Teenager Johnny Kenny grabbed an opportunistic winner as Sligo Rovers claimed bragging rights in the north west, with a narrow win over neighbours Finn Harps at the Showgrounds.
17-year-old Kenny made the most of a second half mistake from Harps goalkeeper Mark McGinley to end the Donegal men’s unbeaten start to the season.
This was the first time since the back end of the 1995/96 season that both sides had met while occupying positions in the top four of the Premier Division.
But neither side dominated the opening half of this derby encounter.
Sligo winger Jordan Gibson fired over from long range early on, while the same man had a half-hearted penalty appeal turned down 21 minutes in when he fell to the floor under the challenge of Dave Webster.
The Finn Valley men have surprised many with their impressive start to 2021, but it took them almost a half hour to test Rovers goalkeeper Ed McGinty.
Mark Russell’s sharp turn brought him past Sligo defender John Mahon, but Russell’s effort from the angle was plucked from the air by McGinty.
Rovers attacker Romeo Parkes netted against Harps in his first season of League of Ireland football two years ago.
But Harps’ net minder McGinley was determined not to allow the Jamaican an opener in this tie, reacting superbly to tip Parkes’ attempted chip over his crossbar eight minutes from the break after the Sligo striker had trapped Mahon’s long ball from the back.
Parkes was involved once more shortly after the re-start. Unmarked, he struggled to properly judge the flight of Gibson’s driven cross from the right, as the attacker headed over McGinley’s crossbar.
Harps then gifted their opponents the lead on 51.
McGinley the guilty party as he failed to deal with a ball straight to his feet. Half-time substitute Kenny was rewarded for his endeavour as he chased the case, robbed McGinley and rolled the ball into an empty net for his first senior goal for the Showgrounds side.
Kenny was involved again on 63 when he flashed an effort across the face of the Harps goal after Gibson had charged his way past a series of defenders.
While Walter Figueira and Robbie McCourt kept McGinley busy with shots from the left side as Rovers enjoyed a period of sustained pressure.
Gibson was inches away from settling the tie eight minutes from time but his vicious drive from the edge of the area cannoned over the target.
Sligo Rovers: Ed McGinty; Colm Horgan, John Mahon, Garry Buckley; Robbie McCourt; Niall Morahan, Greg Bolger; Romeo Parkes (David Cawley 78), Walter Figueira, Jordan Gibson; Ryan De Vries (Johnny Kenny HT).
Finn Harps: Mark McGinley; Shane McEleney, Kosavar Sadiki, David Webster; Ethan Boyle (Stephen Doherty 70), Mark Russell (Ryan Shanley 70); Will Seymore (Sean Boyd 84), Mark Coyle; Karl O’Sullivan (Stephen Folan 84), Adam Foley (Tunde Owolabi 55), Barry McNamee.
Referee: Paul McLaughlin