Letterkenny Rovers excellent start to the season continued with a well merited 4-1 win over Fanad in damp dismal conditions at Leckview Park on Sunday afternoon.
Letterkenny Rovers 4
Fanad United 1
The heavy rain which enveloped the venue for almost the entire game led to an entertaining spectacle and credit to both teams for providing a cracking afternoon’s entertainment for the spectators who needed to be in early to witness the opener.
Rovers took the lead in the first minute when a Lee Toland free kick was sent in deep before reaching Conor Tourish and his ferocious cross across goal was tapped in by the inrushing Darren McElwaine, who made no mistake blasting home.
Fanad though were cursing their luck just a minute later when the lively Keelin McElwaine beat the offside trap only to be denied by home netminder Rory Kelly who stood tall and ensured that McElwaine's shot cannoned off his body and out for a corner to safety.
It was the Rovers McElwaine who then headed just wide from a Declan Sharkey cross on six minutes as the game flowed from end to end in the early exchanges with a number of marginal offsides being given against them irking the Fanad management team at times.
Letterkenny though gradually got a strong foothold on proceedings and Johnny Bonner tried his luck on 12 minutes but shot just wide.
Rovers who doubled the advantage on 22 minutes when Toland’s free kick sailed past Dane Dunworth and in off the underside of the crossbar after Fanad defender Shaun McElwaine had fouled Darren McElwaine.
The big Fanad defender was at the centre of the action on 31 minutes when he appeared to upend BJ Banda in the area but referee Michael Connolly - who was an authoritative presence throughout - waved away the loud penalty claims much to the chagrin of the home bench this time and from the recycled possession Darren McElwaine's deflected effort went just wide of the post.
Fanad started to get back into the match and Keelin McElwaine forced Rory Kelly into a save low to his right on 38 minutes.
From the resultant corner Kelly denied Dean McCarry with a fingertip save after his headed effort looked goal-bound and those saves proved crucial just minutes later as Rovers extended their advantage when Toland found Bonner who beat the offside trap and he blasted past Dunworth on 42 minutes to make it 3-0.
That could have been a hammer blow for the Traigh-a-Loch men but they gave themselves a lifeline with the last action of the half when James Gallagher beat the offside trap this time before his cross wasn’t properly dealt with by the home defence and it left Edward O'Reilly with the simple task of slotting home into an empty net.making it 3-1 at the break.
That would have boosted the visitors during the halftime interval and they would have felt they were well in the game but any hopes of a revival were dashed as Rovers made an equally quick start to the half as they did to the opening period when Banda teed up Darren McElwaine and he slotted home to the bottom corner with an assured finish just a minute into the second half.
That eased Rovers nerves and while there was lots of endeavour and pretty play from both sides for the remainder of the game in worsening weather conditions it was the home side who came closest to extending the advantage with Banda (twice) and McElwaine (twice) coming close while Bonner missed the best chance of grabbing another when he shot straight at Dunworth after a defence splitting pass from sub Conor Duggan on 76 minutes.
Eamon McConigley will be satisfied with his charges start to the season which continues next Sunday with a trip to face Swilly Rovers.
Letterkenny Rovers; Rory Kelly, Ryan Lonergan, Lee Toland, Conor Tourish, Ryan McConnell, Declan Sharkey, Johnny Bonner, Chris Malseed, Darren McElwaine, Brian McVeigh, BJ Banda. Subs: Conor Duggan for McElwaine (65), Jonathan Coady for Malseed (80)
Fanad United: Dane Dunworth, Dean McCarry, Peter Curran, Oisin Langan, Shaun McElwaine, Declan McGarvey, James Gallagher, Caolan Kelly, Keelin McElwaine, Paddy Carr, Edward O'Reilly. Subs: Paul Bradley for Gallagher (45), Patrick McGinley for McCarry (82)
Referee; Michael Connolly.
Bonagee United 6
Finn Harps Reserves 3
Two penalties from former Finn Harps star Michael Funston secured an exciting Four Lanterns USL win for Bonagee United over the Harps Reserves.
Funston, who played 335 times for Harps in the League of Ireland, netted from the spot in each half to get Jason Gibson’s team back to winning ways.
Bonagee had to come from 3-1 down after Corey McBride, Zach Gorman and Niall McGinley responded to an early Jordan Armstrong goal for the home side.
Deano Larkin, Garbhan Grant and substitute Mark McLaughlin also netted for the Dry Arch men as they took the spoils from an exciting tussle.
It was only when Funston blasted high to the Harps net in the 75th minute, after Larkin was fouled, that Bonagee could breathe.
Soon after, McLaughlin added the sixth from close range to put it beyond the reach of Harps.
Bonagee were looking for a quick reaction following a heavy 4-1 loss to Midleton from Cork in the FAI Intermediate Cup on Sunday – and they got it with the lead goal after just five minutes.
Armstrong latched onto a dropping ball from a Bonagee corner and his deflected effort from 20 yards wrong-footed the Harps ‘keeper, Jamie Bell.
Bonagee boss Gibson has lamented his team’s frailties at the back over the course of the opening four months of his tenure - and they came home to roost again just five minutes later.
The home rear guard was all at sea as Gorman was allowed to square across goal for McBride to tuck into the unguarded net.
With Shaun Patton injured and John Roulstone unavailable, it was the turn of David Tyrell to don the number 1 shirt for Bonagee – the Letterkenny man making his return to the position for the first time since he was a youth player at Harps.
Tyrell was beaten in the 23rd minute by another incisive Harps attack that, again, cut right through Bonagee’s arteries. This time, Pat Loughrey was the provider from the left-hand side and Gorman was on hand to tuck home.
Harps extended the advantage less than a minute later when an audacious strike by McGinley – who graduated to the Harps senior squad in 2018 - from the edge of the centre circle, flew into the roof of Tyrell’s net.
Bonagee hit back on 34 minutes when Larkin finished after good work by Michael Doherty, whose zipped cross from the left was steered in by the in-rushing midfielder.
Doherty screwed wide as Bonagee set about getting themselves back on an even keel.
The hosts did equalise in added time at the end of the half when Funston stroked home a penalty, flagged by assistant referee Alistair Gourley when Grant was upended.
Three minutes into the second half, Grant beat the Harps offside trap and slotted home.
Bell clawed away a dangerous Doherty cross on the hour and, down the other end, it took a goal-line intervention by Sean Hume to prevent Ronan Gallagher from converting at the far post.
Bonagee United: David Tyrell; Sean Hume, Gareth Breslin, Thomas McMonagle; Mark Harkin, Michael Funston, Ryan Rainey, Deano Larkin, Michael Doherty; Jordan Armstrong; Garbhan Grant.
Finn Harps Reserves: Jamie Bell; Ryan Finn, Keenan Diver, Keelin McGill, Daragh Ellison; Corey McBride, Steven Doherty, Niall McGinley, Pat Loughrey; Ronan Gallagher, Zach Gorman.
Referee: Packie Coll.
Bonagee United 6 Finn Harps Reserves 3
Letterkenny Rovers 4 Fanad United 1
Cockhill Celtic 6 Swilly Rovers 1
Friday, December 7, 7.45pm
Bonagee Utd v Derry City Res
Sunday, December 9, 2pm
Swilly Rovers v Letterkenny Rovers
Fanad Utd v Cockhill Celtic