minutes for us.”
While Harps managed to defeat the basement side, Cobh, comfortably last week, the manager remains concerned about his team’s short-comings in attack.
“The fact that we scored twice in Cobh hasn’t rectified the problem,” Horgan said.
“We scored a decent first goal; the second came from a corner kick. We are short a couple, but we do need to start scoring. We haven’t been playing well, but we have managed to stay in contention. We’re barely doing that and that will only keep us going for so long. We just need to score with more consistency.
“At the minute the table is very tight. We won in Cobh and jumped a couple of places, but Galway’s draw against Shamrock Rovers B meant we dropped a place again.”
Molloy is a doubt for Galway, who will be without suspended striker Stephen Walsh, sent off in the first half of Sunday’s 1-1 draw.
Although a new club, Galway’s ambitious are loftier than the modest hopes harboured by Harps.
“It is a realistic ambition for us to win the League,” striker Jake Keegan said this week.
“That is where we expect to be at the end of the year. We are on a good unbeaten run, we have matched every team we have played. So hopefully we can continue to build on our recent form.”