Macdara Ferris reports from Finn Park
Finn Harps earned their first win over Shamrock Rovers since 2008 with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Shamrock Rovers.
Tunde Owolabi was the hero for Harps yet again, getting the winner five minutes from time.
The Hoops had won on their last eight visits to Ballybofey but suffered a defeat that sees St Patrick’s Athletic join them at the top of the table.
Harps, meanwhile, solidified their seventh place position in the table with their fourth league win in a row.
Harps had given the Hoops a helping hand to get back into it when Adam Foley scored an own goal to cancel out a fine team goal that Jordan Mustoe rounded off.
Both managers made three changes from last weekend’s FAI Cup games.
Hoops head coach Stephen Bradley, after seeing his side knocked out by Bohs and with an injury and suspension crisis (Ronan Finn and Danny Mandroiu missed the match in Ballybofey due to discipline issues), handed a debut to new signing Barry Cotter.
The Clareman was deployed centrally in a back three alongside stand in skipper Joey O’Brien and Sean Gannon. The new Rovers number six had a great battle with Belgian Owolabi throughout the game.
Owolabi has been in a rich vein of goalscoring form for Harps, bagging a hat-trick against the Athletic a fortnight ago and grabbing the only goal in their very first north-west FAI Cup win over Derry City last week.
It was a physical contest between the two men, with the former Ipswich Town player just about coming out on top. A couple of crucial last gasp diving challenges from Cotter stopped Owolabi racing in on goal.
The pair swapped fouls with referee Damien MacGraith deeming one on 13 minutes worthy of a yellow card for the Harps striker.
This came after the referee had booked Aaron Greene, deployed at left wing back for the Hoops, for complaining about the lack of pressure in the match ball.
Adam Foley came closest to getting the opening goal for the hosts, racing onto a ball over the top of the Rovers defence but Alan Mannus was quick off his line to close it down.
Will Seymore then had a driven effort that just cleared the Hoops crossbar.
The chances were few and fair between and while the Hoops dominated the possession they never tested Mark McGinley in the Harps goal.
Kosovar Sadiki was also called upon to block a goal bound effort from Gary O’Neill and the nearest the visitors came to taking a lead into the break was on 34 minutes.
Dylan Watts found space in the box to hit a low shot that just drifted wide of Mark McGinley’s goal.
Five minutes into the second period there was a let off for Harps as Rory Gaffney’s shot on the turn at the egde of the area came back out off the post with McGinley beaten.
The home side took the lead on 56 minutes with a superbly taken team goal rounded off by Mustoe.
The left back was on the end of a sweeping Harps move that saw Barry McNamee pass to Ryan Rainey, who found Mustoe in space to slot home the opener with his left.
Bradley brought on 17-year-old Aidomo Emakhu as the Hoops looked to get back into the game, with Richie Towell slotting in at right wing back.
They got a lifeline on 71 minutes when, inexplicably, Adam Foley headed a Dylan Watts' cross from the right into his own goal.
Harps conjured up the winner five minutes from time when Karl O’Sullivan got by Aaron Greene.
He found Owolabi at the backpost to head home for his fifth goal in three games, making it six wins in a row for Harps.
Despite falling to their fourth consecutive defeat, the Hoops stay top of the table on goal difference with two games in hand on St Patrick’s Athletic.
Finn Harps: Mark McGinley; David Webster (c), Shane McEleney, Kosovar Sadiki, Jordan Mustoe; Adam Foley (Karl O'Sullivan 72), Mark Coyle, Ryan Rainey (Ryan Connolly 88), Will Seymore; Barry McNamee, Tunde Owolabi (Sean Boyd 90).
Subs not used: Gerard Doherty (gk), Ethan Boyle, Stephen Black, Luke Rudden, Dan Hawkins, Nathan Logue.
Booked: Tunde Owolabi (13), Will Seymore (90+2), Jordan Mustoe (90+ 3).
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Sean Gannon, Barry Cotter, Joey O'Brien; Max Murphy (Aidomo Emakhu 67), Aaron Greene, Gary O'Neill, Dylan Watts; Graham Burke, Richie Towell, Rory Gaffney.
Subs not used: Leon Pohls (gk), Chris McCann, Dylan Duffy, Dean McMenamy, Conan Noonan.
Booked: Aaron Greene (3).
Referee: Damien MacGraith.
Attendance: 1,200 (estimate).
extratime.com Player of the Match: Ryan Rainey (Finn Harps).