Bonagee United's Kaneshia McKinney and Niamh Mailey following their side's 3-0 win over Lagan Harps in the Donegal Women’s League on Monday evening
Bonagee United showed the collective wherewithal to grasp control of the Donegal Women’s League courtesy of a 3-0 victory over table-toppers Lagan Harps on Monday evening.
An hour had passed at Goose Green with the sides still gridlocked, although after a couple of first half scares - especially when Orlaith Connolly hit the crossbar for Gabriel Crawford’s side - Bonagee were starting to churn and burn the chances.
Eventually, sticking to their guns, Bronagh Gallagher, Eimear Sweeney and Deborah Kerrigan ran in the goals for the team managed by Chris McNulty. It meant Bonagee gained the three points that sees them now go level on points with 12 points with Lagan, crucially with a game in hand with three to play.
And although a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, Bonagee know they are in control of their own destiny; not having to be reliant on favours from elsewhere.
“At a stage there I thought it was going to be a 0-0 draw but we started relaxing a bit and kept the ball on the ground and eventually the goals came,” captain Kaneshia McKinney said. “It was a matter of working hard and being patient.”
Goalkeeper Niamh Mailey agreed: “All we could do was to try to keep working out from the back really. Keeping a clean sheet then was my priority. Keep it on the ground and keep playing and show what we are capable of.
“Patience was the main one. At one stage I was thinking ‘maybe we’ll take the 0-0 here’ and a point. They had a couple of good chances in the first half and we knew from that it wasn't going to be all calm. It was a matter of just keeping focused.”
You learn more about yourself in adversary, as they say, and in that respect Bonagee has had a steep learning curve over the last month. The draw drums certainly could’ve been a little kinder as for their first ever appearance at the semi-final stage of the FAI Women's Intermediate Cup, Bonagee were paired with Douglas Hall from Cork, away, then, the add-on for reaching that stage was participation in the Evoke.ie Women’s FAI Cup for the first time, when they drew Cork City of the Women's National League at Turner’s Cross. Away.
Following the long trek from the Dry Arch in Letterkenny to an overnight at the Viking Hotel in Waterford, Bonagee were 2-1 down to Douglas Hall at Moneygourney late on and having pressed the gamble button, didn’t hear the jingle of coins landing and ended up losing 4-1.
Then, two weeks later, there was no fairytale against Cork City, who ran out winners on a 7-0 scoreline on a deflating sunny Sunday afternoon on Leeside.
However, the experiences - entirely new ones for the club - was enjoyed with the group getting to spend some quality time together off the pitch. Even on it, lessons were learned as to the levels required.
“We showed what we learned from the games down in Cork,” McKinney added. “They were two tough trips in terms of football. But we learned from them. You lose and you learn as they say.
“It was actually great for the group. We learned a lot about each other. It was a couple of long journeys down and up to and from Cork. We’re a team who have come together in the last year or so as we’ve a lot of girls from different clubs and it was great to get the chance to really know some people.
“We never really had that before when we were playing locally. This is the bread and butter and when you’re going to Raphoe or Manorcunnigham or Drumbar, it’s a reasonably short trip and there’s four girls in a car. You never get the chance to sit down and talk to people so much.
“Those trips were great for morale for the team and that can then show on the pitch. It was good too for the newer and the younger players to come in. The kind of group we have here you can go into the dressing room there and sit beside any one of them and that’s only come together recently. I’ve been here at Bonagee maybe three seasons but it feels like a lifetime. Some of the girls who have been here longer have always said this is a welcoming club.”
Mailey also feels the trips, although disappointing at the time in terms of results, will benefit the group as a whole and provide something of a blueprint as to what they hope the future might bring. The short-term, though, is maintaining their grip on matters here.
“After Cork we knew we had to get our mindset right and let’s get back into our league here again,” she said. “See what we can get from this at home. We’ve now three games left and it's a matter of keeping the push on and doing what we can do. We have some squad there. We definitely have the talent there to show what we can do.
“That was one of the positives we took from Cork was the fact we gelled so well as a team. Then we had to do it all over again. It showed us the levels you want to be at. It was a long time on the bus but this doll here (McKinney) kept us busy the whole time. The teacher was coming out in her.”
“It was,” McKinney laughed. “I nearly had to roar at them a couple of times!”
It’s too early to say the Donegal Women’s League is all over bar the shouting. But Bonagee have put themselves in a position where they now have every chance.
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