Bonagee United flying to flag for Donegal in FAI Cup with Damien Duff's Shelbourne
FAI Cup second round: Bonagee United (Letterkenny) v Shelbourne (tonight, 8pm)
BONAGEE United will fly the Donegal flag in the second round of the FAI Cup this evening as they host the Damien Duff-managed Shelbourne at Dry Arch Park in Letterkenny.
It’s the biggest game ever to be staged at the venue and a sell-out all-ticket crowd of just over 1,000 is expected.
Bonagee, who play in the Ulster Senior League, overcame another “non-league” club in the first round, thumping Limerick outfit Pike Rovers 6-1.
But this will be an altogether different proposition.
SSE Airtricity League Premier Division side Shelbourne are on course to stay in the top flight, having got promoted last season, and will certainly want to go on an extended cup run.
And the fact that Bonagee are out of season certainly gives the full-time professional visitors a major advantage.
Nevertheless, Bonagee manager Jason Gibson, is hopeful that his side can produce a bit of magic to upset the odds.
“You have to believe, if we didn’t there is no point going out otherwise,” he stated, adding: “There have been shocks in the cup before.”
Shelbourne, who have won the FAI Cup on seven occasions - the last time being in 2000 when they won the double - beat Bray Wanderers of the First Division 3-0 away in the first round.
After a shaky start to their league campaign, with Duff under some pressure as manager, the north Dublin side have picked things up considerably.
Indeed, their away form has been better than at Tolka Park and they will travel to Donegal fully expected to negotiate this hurdle.
“We know the task, we know they are a cracking side, “ Gibson continued.
“We know their strengths but we have to go out with the right attitude and we’ll stick to our game plan and see where it takes us.”
Bonagee certainly don’t lack experience, particularly in the centre of the park where Gareth Harkin (ex-Limavady United, Derry City, Coleraine and Finn Harps) is joined by two more former Finn Harps players, Tony McNamee and Michael Funston.
Local man Jamie Lynagh will captain Bonagee, and is delighted with the interest that the game has generated in the town.
“I never thought I’d captain Bonagee United in a game of this magnitude. The buzz around the place is brilliant. Everyone just can’t wait to get going,” he said.
Donegal’s other two representatives in the competition this year were both beaten in the first round. Finn Harps lost to Bohemians while Cockhill Celtic from Inishowen - who won the Ulster Senior League that Bonagee compete in - were beaten by UCD.
The bookies typically have Bonagee as a 25/1 shot so anything other than a Shelbourne win will be regarded as a massive shock.Kick-off is 8.00 pm.
Meanwhile, there will be a minute's applause at all FAI Cup games this weekend in memory of former FAI President and Honorary Secretary Des Casey, a native of Dundalk.
He served as Vice-President of Uefa, and was also Honorary President at Dundalk FC at the time of his passing earlier this week.