WHILST THE MEETING of Finn Harps and Derry City will take the main focus of Donegal-based League of Ireland fans, there’s a selection of others from the county starting their seasons tonight.
As well as the obvious contingent at Harps, tonight’s visitors to Finn Park also have four Donegal men in their first team squad. Outside of that, here’s who’s involved …
Cork City: Johnny Dunleavy (pictured above)
The 24-year-old is Cork City captain and last week took the Leesiders to victory over Dundalk in the President’s Cup final – a curtain-raiser for the new season. The Ballybofey native left his hometown club Ballybofey United for Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2007 and signed a professional contract in 2009 at Molineux. He made his league debut in 2011 whilst on loan at Barnet and following a loan spell at Vancouver Whitecaps in Canada, joined Cork in 2012. Plays at the back or as a defensive midfielder.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Mark Timlin
Striker Mark Timlin enjoyed a fine season at Derry City last year where he scored 10 league goals before signing for St Patrick’s Athletic in the close season. The 21-year-old is from Buncrana and played locally with Buncrana Hearts before joining Ipswich Town. He never made the breakthrough at Portman Road but did at the Brandywell under the management of two former Finn Harps bosses, Peter Hutton and Paul Hegarty who came in as caretaker.
Wexford Youths: Johnny Bonner
Another Buncrana native, Bonner, who can play left-back or left-midfield, has rejoined Wexford Youths ahead of their first ever season in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division. He played for Letterkenny Rovers in the close season and was man of match for IT Carlow in their recent Division 1 final win of the Colleges and Universities Football League, where he scored two goals against Colaiste Stiofain Naofa at Killster. The now 24-year-old played his underage football for Derry City and lined out 21 times for Finn Harps in 2013 and 2014.
Sligo Rovers: Liam Martin
Martin is a 21-year-old winger from Donegal town, who began his career at The Showgrounds back in 2011. In August 2012 he began his initial spell with Ballinamallard on a season-long loan and returned in time for the 2013 season having played in 27 games and scored twice for the Irish Premier League club. Ballinamallard signed Martin permanently in January 2014 and in the two years since he has contributed 14 goals from his 82 games at Ferney Park.
Limerick FC: Shaun Kelly and Seamus Sharkey
Right-back Kelly (pictured above) scored a thunderbolt against Finn Harps in the first leg of the promotion-relegation play-off last season but his Limerick side went down 2-1 on aggregate. The Killybegs native joined Heart of Midlothian in 2005 and although he was on the bench for the first team in an Edinburgh derby against Hibernian, didn’t represent the first team. Since then he’s played for Dundalk and Galway United and the 27-year-old is currently in his second spell at Limerick.
He is joined by Sharkey. The 25-year-old has spent time at Finn Harps and Derry City, while also having a spell at Lisburn Distillery. Sharkey scored for Limerick – who Finn Harps defeated in the promotion-relegation play-off – in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Galway United. He had been working in the Isle of Man when the chance came up and he impressed in his first outing against Cork City.
UCD: Conor O’Donnell, Darragh Black, Ryan McLaughlin and Georgie Kelly
O’Donnell also lined out for Buncrana Hearts and is from the Inishowen town. The 22-year-old goalkeeper played in the ill-fated two-legged SSE Airtricity League Division One play-off final against Finn Harps, having returned to Belfield for a second spell after being with Limerick.
This season he is joined in south Dublin by Black, McLaughlin and Kelly, who are from Milford, Carndonagh and Fahan respectively. The trio were part of the UCD squad that won the Collingwood Cup last month.