The two promoted teams to the Premier Division this season meet in what is a huge match this Friday night in Ballybofey as Finn Harps host Wexford Youths. (kick-off 8.00).
Harps were top of the bookies list to go straight back down, with their opponents Wexford Youths a very close second to make the drop. So far Ollie Horgan’s outfit have turned those odds pretty much on their head while Wexford are the side at the moment with most to fear in terms of relegation.
The stakes will be very high and while a victory for Ollie Horgan’s side will not automatically guarantee them a place in the top flight for next season, it will certainly strengthen their position considerably in achieving that objective. At the same time defeat for Wexford would make their mission of avoiding a play-off at the end of the season much more difficult and also increase their chances of being drawn into the automatic relegation spot should bottom side Longford Town string together a series of good results.
As it stands, the Donegal side is 11 points ahead of Wexford who are second from bottom of the table. Harps are three places above them with both sides having 19 matches played. The two teams will have 13 fixtures left after Friday night’s clash. So a win against the Youths would put a gap of 14 points between the sides and while Horgan certainly won’t be saying that his team will be safe, a home victory from this one in Ballybofey would be marked down as one of the key results of the season.
When the two teams met at Ferrycarrig Park back in April it ended in a 1-1 draw, after the visitors had taken the lead courtesy of a first half Ryan Curran penalty. Harps actually played well enough to bag all three points that night.
In team news for Friday night, the manager is entertaining some hopes of both Ciaran Coll (shoulder) and Tony McNamee (knee) being declared fit enough to be in the matchday squad. Gareth Harkin (knee) will not be available again while Horgan reports that Josh Mailey won’t be available due to injury. Gone from the squad are Liam Flatley and Ryan McConnell who have both signed for Irish League side Ballinamallard Utd. Midfielder Flatley has made a permanent move to the Co. Fermanagh club while defender McConnell has gone on loan until January. Horgan has wished both players well with their new club while he will be hoping that the experience gained by McConnell will see him return to stake a regular place in the Harps side next season.
Kevin McHugh, who started his first match of the season in the defeat against Bray Wanderers a fortnight ago and who was replaced by Ruairi Keating for the second half of that game is likely to be on the bench for the Wexford visit. Horgan will have to decide whether to start Ryan Curran or Ruairi Keating or maybe play both strikers. Top scorer Curran who didn’t feature against Bray would appear to be the leading contender to be in the 11. Despite a disappointing run of results recently that leaves them second from bottom, the Harps boss has been stressing this week that Wexford’s record against his side has been impressive.
“Wexford have had the better of us over the years, finishing ahead of us in the table for the last number of seasons. Shane Keegan has added some serious players to an already strong team that won the first division and they have a great team spirit on top of a good style of football. Danny Furlong and Aidan Keenan have been a thorn in our side over the years and the addition of Danny Ledwith, Aidan Friel and Paul Murphy have made them even stronger” Horgan said.
While all the games in the Premier Division are huge for Harps there is no doubting that this home fixture against Wexford is one that Horgan would have been targeting three points from in the battle to stay in the top flight for next season.
A big crowd is expected in Ballybofey for what should be an intriguing clash.