Action from the Harps-Sligo game at Finn Park. Photo: Thomas Gallagher
Former Limerick player Karl O'Sullivan bagged what turned out to the be winner on his debut for Finn Harps as they opened their account with a north-west derby win over Sligo Rovers at Finn Park.
Finn Harps 1
Sligo Rovers 0
In a game of few chances this was a great start to the season for the Donegal club, who have once again been installed as favourites for the drop.
Harps conjured up a couple of openings early on with O'Sullivan shooting wide and Kosovar Sadiki – on-loan from Hibernian - just failing to connect properly with a free from the ever lively 38-year-old Raff Cretaro - out of retirement for the second time to assist the Donegal club.
But it was the visitors who had the best opportunity in the opening quarter when towering new Finnish defender Teemu Penninkangas rose above the Harps defence only to head narrowly wide.
Mark Anthony McGinley was then forced into action to save from Garry Buckley following a quick free from Ronan Coughlan.
Just before the interval Harps had a minor scare when an attempted clearance from Ryan Connolly spun off into McGinley's grasp.
Harps broke the deadlock in the 56th minute when following a Ryan Connolly free, Dave Webster sent the ball back across the face of goal and O'Sullivan was on hand at the far post to force the ball home.
And shortly afterward O'Sullivan danced past several Sligo players on a 40 yard dash before having a shot from a reducing angle saved.
Sligo went close to equalising in stoppage time through Ronan Murray but Harps held out.
Last season, Harps preserved their top flight status in the play-offs while the Bit o' Red finished seventh.
It was a case of familiarisation time for many fans in the opening half as both teams have seen plenty of close-season personnel changes.
Harps boss Ollie Horgan had five players in his starting line-up who were making their debuts, Sadiki, Webster, O'Sullivan, Shane McEleney, and Ryan Connolly.
Another new arrival, London-born Cameron Saul, who was officially cleared at 5.42 pm, was on the bench along with four more new signings, including former Derry City favourite Barry McNamee, who came on for the last 20 minutes.
Sligo also had new faces starting in the form of Darragh Noone, Penninkangas, Will Seymore and Garry Buckley.
Harps haven't had a home pre-season fixture for over seven seasons – due to the delicate nature of the famously heavy Finn Park surface early in the year.
But this was a sweet St. Valentine's Day success for O'Sullivan who is already loving his time in Donegal.
Finn Harps: McGinley; McEleney, Sadaki, Todd; Webster, Coyle (R. Harkin, 84), G. Harkin, Connolly, Russell; O'Sullivan, Cretaro (B. McNamee, 70).
Sligo Rovers: McGinty; Seymore, Kane, Callan-McFadden, Penninkangas; Buckley (Devers 6, 76), Morahan, Cawley, Noone; Coughlan, Murray.
Referee: D. McGraith (Dublin).
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