Finn Harps face league leaders Shamrock Rovers in Ballybofey (kick off 8pm) in what is Friday’s only Premier Division game. Due to under-21 call ups all the other fixtures this weekend are off.
The Hoops had the chance to call this match off due to their player involvement in both the under-21 and senior Republic of Ireland sides but have chosen to go ahead with the game.
Ollie Horgan will be hoping that his Harps side can take advantage of Rovers’ reduced squad and pick up a first win of the campaign. They dropped to bottom of the early season league table after UCD beat Harps in Belfield 3-0 last Friday night.
“Look the players must move on from the recent run of poor results and especially in the manner that we performed against UCD last Friday night,” said Horgan.
“It’s important that we play as a unit and regain quickly that spirit which been so much part of this team.”
The two sides faced each other at the start of the month as Harps had their second mid-week trip to Dublin in eight days. They lost 3-0.
Horgan was sent to the stands in that game and picked up a three match ban which means he won’t be in the dugout in Finn Park on Friday.
“We will be long odds to get anything from the Shamrock Rovers game but we’re up for the challenge and players have prepared well this week.
"At least we are at home and while we have lost the last two games at Finn Park, it’s still an opportunity for us to try and get a result.
“Shamrock Rovers are full-time so they have the advantage of working on all aspects of the game.
"We just have to try and finds other ways of being competitive against a team that really is in-form and that’s reflected in them being top of the table.”
The Hoops are looking to go seven points clear at the top of the table with a win in Donegal on Friday night. Stephen Bradley’s men come into the game after a 3-0 home win over Sligo Rovers last week and it was a similar scoreline when the Hoops faced Finn Harps a couple of weeks ago.
However the Hoops Head Coach is still wary of the threat his team faces in Ballybofey.
“Cork beat Harps with two wonder goals from (Gearóid) Morrissey, Dundalk only drew with them up there,” said Stephen Bradley. “They’ve shown that they’re a different team at home and it’s going to be a really difficult game.
“We need to make sure that we’re focused and concentrated and ready to go and win the game. I believe we are.”
The club made the decision to go ahead with the fixture despite missing three players who are on international duty – Jack Byrne called up by Mick McCarthy for the senior Ireland team and Trevor Clarke and Brandon Kavanagh in Stephen Kenny’s under-21 squad.
Rovers had Graham Burke on Ireland duty last summer when he was at Shamrock Rovers – with Burke becoming the first League of Ireland player to score for the Boys in Green since former Hoop player Ray Treacy grabbed a goal in a friendly in 1978.
Byrne has the chance on Saturday against Gibraltar to become the first League of Ireland player to line out in a competitive game for Ireland since Pat Byrne did so when he was with Shamrock Rovers in 1985.
McCarthy was on hand in Tallaght last weekend to watch Jack Byrne put in an excellent display capped by a cracking goal scored from distance.
“They were there on the night and Jack produced that performance,” said Bradley. “It’s brilliant and just shows the impression he made on them the way it’s happened so quickly.
“Jack’s goal was a goal of real quality and his overall game was really good. He’s worked hard, created two goals and scored one. You can see him getting fitter and stronger. I’ve seen him play in Holland against top teams like Ajax and PSV and get man of the match so I know there is more to come.
“His call-up is great news. It’s great that you have the Ireland manager and his staff showing interest in the league. It’s well deserved and it’s great to have him part of that.”
“The downside is missing Jack, Trevor Clarke and Brandon Kavanagh in Donegal but you can’t have it both ways. The players can’t perform at good levels, get into the international team and you still want to keep them for your own games.
“We just have to accept that it’s a positive that they’re doing well for us, they’re in the squads and we’re delighted for them.”
Looking back on the win over Sligo, Bradley was pleased with how his team performed.
“I thought we played really well for large periods and deserved to win. We played some good football at a really good tempo and energy. We created a lot of chances and kept the clean sheet, that was the pleasing thing for us”
Referee: Derek Tomney.
The Hoops have got five wins and a draw from their opening seven games - better than they managed in 2010 and 2011 which were the last two seasons that they won the league.
Harps have accumulated two points from their opening seven games. They had eight points at the same stage of 2017, a season when they were relegated from the top flight.
Harps have only avoided defeat against the Hoops once in their last six league games. Last season Rovers won all three games against Harps, with 3-2 and 4-1 victories in Tallaght and 1-0 in Ballybofey, while the previous year Rovers won 1-0 and 2-0 in Finn Park but drew with Harps 1-1 in Tallaght.
Finn Harps 13/2; Draw 3/1; Shamrock Rovers 4/9.
2-0 away win.
Injured: Gareth Harkin, Mark Timlin
Unavailable: Sean Boyd (due to loan arrangement with Shamrock Rovers)
Injured: Ethan Boyle.
Unavailable: Jack Byrne, Trevor Clarke, Brandon Kavanagh (international duty)
PODCAST DROP! LOAN me your ears!— Extratime.ie (@ExtratimeNews) March 19, 2019
Web Player - https://t.co/jWzZ0wPGPf
TuneIn - https://t.co/FEHP5ey8z3
iTunes - https://t.co/wir9pcJujG
Spotify - https://t.co/bCuFLvPxTK
Alexa -"ask AnyPod to play The Extra Time Sportscast" pic.twitter.com/AIQ0B7oywR