Laszlo Geczo/INPHO Finn Harps manager Ollie Horgan believes his side's five fixtures in 17 days took their toll on key midfielder Gareth Harkin, and says he has previously both written and verbalised his concerns over fixture congestion to 'the powers that be'.
Deaf Ears
Horgan exasperated by serious Harkin injury after Harps' formal pleas over scheduling
Ollie Horgan also claimed that he was sent off by referee Ben Connolly because he ‘didn’t use the correct Irish’.

FINN HARPS BOSS Ollie Horgan was left deeply frustrated by the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division schedule which he believes was partially responsible for a potentially “long-term” injury suffered by Gareth Harkin during Harps’ 3-0 defeat to Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium on Monday.

Horgan had on several occasions voiced his concerns in the lead-up to the fixture — Harps’ fifth in the space of 17 days. Three of those Premier Division outings involved 200-kilometre round trips from Ballybofey to the capital and back again.

Monday’s game in Tallaght was the only league match played on the night; it had been brought forward from May due to Rovers’ home ground being selected to host Uefa U17 European Championship encounters in two months’ time.

Speaking post-game, Horgan was keen to stress that his side’s defeat could not be blamed remotely on fixture congestion. The Galway man did, however, indicate that his formal protestations to the ‘powers that be’ had fallen on deaf ears, and that as a result, the stricken Harkin had fallen foul of Harps’ lack of recovery time.

Ollie Horgan Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Ollie Horgan reflects in the dugout at Tallaght Stadium. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“We were second-best by a long, long way,” Horgan said. “I think the biggest disappointment for us is that we’ve picked up a serious injury with Gareth Harkin. That’s probably the biggest downside of tonight.

“I’m not going to tempt fate but Gareth felt a bit of a pop in his ankle and we’re quite concerned that that’s going to be a long-term injury.

“Coming here after playing on Friday and last Monday was always going to be difficult. If we’d a month to prepare for coming here and they played like they played in the first half, we’d have gotten nothing out of it either, you know? I’m not making an excuse in any manner that we had that many games and that’s why we lost — absolutely not. The better side won by a long way.

Look, I think when the fixtures came out, within 48 hours we made it known to the powers that be that we could solve this rescheduling of the game; that we could reverse venues when Tallaght, here, wasn’t available in May. We sit, now, with a weekend in May with no game.

“I just think that the injury to Gareth Harkin…” Horgan continued, “look, he’s overplayed. Maybe, in hindsight, we should have taken him off, but that’s easier said than done. That’s the downside of being a part-time team in a full-time league.

But, like, how you couldn’t get us a breather when we all went to work for a full day today, as opposed to [us playing] two Mondays in a row — that’s really my complaint. We made our opinions — and maybe the solutions — quite clear to the powers that be, both in writing and verbally. There might be a problem with understanding my accent. I’m not quite sure.

Horgan reiterated that had “Rovers played like they played in the first half, better sides than us would be out the door by half-time, to their credit”, adding, “if it was a 1-0 game, maybe you could use it as an excuse.”

Ollie Horgan Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Horgan was sent to the stands, he claims, for his incorrect use of the Irish language. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

The 51-year-old continued:

The downside of it is that we’ve picked up a serious injury probably because we didn’t have enough recovery. I’m sick and tired of being on coaching courses and paying good money to hear about recovery, and people being mentally and physically prepared for another game. I don’t think ‘the book’ matches this league, to put it that way to you.

He also wholeheartedly absolved Rovers of any perceived blame in the situation, stressing: “It’s not their call.”

Asked if he felt his concerns regarding league scheduling had fallen on deaf ears, Horgan responded with a chuckle: “Well, we’re here on Monday night, so I think you can make that call.”

Horgan spent a portion of the second half observing from the stands alongside Rovers supporters having received his marching orders from referee Ben Connolly.

The Harps boss was bewildered by his sending off but initially attempted to dismiss it as unimportant in the grand scheme of the game.

“I’m not quite sure,” he said. “I’ve been sent off and — I’ll be honest with you, I should have gotten jail — in other years.

“I’m baffled with this one. Obviously, if there is a little bit of a name there, maybe it’s an easy option. I’m not quite sure.

“But we’re not allowed speak about officials and I don’t want to speak about them. Tonight’s about Aaron Greene, it’s about Greg Bolger, it’s about Aaron McEneff — it’s not about me and it’s certainly not about the officials.”

Aaron Greene with Nathan Boyle and Daniel O'Reilly Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Rovers' Aaron Greene with Harps' Nathan Boyle and Daniel O'Reilly during Monday's action. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

When asked if referee Connolly had relayed to Horgan his reasons for banishing him to the Tallaght stands, Horgan replied:

Well, one of the comments he gave was that I pronounced his name incorrectly, through the wrong language. That’s one of the comments he gave me. I’m not quite sure. I have a little bit of Gaeilge but obviously, I didn’t use the correct Irish.

- With reporting from Aaron Gallagher

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