New Harps signing Ciaran O'Connor in action during Friday night's game against Cork City. Photo: Thomas Gallagher.
Paddy McCourt came off the bench for his Harps debut, but it was Cork City who took the points in Friday night’s Premier Division opener at Finn Park.
Finn Harps . . . 0
Cork City . . . 1
The only goal of the contest came right on the stroke of half time when Sean Maguire found the net after a defensive mistake.
Up until then, Cork had rarely threatened against a new-look Harps starting eleven.
The home side started with new signing McCourt on the bench but there were debuts for Caolan McAleer, Ciaran O’Connor, Danny Morrissey and Killian Cantwell.
Harps played well in the first half and looked really up for the challenge against one of the title favourites.
But in a half of few clear cut openings, Cork began to take control as half time approached and they stole the lead just seconds before the interval.Maguire took advantage of some hesitation in front of his own goal by Damien McNulty and stole possession before firing low into the bottom corner.
Just after half time, Cork wasted a chance to score a second when they somehow failed to force the ball home after Steven Dooley’s corner found its way through a ruck of players before being cleared off the line.
The visitors were well on top and were good value for their lead but Harps lifted their game for the final quarter. The introduction of McCourt brought the biggest cheer of the night while Gareth Harkin and new signing from Longford Town, Eddie Dsane came on for the closing period.
By that stage of the contest, Cork were playing with ten men after Garry Buckley was shown a second yellow card on 76.
A fine save from Ciaran Gallagher to deny Jimmy Keohane kept Harps in the contest.
But just as they did in Ballybofey last season, Cork held out for a narrow win to ensure their title challenge is off to a winning start.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher, Ethan Boyle, Ciaran Coll, Killian Cantwell, Damien McNulty, Barry Molloy (Gareth Harkin 77), Jonny Bonner, Sean Houston (Paddy McCourt 70), Danny Morrissey (Eddie Dsane 77), Ciaran O’Connor, Caolan McAleer.
Cork City: Mark McNulty, Conor McCormack, Kevin O’Connor, Johnny Dunleavy, Ryan Delaney, Greg Bolger, Jimmy Keohane, Gearoid Morrissey, Garry Buckley, Sean Maguire, Steven Dooley (Alan Bennett 89).
Referee: Robert Harvey.