Caolan McAleer who is one of Harps' in-form players
Waterford FC are the visitors to Finn Park on Friday night as Finn Harps play the first of five big games in the space of just 15 days.
However, Harps' preparations have been dealt a major blow with confirmation from the FAI that three more players have been hit with suspensions for this weekend.
Mark Coyle received a one-game ban last week and is already ruled out. Now on top of that, the FAI has confirmed that Keith Cowan, Sam Todd and Caolan McAleer have been handed one-match suspensions for reaching their quota of bookings.
Harps assistant manager Paul Hegarty is also serving a three-game touchline ban.
It promises to be another grueling period of the campaign for Ollie Horgan’s side whose hopes of Premier Division survival received a real shot in the arm with their victory over UCD a forthnight ago.
That win - Harps’s first in the league this season - means Ollie Horgan’s team are only three points adrift of the Students and both teams now have the same number of games played.
And while a lot more content with his team’s upturn in fortunes, the Harps boss insisted he and his players remain firmly focused on the task that’s up ahead.
“I don’t think anyone got too down when we went ten games without a result,” Horgan pointed out.
“I don’t think anyone has got too carried away now that we’ve won one.
“We have played three games in-a row-now and have got three very good results. But they are three teams who are in the bottom half of the division. Now we are playing three teams who have their sights set on Europe and maybe higher.”
Those three matches against Waterford and Shamrock Rovers (Monday) in Ballybofey and then away to Derry City next Friday night, all present another challenge for Harps to gather some more much needed points. Harps then play Derry City away on Monday week in the quarter-final of the League Cup before an away trip to play Bohemians in the Premier Division on Friday, May 31.
Waterford come to Ballybofey this weekend having played out an exciting 3-3 draw against Sligo Rovers at the RSC last weekend. Harps assistant manager Paul Hegarty was in Waterford to run his eye over tomorrow night’s opposition and it seems he was impressed by what he saw.
“They’ve got serious quality,” Horgan pointed out.
“They are a full-time team and they have lads who are physically very strong and football-wise, very strong.
“And people might be saying, here you go again, you’re talking up Waterford. But Waterford qualified for Europe and they have strengthened again with players who have come in.
Horgan added: “It’s a long time since Waterford were in Finn Park, the last time they were here was in the First Division. They are a proper side and we need to be playing very well and hope that Waterford don’t play to their potential.”
Tomorrow night’s game is the second meeting of the sides this season. The Munster men eased to a 4-0 win at the RSC back in March in a game where Mark Coyle was sent off after picking up two bookings in the first half.
Coincidentally Coyle is banned for tomorrow night’s match after reaching his quota of yellow cards. Horgan and Harps were also awaiting word from the FAI yesterday on further suspensions with fears that at least another three players could also be hit with bans.
And whatever side Horgan is able to select, he has once again called on Finn Harps supporters to get behind his side.
“We need them to come out and we need them to be patient,” he said.
“To be fair to the fans, they clapped the lads off there against UCD and against Cork City even though we lost.
“I think the majority of the supporters are realistic as regards the league we are in and should we get to a play-off spot, it would be a savage achievement.”
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