Action from Saturday's Champions League Semi-final between Bonagee United and Erne Wanderers PICTURE: THOMAS GALLAGHER
Most Bonagee United fans and players left Ballyshannon’s Lakeside Centre very unhappy today following a controversial finish to this under 14 Champions League second-leg semi-final where they had four players red carded, one of those after the game.
Erne Wanderers 2
Bonagee United 1
(Erne won 3-2 on aggregate)
Erne Wanderers made history, this is the first time ever that a team from the club have qualified for a Champions League final.
Based on their performance in both games, particularly in Bonagee where they should have won the game, few will dispute Erne deserve to be in the final, but one can understand Bonagee’s frustration too on the day.
Erne were given an almighty scare seven minutes into added time by Bonagee, who were trailing 2-1 at that stage.
A draw would have put the visitors through, and they thought they had got that from a corner, claiming that Adam Carr’s toe-poke, which came back off the post, had crossed the line, but referee George Clinton waved play on.
In a fairly highly charged final few seconds they had their third player red carded for disputing the decision and after the final whistle, a fourth was also red carded for more of the same. Earlier in the game they lost a player on 56 minutes for a second yellow and another player got a red seven minutes later for a comment directed at the referee.
In the second half the referee spoke to Bonagee mentors and by the finish he had instructed two volunteer ‘linesmen’ from Bonagee to stand down.
It would come as no surprise to this observer if Bonagee make some form of complaint as they were very, very unhappy after the game, not so much at the result, more so at some decisions by referee Clinton, which they very strongly disagreed with.
While the controversy threatened to overshadow the actual game, it’s important too to report that there were some magical moments, several of them from the truly sensational Damian Webber for Erne. His touch, tackles, shooting and ability in the air all wonderful. Another star was the Bonagee keeper, Fintan Doherty, who is a very fine 'No 1'.
Erne had the best of the first half chances, Aaron Neilan on eight minutes, but well saved and on 14, Danny Breen looked to be in, a long ball flicked on to him by Neilan, but Bonagee’s sensational keeper, Fintan Doherty, made the save of the day to deny Breen.
On 23 Breen and Neilan combined again, Doherty out quickly to make another super save. Apart from a 15th minute shot from a free, Bonagee never threatened in the first half.
From a rare attack, however, Bonagee went ahead 60 seconds into the second half. A long ball from keeper Doherty left Ciaran Dalton clean through and while keeper Ryan Daly got a piece of the ball, not enough and the visitors were ahead.
On 42 minutes Erne won a questionable free in a dangerous position, on the edge of the box, the foul given for a high foot. Webber was given the ball and he provided the magic, his crisp left-footed drive darting into the bottom right corner, beating the wall and keeper, to make it 1-1
Bonagee really upped their game in response, their goalscorer Dalton flashing a great shot goalward, but Erne’s ‘keeper Daly did well to hold and save. With yellow cards starting to flutter, the tempo increased too, Erne’s brilliant Eoghan Kelly (coming into the game with an ankle injury), picking out a perfect ball to Aaron Neilan who cushioned a pass to Erne’s top scorer, Robbie Murphy. Murphy feinted right and turned on to his left to float a ball to the top corner. Keeper Doherty got a hand to it, but not enough and Erne were ahead again, 2-1.
As Bonagee pressed forward gaps opened up at the back but Erne couldn’t turn any of those into a third goal and seven minutes into added time conceded a corner which could have proven costly.
The corner was well hit and well met by Adam Carr, the ball coming back off the post for Daly to dive on it. As Bonagee players and fans screamed “goal” referee Clinton shook his head to say “no”. As protests continued they lost a third player to a red card and after the final whistle on 42 minutes (each half is 35 minutes at this level) a fourth player was shown red following an exchange with the referee.
For Bonagee Fintan Doherty and Adam Carr were outstanding, for Erne Damian Webber, Eoghan Kelly and Aaron Cullen were sublime.
ERNE WANDERERS FC: Ryan Daly, Shane Delahunty, Damian Webber, Aaron Cullen, Tommy Winters, Gero Gilmartin, Jack Gallagher, Aaron Neilan, Danny Breen, Eoghan Kelly, Robbie Murphy. Subs, all used, Aiden Sweeny, James Gallagher, Matiu Tierney, Shane McGloin, Oisin McGlinchey.
BONAGEE UNITED: Fintan Doherty, Zack Breen, Josh Doherty, Lorcan Harvey, Daniel Dalton, Eoghan Quinn, Adam Carr, Daire Ferry, Niall McCrossan, Ryan Creevy, Ciaran Dalton. Subs, all used, Harry Winfield, Jack Duff, Danny Hall, Eoghan Doherty, Gavin McCarron.
REFEREE: George Clinton.