Mark Coyle in action for Finn Harps against Cork City on Friday night. PICTURE: THOMAS GALLAGHER
Cork City came from behind to consign Finn Harps to a third defeat in as many games following an action-packed encounter in Ballybofey on Friday night.
Finn Harps . . . 3
Cork City . . . 4
With the wind, rain and underfoot conditions playing their part, this was a game that served up plenty of goals and no end of goalmouth action.
Harps, with the element at their backs in the first half, were the dominant force up until the break.
But leading 2-1 coming up to half time, they conceded an equaliser just before the interval. And that goal was to prove key as Cork gained control after the break and ran out deserving winners - even though they were left holding on for the win at the finish when Raff Cretaro struck a third goal for Harps on 80 minutes.
This game, Harps’ sixth in the space of 22 days, followed the Donegal side’s 3-0 loss to Shamrock Rovers in Dublin earlier in the week.
Harps boss Ollie Horgan was selected a much-changed starting eleven in which goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher was included for the first time this season.
Colm Deasy came in for his first start at right back in place of the on-loan John Kavanagh who couldn’t play against his parent club. Mark Coyle, Raff Cretaro, Sam Todd and Sean Boyle were all back in.
On a dreadful night in the Twin Towns - Finn Park passed a pitch inspection at lunchtime on Friday - those who braved the wind and rain were treated to a blistering start during which Harps took the lead inside the opening minute.
McAleer latched onto a through ball and while the Cork defenders were appealing for offside, the stand-in striker raced clear and thundered a volley past keeper Mark McNulty.
It was a wonderful finish and the perfect start for a Harps side who were buoyed by that goal.
With Raff Cretaro again so influential, they made light work of the difficult conditions and were on top early on.
But after winning a sloppy corner from their first attack, Cork were back level on 14 minutes - defender Conor McCarthy heading in from close range after the set-piece was helped on at the near post.
Harps though continued to enjoy the better of this contest and their high pressing game, coupled with a strong wind at their backs, ensured that Cork struggled to impose themselves.
Mark Coyle had a couple of well struck efforts from distance that McNulty saved. But the keeper could do little to prevent Coyle from making it 2-1 on 37 minutes. Another flowing move ended with Boyd’s goalbound effort blocked inside the box. But when the loose ball was fed out to McAleer on the right his inch-perfect cross was met by a brilliant diving header from Coyle.
But Cork managed to get themselves back level again with a goal out of nothing right on the stroke of half-time. Again, Harps will feel they should have defended the situation much better when a Cork throw-in was hurled into the area, but Gearoid Morrissey picked up possession outside the box and unleashed a dipping volley which flew in under the crossbar,.
It was a bad time for Harps to concede and it gave Cork the impetus to drive on in the second half. The introduction of striker Graham Cummins also gave them another attacking outlet and they quickly took control.
With the advantage of the elements for this half, they took the game to their opponents and an incessant period of early pressure eventually brought reward when Morrissey again found the target with a brilliant shot from distance.
Twice in the space of 30 seconds, Ciaran Gallagher denied Karl Sheppard a fourth - the first stop a brilliant save low at his near post.
But Cork found the net for a fourth time with Cummins rising highest in a crowded goalmouth to head in Shane Griffin’s 69th minute corner.
With ten minutes to go, Raff Cretaro gave the home side some hope when his shot found the bottom corner following a long throw into the area.
It ensured a nervy closing period for City. But defending deep, they held out and took only a second win of the campaign.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher, Colm Deasy (Tony McNamee 73), Daniel O’Reilly, Jacob Borg, Keith Cowan, Sam Todd, Mark Coyle, Harry Ascroft, Sean Boyd (Nathan Boyle 62), Raff Cretaro, Caolan McAleer.
Cork City: Mark McNulty, Conor McCarthy, Dan Casey, Colm Horgan, Shane Griffin, Conor McCormack, Gearoid Morrissey, Daire O’Connor (Darragh Rainsford 79), Garry Buckley, Karl Sheppard (Gary Comerford 90), Dan Smith (Graham Cummins 46).
Referee: Damien McGrath