League of Ireland: Finn Harps ignore title drama as survival takes priority

Their own survival, rather than any part they may indirectly play in being Kingmakers, is all that’s on Finn Harps’ minds as they face reigning champions Dundalk in Ballybofey this evening.

That’s the message from Harps goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher who knows a clean sheet will help in relation to the former. Such a result confirming that Cork City would be crowned champions tonight is a side issue as only a win for Dundalk will extend John Caulfield’s Rebels quest to get over the line in winning the league.

“That’s the last thing we’re thinking about, we’re only worried about ourselves,” said Gallagher of the scenario regarding Cork.

Defeats to Sligo Rovers and Shamrock Rovers have seen Harps slip to second bottom. Drogheda United are already down, but only five points separates five teams in regard to the other two relegation places.

“We cannot afford to be worried about other teams or what a result may or may not mean for them,” said Gallagher.

“We have to try to get the result we need. We’re under no illusions how difficult it will be to stay up, but we’ve every chance.

“All we wanted was to be in the mix with a few weeks to go, and not to be already down with nothing to play for.

“Everyone is digging in for each other and there’s an obvious sense of wanting to do it for your team-mates,” added Gallagher of the fight and togetherness Harps have shown for much of the season.

“Our backs are to the wall, but that’s something we’ve got good at over the years..

“But it’s important not to get complacent. Just because we know how to scrap doesn’t mean it will be enough as the teams around us have been picking up some great results.”

Though Packie Mailey remains out injured, fellow defenders Killian Cantwell and skipper Ciaran Coll return from suspension and illness respectively. Manager Ollie Horgan waits for fitness checks on key men Ethan Boyle and Sean Houston while the mercurial Paddy McCourt continues to be hampered by a hip problem.

Suspension rules midfielder Conor Clifford out for Dundalk who are also missing the injured Dane Massey, John Mountney, Steven Kinsella and Chris Shields.

Meanwhile, Limerick will be hoping their recent return to form can edge them a little further clear of the danger zone when they visit fellow strugglers St Patrick’s Athletic.

Four points clear of the bottom three, Limerick followed up encouraging displays that brought a 1-1 draw at Bray Wanderers and a home win over Cork in the league by bowing out narrowly to the latter in their FAI Cup semi-final last week.

“The Cup run has been very good for us,” acknowledged Limerick manager Neil McDonald, who reports a clean bill of health ahead of the trip to Richmond Park.

“It’s taken the pressure off, to a certain extent, and enabled people to get into good form. We’ve got plenty of the team in good form at the moment, which is excellent.”

St Pat’s, whose big derby win over Shamrock Rovers last time out lifted them two points above the relegation zone, have Gavin Peers back from suspension, though fellow central defender Darren Dennehy (ankle) remains out. Goalkeeper Barry Murphy has resumed training following a rib injury.

Elsewhere, Bray Wanderers, in the hunt for a Europa League place, entertain fourth-bottom Galway United with both desperate for points in search of goals at either end of the table.

In their first home game since mid-August, third from bottom Sligo Rovers will be hoping to bounce back from defeat at Galway United a fortnight ago when Bohemians visit while Shamrock Rovers travel to Drogheda United looking to consolidate third place.

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