BEFORE BOARDING the bus to Dundalk on Monday afternoon to face the Premier Division champions, most of Finn Harps’ players and staff had to punch in a day’s work.
The Harps manager, Ollie Horgan, is a teacher at St Eunan’s College in Letterkenny; his assistant, Paul Hegarty, works in the forestry service and coach William O’Connor is employed at Scoil Mhuire in Buncrana.
The troubles that Horgan’s players have had this season are widely documented. For the early season game against Dundalk at Oriel Park, goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher was unable to get time off from a just-started post at Pramerica, where team-mates Gareth Harkin and Sean Houston are also employed.
For Monday’s game, which was only finalised 72 hours previously, after Dundalk defeated UCD last Friday night in the FAI Cup, Adam Hanlon was unable to get time off work.[adrotate group=”50″]
After coming back from a trip to Cork City at nearly 5am, Tony McNamee was at work a few hours later in Michael Murphy Sports and Ciaran Coll was on the floor at Lifestyle Sports.
Most of this Harps squad are either in employment or are students and Horgan believes that, should they survive in the Premier Division for next season, the club should consider going full-time.
“I don’t think that it’s any surprise that the three teams at the bottom end of the table (Longford Town, Wexford Youths and Harps) are three part-time teams,” Horgan says.
Harps face Longford tomorrow night at Finn Park in a game that will go a long way to determining Harps’ future in the top flight.[adrotate group=”38″]
After winning promotion in 2007, Harps went the full-time route but, after passing a budget of €920,000, including a princely €11,000-a-week of a playing budget, they were relegated and the 2009 season began with Harps mired in crippling debts and the sound of buckets rattling echoing down Navenny Street.
“It’s been tried here before and it didn’t work that time and I know that it’s a massive step, but I do think that to try and survive and, more so, to progress, you need to be full-time,” Horgan says.
“To make a real shape in the Premier Division, you have to be full-time. You need to have your players at your disposal as much as possible.[adrotate group=”37″]
“It’s not easy because it means paying full-time wages and everything, but at the top level you really can’t expect your players to do a day’s work and then to turn up for a game.
“But these lads make their living from working. They certainly don’t do it by playing football.”
Harps train three times a week, including one post-match recovery session at the weekend. At just one of those sessions, generally the one immediate to the game, Horgan will have his entire squad at his disposal.
At that session, Richard Brush, Ruairi Keating, Dave Scully and Hanlon – who are all based outside of Donegal – will join with the rest of their team-mates. The Harps schedule is in stark contrast to their Premier Division opponents.[adrotate group=”81″]
Bohemians, for instance, who aren’t full-time, have their players close by, while Wexford’s manager, Shane Keegan, is a full-time employee.
“Longford last year were an exception when they finished sixth despite being part-time,” Horgan said.
“Bohemians are a different entity because of their location and the money they have that we don’t.
“But you just need the players at your disposal to progress. If players have to go to Dundalk on a Monday night, they need to be able to prepare right for that. Even this week, we play Cork on a Monday night and we’re struggling to get some lads off work.
“Maybe, just maybe, I don’t know, we need to take the next step.”
Harps’ entire weekly expenditure is understood to be shy of €6,000 with just under €4,000 of that said to be on the playing staff.
“The club is run excellently,” Horgan added. “The Board work their absolute socks off to produce wages, not that it seems much to some people, but those people are breaking their backs for this football club.”[adrotate group=”46″] Tags: