WITH ONE flick of his head on a dizzying November night, BJ Banda’s life was altered.
By December – after scoring that never-to-be-forgotten goal against Limerick that secured Finn Harps promotion to the Premier Division – he was being invited to perform the switch-on of Christmas lights around Donegal.
It was certainly some rise for the Royal and Prior student.
A few months previously, the unmistakable Banda was turning out for Letterkenny Rovers in the Donegal Youth League.
“I guess it was the stuff of dreams,” he modestly says now, ten months on.[adrotate group=”50″]
“I was only new into the team at the time. Ollie saw something in me, he gave me a chance and I took it.
“It was a nice time. I’ll never forget it. It’s definitely been the best moment of my career so far. Now it’s time to move on and make more memories.”
Banda joined Harps’ Under-19s last summer and was elevated to the first team within weeks with Ollie Horgan’s team stripped to the bare bones.[adrotate group=”38″]
In a home game against Wexford Youths, Banda scored twice and Finn Park suddenly had a new hero.
When he was sent on for Kevin McHugh in the second leg of the play-off against Limerick, it was as if it was the dawning of a new era.
That feeling heightened when Banda headed home in front of a delirious Finn Park on an electric night by the Finn.[adrotate group=”37″]
From then to now, though, Banda hadn’t been seen. On Monday night, however, he made a late cameo against Dundalk at Oriel Park, his first appearance for the Harps first team since his history-making header.
Only once prior to Monday night – for the derby against Derry City – was Banda included on the senior panel.
“We were going quite well and scoring goals,” Horgan explained this week about Banda’s lack of game time.
“We’ve brought BJ back into the squad on the basis that he can score goals. It’s a big step up. He’s playing in the Under-19 League and going into the Premier Division.”[adrotate group=”46″]
Banda has had something of a frustrating wait to get back into Horgan’s plans, playing away with Joe Boyle’s Under-19s, who are having a fine campaign so far.
He might’ve been expected to get a run before now – but he’s itching to grab a chance, just like he did in the latter part of last season.
He says: “I had great fun back then, but this is a new season. Getting into the Premier Division was what we wanted. Now we’re here and we have to stay here and keep improving.
“It’s good to be back on the first team. It was a long time coming. I’ve been training hard this last while and finally have my form back with the under-19s.[adrotate group=”81″]
“I’ve been knocking hard on Ollie’s door and he’s given me a chance. It was a short period on the pitch, but it was still nice to get a run again.
“I’ll keep training hard and keep looking for the chances. I’m just hoping for the best and hopefully the chance will come. I have to work hard and keep on doing that.
“We’re in a much higher standard of football this time. The Premier Division is so hard.”
Harps have a busy spell now with three home games in the next week against Longford Town, Cork City and St Patrick’s Athletic.[adrotate group=”82″]
The promise of the early season has been replaced by the anxiousness of now, with Harps on a six-game winless – and goalless – streak. Yet Banda, with all the fearlessness of youth, believes Harps will survive.
He says: “It’s a big period now. Every game is like a Cup final. We’ll put all the focus on Longford now. We’ll try our best and keep battling, but I think we’ll get enough points on the board.”Tags: