Horgan insist Harps are still battling to beat the drop as Derry eye European spot

Adam Foley celebrates Finn Harps' FAI Cup win over Derry City at Finn Park in August Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Adam Foley celebrates Finn Harps' FAI Cup win over Derry City at Finn Park in August Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

SSE Airtricity Premier Division: Finn Harps v Derry City (tonight, 8pm, live on LOI TV)

FINN Harps boss Ollie Horgan will have his side well-fired up for this evening’s crunch north-west derby in Ballybofey against Derry CIty that will go a long way in determining whether the Donegal club can avoid the relegation play-off spot and whether Derry can keep in the hunt for European soccer next season.

Harps currently occupy the play-off berth and with just three games to go, are in a massive battle with Waterford and Dundalk to avoid ending up in a promotion/relegation play-off final from whoever emerges from the Division One play-offs.

“We have to get something out of the game,” Horgan said.

“We certainly will have our work cut out. We need to score and we need to keep clean sheets. We’re not gone yet and we still have a fighting chance.”

Harps have hit a bumpy patch of late, but Horgan will be reminding his players that they have nothing to fear, and they have the ability to defeat their arch-rivals.

For the best part of 40 years, Harps extracted very little from their meetings with Derry, but under Horgan, they have made great strides.

He has the best record against the Candystripes of any Harps manager.

Indeed, back in May, an 89th minute strike from Adam Foley helped Harps to a 2-1 win as they notched up a first ever league success at the Brandywell.

And in June, there was another historic success over the old enemy as they beat Derry in the FAI Cup for the first time ever with Belgian striker Tunde Owolabi getting the only goal late on.

With striker Sean Boyd suspended having been sent off in Monday’s scoreless draw with Drogheda, Horgan is likely to deploy Foley and Owolabi in attack.

Horgan points out that Derry have plenty of quality and will be going all out for the three points.

But both sides have hit a bumpy patch. City have taken five points from their last five games; Harps have managed just three (all draws).

Meanwhile, Horgan could yet spring a surprise by giving some game time to highly-talented former Derry player Mark Timlin. The injury-plagued midfielder was an unused substitute last time out for Harps and would relish a role this evening.

Derry manager Ruaidhrí Higgins has highlighted the fact that he thinks this is the best Harps team in 20 years. Just eight points separates the sides (in fourth and ninth place) after 33 games in this hugely competitive league.

Higgins acknowledged after their 2-2 draw away to Waterford on Tuesday that they had not deserved a point, and he will be hoping they can perform better this time around.

Meanwhile, Cameron McJannet, who scored the late equaliser against Waterford, knows just how important this game is.

“We have got to prepare for an absolute fight and we’ll do our best to come away with the three points. It’s a derby, it’s Finn Harps, we'll be up for it and we'll do everything we can to be ready,” he told the Derry News.