Bonagee United maintained their 100 per cent start to the season with a come-from-behind win over Finn Harps Reserves in their Four Lanterns Ulster Senior League opener at Dry Arch Park.
Bonagee United 4 Finn Harps Reserves 2
By Chris McNulty at Dry Arch Park
Bonagee made life difficult for themselves in the first half-an-hour, but when a brace from Garbhan Grant cancelled out Jamie Browne’s opening goal for Harps, they were in control.
Bonagee pressed on and, after Deano Larkin made it 3-1 early in the second half, Sean Hume left his mark on the night, superbly beating Jamie Bell with a 30-yard free.
Tom Rudden did pull one back for Harps, but Hume’s strike had given Bonagee sufficient breathing space to complete the comeback having fallen behind,
Harps took the lead in the 23rd minute when Browne’s sumptuous curling effort from the right-hand edge of the penalty area flew deliciously into the far corner.
It was no more than Harps deserved with Joe Boyle’s young guns on top in the opening exchanges.
They could have been in front before Browne’s cracking opener.
Darren McElwaine shot over the top in the early moments and Mark McAteer powered into the midriff of Bonagee ‘keeper Kealan Mulcahy.
Harps should have scored when, after Mulcahy brilliantly saved from McAteer, full-back Michael Gallagher shot over the top with the follow-up.
Another super save by Mulcahy kept McAteer at bay before the visitors hit the front, at a time when Bonagee looked in need of smelling salts.
League Cup wins over Swilly Rovers and Fanad United got Gibson’s tenure off to a perfect start, those victories securing a place in the semi-finals – and a home tie against Letterkenny Rovers later in the season.
Bonagee finished bottom-but-one last term, but the arrival of Gibson and some new faces heightened the optimism at the Dry Arch.
Bonagee made light of the concession and struck twice in a seven-minute spell.
There are on level terms when Grant slotted home a penalty after Darren McFadden was brought to ground by Harps netminder Bell.
Bonagee edged in front with a slick team goal six minutes before the break. Micheál Doherty and Darren McFadden combined on the left channel with McFadden centring for Grant to convert.
Grant might well have had a hat-trick in added time at the end of the half, but he side-footed wide from close range.
In the opening minute of the second half, Bonagee had the ball in the net, but Grant was flagged offside from a corner.
By the time the next minute had ticked, Larkin headed home a Doherty free and Bonagee were on their way to three points.
Bonagee are still awaiting the finalising of Ryan Rainey’s international clearance from the English FA having secured his services recently. Rainey left Wolverhampton Wanderers after seven years in May and is returning to his schoolboy club.
Rainey will have been pleased with what he witnessed – result-wise at least – as he plays the waiting game.
The goal of the night arrived through Hume – another who had a spell across the water, at Aberdeen – in the 78th minute.
There was nothing shabby about Rudden’s finish, either, but it came too late to halt Bonagee in their tracks.
Bonagee United: Kealan Mulcahy; Mark Harkin, Sean Hume, Tommy McMonagle; Jamie Lynagh (Daniel Stolarczyk 85), Michael Funston, Dean Larkin (Aaron Wasson 81), Jordan Armstrong (Peter Carr 92), Micheál Doherty; Garbhan Grant (Codey Brogan 81), Darren McFadden.
Finn Harps Reserves: Jamie Bell; Michael Galagher, Kealan McGill, Ryan Finn, Pat Loughrey; Jamie Browne (Tom Rudden 68), Corrie Lee Bogan, Steven Doherty (Joel , Mark McAteer; Adam Duffy (Jordan Gallagher 73), Darren McElwaine.
Referee: Packie Coll