Understrength Institute host leaders Newry City
Institute manager Brian Donaghey admits the Covid pandemic, injuries and sickness is ripping through his squad ahead of tomorrow’s home encounter against Lough 41 Championship leaders Newry City (KO 3pm).
The rising cases of Covid-19 in the squad has been alarming for the ’Stute boss and it could potentially put tomorrow’s clash in doubt should Donaghey be in a position where he can’t field a team.
Donaghey is certainly down to the bare bones and while he was delighted his side returned to winning ways at Queen’s University on Monday, he knows it’s going to be an even tougher test against Darren Mullen’s men.
City suffered a shock narrow 1-0 home loss to Ballyclare Comrades on Monday, their first defeat in nine games and because of that result the former Cliftonville assistant boss knows the visitors will be desperate to get back to winning ways at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium.
However his main concern is being able to field a strong enough team against the table toppers.
“Look, Newry will definitely be looking to get a positive result after losing to Ballyclare on Monday, but we got a positive result ourselves on Monday, so we’ll be looking to follow that up, however we know it’s going to be tough, as Newry are the league leaders,” he stated.
“We are starting to get a bit of form but some of those players are now away for PCR tests and we can’t really afford to have any of our ‘so called’ senior players missing.
“John Connolly aside, our most senior player on Saturday was Shaun Doherty, he’s 27, but after that it’s a four year gap to Conor Quigley.
“So nine of our 11 players on Saturday were between 17 and 23 years old and I do understand that life goes on and we have to try and get fixtures fulfilled but I don’t think you can put out a U20’s team against the league leaders and at the minute we might have to do that.
“We’ll have to see what the next few days are going to bring but my phone hasn’t stopped. On Boxing Day from 9am my phone never stopped and we ended up with four players out and there have been a few since then, so we’ll wait and see,” he lamented.
“We might speak to our club officials and the league to see what the rules are.
“This craic of 13 fit players and a goalkeeper is crazy and we won’t have that in our first team squad and we have been delving into our U20 squad since I have arrived at the club to make up the numbers so that we had 18 players in our squad, so now I think we would be going into our U17 squad
“I know we have four players signed, but we have only two cleared and we are waiting on international clearance, so going into the Newry game we may be sitting on the same numbers or be even worse off, but we’ll have to wait and see.”