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Ronan Finn happy with Hoops fine start as Rovers face Finn Harps in Friday's only top flight game

Wed, Mar 20 2019

Ronan Finn Credit: Peter Fitzpatrick (ETPhotos)

This Friday Finn Harps will host Shamrock Rovers in what will be the only Premier Division game of the weekend. 

When two or more players from one club are called up for international duty, the players’ club can look to call off their own game and that is what Bohemians, UCD, Waterford and Derry City all did for this Friday’s planned club fixtures.

Derry City’s Eoin Toal and David Parkhouse were called up by Ian Baraclough for the Northern Ireland under-21 games against Mexico and Bulgaria. Stephen Kenny initially called up eight players from the SSE Airtricity Leaguefor his team’s under-21 international against Luxembourg.

Darragh Leahy and Dan Mandroiu (Bohs), Liam Scales and Neil Farrugia (UCD), Zach Elbouzedi and Aaron Drinan (Waterford) with a single player each from Shamrock Rovers (Trevor Clarke) and St. Patrick's Athletic (Jamie Lennon) were all named by Kenny in his squad..

Despite two more Shamrock Rovers players subsequently being called up over the last couple of days - Jack Byrne into Mick McCarthy’s senior international squad and Brandon Kavanagh into the Republic of Ireland under-21 squad as a replacement for Norwich player Simon Power – the Hoops will still travel to play in Finn Park on Friday.

They are keen to get Friday’s game to go ahead so as to avoid adding to the fixture pressure in April – some clubs will face six games across a 17 day period. 

Speaking after his side’s recent 3-0 home win over Sligo Rovers, Hoops Head Coach Stephen Bradley saw it is a chance to go seven points clear at the top of the table above Dundalk (who will have played two games less than Rovers after this weekend).

“It is a massive opportunity for us to get three more points on the board,” was Bradley’s assessment last Friday. “No one else plays. 

“It is simple for us – just go and win the game. It will be a difficult game though. Finn Harps have proved to be difficult to beat at home but I fully believe we are ready and focused.”

Bradley believes his squad has enough quality to deal with the absences. Sean Kavanagh is expected to start in place of Trevor Clarke while Dylan Watts will likely step into the starting team in place of Jack Byrne. 

Brandon Kavanagh has only made two appearances off the bench for the Hoops so far this season. On the injury front Rovers are well positioned as Ethan Boyle who has missed a number of games recently is hoping to be in contention again this weekend.

“I genuinely believe that the squad is really strong and so anyone we bring in doesn’t weaken us,” said Bradley.

The Rovers boss has rested key players already this season, including club captain Ronan Finn who didn’t start in the Dublin derby Dalymount Park defeat nor in the 3-0 home win over Finn Harps at the start of March.

Finn noted that “players need to understand that, as frustrating as it maybe to not start, that it is a long season. There are a lot of games so the manager needs to use the squad and it has been working for us.

“Some players mightn’t play every week but that is just squad rotation. By bringing players in and out that keeps players fresh.” 

The Hoops have started the campaign with 16 points from the opening 21 on offer – their best return since the 2001/02 campaign. They have kept five clean sheets in the first seven league games of the season.

“We have been good in the last few weeks and it was good to keep the run going,” said Finn after the Sligo win. “The clean sheets are massive. That has been the basis of the season. We feel if we can keep a clean sheet, we will have chances to win the game.”