It’s a North-West derby for Finn Harps and Sligo Rovers as they kick off their Premier Division campaigns tomorrow night in Ballybofey (kick-off 7.45pm).
Ollie Horgan’s men are at home for this one but their run in to the start of the season has been mixed with Harps recording just one win in their pre-season friendlies, against UCD in Belfield.
Harps will be buoyed by the return of former Bit O’Red star Rafael Cretaro and the major signing of Barry McNamee this week, their preparations will have been limited and it remains to be seen if either will feature against Rovers.
Horgan is aware of the challenge posed by Rovers especially after losing key players in the off-season such as Mikey Place and Daniel O’Reilly.
“Sligo are very settled in the squad they had last year. They’ll have the experience together from last year and no doubt they’ve hit the ground running from their preseason results,” he said, speaking to the club’s website.
“We have added quality but we lost a lot as well, it will take us time to play to our potential as we have players at different stages fitness wise and sharpness wise but we'll be doing our best to get a result on Friday night with what we have.”
Mark Timlin is a long term absentee for Horgan with the midfielder announcing he has suffered an ACL tear during Harps’ pre-season. Shaun Kelly is also a doubt for the Donegal side on Friday night.
The Bit O’Red head into Friday night’s game after going unbeaten in pre-season.
Liam Buckley has managed to retain the majority of last year’s squad while the likes of Teemu Penninkangas, Darragh Noone, Garry Buckley, Jesse Devers and Will Seymoure are all in the frame to debut for the club against Harps.
“The lads are looking forward to it. We really want to start well and it’s a game to be excited about,” Buckley told the club’s website.
“We’ve had those couple of injuries – they were unfortunate impact ones- but we have to believe that one door opens for somebody else.
“We’ve brought the new players in to add to what we retained from 2019 and I think they will.
“They’re all here with a point to prove, be it coming into a new league or moving clubs or whatever else.
“We expect the conditions to be difficult and some inclement weather and all of that.
“I’ve no doubt Ollie will be playing down Harps and we are whatever else but you can see by the signings with the likes of Barry McNamee that there is a greater strength and backing there this year so that is the challenge for any team that goes up there.”
“That said, all that concerns us is our group. We’ve got to work extremely hard, it’ll be a dog rough league again and even harder in each game this season so if we have got aspirations of improving on last year, we’ve got to go into every game and show that we are good enough do so.
“I think we can do that. I know there’ll be a big following up there in terms of support from Sligo, it’ll be a partisan crowd for sure and we want to go up there and put in a serious shift and start on the right foot.”
John Mahon (broken leg) and Regan Donelon (shoulder) will be absent tomorrow night while Lewis Banks will have a late fitness test ahead of the game in Ballybofey.
Referee: Damien MacGraith.
Harps and Rovers faced each other 5 times last season including an EA Sports Cup tie.
The Bit O’Red had the edge in the Premier Division with 2 victories to Harps 1. While Harps defeated Sligo in the EA Sports Cup and the sides drew in the league back in April.
Rovers will be looking to snap a four game streak without a win in the Premier Division on Friday night, carrying over from the end of last year
Finn Harps 23/10; Draw 21/10; Sligo Rovers 11/10.
Finn Harps 1 - 1 Sligo Rovers
Injured: Mark Timlin.
Doubtful: Shaun Kelly.
Injured: John Mahon and Regan Donelon.
Doubtful: Lewis Banks.