Forker, Friel ruled out for Athlone

Mark Forker’s controversial straight red card against Limerick and a serious knee injury sustained by Buncrana lad, Garbhan Friel in pre-season, are the main taking points around Finn Park ahead of tomorrow night’s trip to Athlone.

Ciaran Coll is also a doubt for the Athlone game after taking a knock to the knee against Celtic, while Packie Mailey has a chest infection.

Gary Whoriskey and Kevin Cowan, who scored Harps’ goal in the 4-1 defeat against the SPL leaders in the friendly match, are on stand-by.

Harps’ boss, James Gallagher, was reasonably happy with a 2-2 result against Pat Scully’s side but having watched the game again on televisio, Gallagher felt there were a number of talking points that are likely to rumble on.

Limerick’s Gary Sheehan left Ballybofey with a fractured leg after a challenge from Forker, but his manager believes there was no malice in the committed tackle. Forker, therefore, will miss the trip to Lisseywollen but Gallagher has not ruled out the use of video evidence as part of an appeal should his one-match ban be extended.

“I don’t want to say too much on the sending off, but having seen the referee’s report, it certainly doesn’t seem like the same incident that I witnessed.

“For me, the ball was there to be won and that’s exactly what Mark did.

“If we learn that there will be a further ban, then the match video will have to be an option in an appeal,” added Gallagher.

Another player who will not be involved in the Midlands is the luckless Friel, who is likely to be out for up to five months after suffering a serious knee injury in last month’s pre-season game against the N. Ireland Junior international side.

“We hoped the news would not be bad, but it’s the worst case scenario for Garbhan,” confirmed the Harps’ boss.

“He has had a scan and will need an operation as the tendon on his knee has been totally removed from the bone. It was a ridiculous challenge and I was not happy with it.

“If Garbhan can show the same determination in returning from injury as he did with us in pre-season, then we will see him back, but it could take as much as five months.”

Athlone have been tipped to struggle this term. New manager Mike Kerley lost several influential players including top scorer, Austin Skelly, who has joined Longford Town. However, a 0-0 draw against Waterford United at the RSC constituted a fine start.

“Athlone are a team we have struggled against for quite some time, although we have won down there over the last two seasons (6-0 and 1-0),” Gallagher noted. “There are a lot of new faces at Athlone and while they may be young and inexperienced, they managed to get a result in Waterford last weekend - something we have always found very difficult to do.”