Sports

Challenging year ahead for Finn Harps

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Challenging year ahead for Finn Harps thumbnailFinn Harps' Ciaran Coll models the club's new playing kit for the 2017 SSE Airtricity League season.

FINN Harps and their manager, Ollie Horgan, face their biggest ever challenge in Premier Division football next season when they know they can finish not lower than ninth place to retain their top flight status

Next season's fixtures for the new League of Ireland season have been released, with Harps starting their campaign at home to FAI Cup winners Cork City on Friday, February 24.

However greater concern to Harps officials now will be the confirmation that the League of Ireland is reverting to a ten-team Premier Division for the 2018 season.

The Harps board have agreed their budget for the 2017 season 'in principle', but now must meet with the FAI who will rubber stamp it.

Officials at the Ballybofey club say they may now have to 'revisit' their budgetary plans, given that the new format means that Harps will have to finish above at least three teams to secure survival.

The 2017 First Division champions will be automatically promoted with the bottom three clubs in the Premier Division set to be relegated.

"To get to a budget that would equate to the teams in fourth, fifth or sixth in the League, it would mean doubling and more the Finn Harps budget," said a club official.

Harps voted against the change and club secretary John Campbell, writing on Facebook recently, appealed for what he called 'Corporate Donegal' to 'take the steps support-wise' to secure Premier Division football for Harps.

Leading members of the Premier Club Alliance (PCA) have pushed for the ten-team League, although it is believed that League champions Dundalk were not in favour of the change.

The likes of St Patrick's Athletic, Shamrock Rovers, Cork City, Sligo Rovers and, perhaps surprisingly, Bray Wanderers, are understood to have led the change.

However, Harps officials were in the dark until the official release of information by the League last week.

The 'Conway Report', which was published in August 2015, recommended a ten-team top division, claiming that it would mean 'more games with more at stake for clubs and fans for more of the season'.

Harps are pencilled in to face Derry City in the first north-west derby on Friday, April 14 at Maginn Park, Buncrana. Derry's first game at Maginn Park will be on Sunday, March 5, when they face Limerick.

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