Mark Hunter’s hat-trick fired Bonagee United into the Area final of the Brian McCormick Cup – but they were made fight every inch of the way by Whitestrand United.
Bonagee United 3 Whitestrand United 2
By Chris McNulty at Dry Arch Park
Bonagee were indebted to Hunter’s treble as they saw off gallant Division 2 side Whitestrand, who saw goals from Ronan Morris and Liam O’Riordan maintain their hope right until the end.
Indeed, Whitestrand might reflect on the what ifs from this one. They had their moments and chances in the second half, but came up narrowly short as Hunter kept Bonagee in front.
Hunter had been the hero of the hour seven days ago when he struck an extra-time winner to sink Drumkeen United in a fiery season-opener.
Bonagee showed little signs of dreariness in spite of the early-morning beginning here – and were in front after only four minutes, Hunter sliding past Paddy Kelly after being put through by Paddy McGowan.
Hunter doubled the advantage in the 21st minute, wonderfully working the chance for himself inside the area and clinically picking his spot.
Bonagee might have been expected to kick on from there.
But, within a minute, Whitestrand were back in the game as Morris fired high into the Bonagee net after Kevin McCarry fired off the post. Shaun Martin made the initial break and McCarry sweetly struck only for the post to rattle.
With Bonagee at sixes and sevens, Morris riffled home.
Kelly, who saved a penalty last Sunday in the shoot-out as Whitestrand overcame Drumoghill at The Moss, saved brilliantly from Hunter’s flick, following a Daragh Harper cross from the left.
Morris, after breaking free of Glenn Gallagher’s shackles, fired just wide of the far corner as Whitestrand delivered a few reminders that they weren’t here to make up numbers.
Morris went close again after getting on the end of Kelly’s free from just inside the Whitestrand half and Hunter’s second might have put the issue to bed only for the midfielder to bring the visitors back into contention.
Hunter’s third, six minutes before half-time, had Bonagee well in front again. The striker tucked home after Whitestrand failed to cut out a cross.
And yet, Whitestrand made a real game of it when they got in for another as O’Riordan slotted home.
It was no more than they deserved. James Kerr, a substitute, stabbed narrowly over the top and it took an excellent save from John Carr, the Bonagee goalkeeper, to deny Kevin Loughrey.
McCarry shot over during a good period for Whitestrand, who could sense the turning of the tide when O’Riordan finished.
They ought to have been level, but Morris managed to head wide from a glorious position in the 72nd minute.
Bonagee sub Lee McMonagle turned to fire a half-volley that was scooped away by Kelly.
Gareth Temple, another off the Bonagee replacements, was denied by Kelly, while Jordan Rodgers – who also came off the bench for the home side – shot against a post.
Whitestrand pushed with all of their might but Bonagee, just, survived.
Bonagee United: John Carr; Taylor Russell (Odhran Donnelly 59), Darren Hunter, Glenn Gallagher, Daragh Harper; Chris Toner (Shane Kelly 59), Eamon Cannon, Paddy McGowan (Jordan Rodgers 51), Drew Connolly (Gareth Temple 70); Jason Ashmore, Mark Hunter (Lee McMonagle 70).
Whitestrand United: Paddy Kelly; Ryan McCleary, Shaun P Gallagher (Sean Barrett 81), Derek Edwards (James Kerr 51), Ken Dempsey (Kieran Black 87); Ronan Morris, Kevin Loughrey, Kevin McCarry, Shaun Martin; Shane McGlade, Liam O’Riordan (Darren Lynch 76).
Referee: Seimi Ferry.Tags: