Michael Funston has played in an FAI Senior Cup semi-final but this Sunday he begins his journey in the Intermediate Cup with Bonagee United.
Bonagee travel to Triagh-A-Loch to face Fanad United in a first round clash (kick-off 1.30pm, extra time and pens if required).
Funston, after 335 appearances and 33 goals for Finn Harps, has returned to Bonagee for the first time in 13 years having left Harps earlier this year.
Funston is back at his home town club and was back in familiar colours on Sunday-week last for a 5-3 defeat to Letterkenny Rovers in the Donegal News Ulster Senior League Cup.
“I’ve always been a Bonagee man so it was great to pull on the jersey and go into battle again,” Funston said.
“I knew a lot of the Letterkenny lads, the likes of Chris Flanagan, Christy Connaghan and Sean McCarron, from being at Harps. It was just nice to go and play again.
“I’m a footballer and just want to play. In saying that, I enjoyed my time away from football for a few months, but it’s good to be back playing. There’s plenty of enthusiasm there and I feel like I have a new lease of life.”
Bonagee, under new manager Tony O’Carroll, entered the new season as something of an unknown quantity – perhaps even to themselves.
The departure of Funston’s former Harps colleague Tommy McMonagle, who had been announced by Bonagee in the summer, served as a blow to the Dry Arch Park side.
But even in defeat, in a bizarre game that saw them go four down and lose a man after less than half-an-hour, Funston saw plenty to be positive about.
“I was really encouraged with the attitude and the resilience,” he said.
“Teams at that level could fold and just throw the toys out of the pram if a game is going that way, but the boys stuck it out. Maybe you learn more in a game like that.
“I would have been more disappointed with the way that we let them score the fifth goal.
“When you’re working with young players, you’ll get inconsistency and mistakes, though, and, to be fair, Tony came into the scene late enough so we were a month behind a lot of the other teams.
“I never like losing, mind you, but that’s just the competitor in me.”
Bonagee reached the third round of the Intermediate Cup last season and actually beat Fanad 2-1 at Triagh-A-Loch before losing 2-0 at Edenderry Town.
Funston said: “Fanad is never an easy place to go. It’s a long time since I played down there, mind you. They’ve had a few good signings lately and fair play to Arthur (Lynch, Fanad manager), who has done a lot of ground work down there.
“The Intermediate is a great competition. You have great players there who maybe, for one reason or another, can’t commit to senior football so they’re playing at intermediate level. From a club point of view and a financial point of view, you want a home draw against the bigger fish but sometimes players and teams prefer the away draws – you have to get that far, though!”
In Dry Arch Park, Bonagee have one of the best venues in intermediate football. But, as O’Carroll’s predecessor, Peter Moran, often alluded to, they lacked in the silverware stakes.
Funston said: “Peter had the nucleus of a good side there and it was disappointing that a lot of them have gone so Tony is starting off a blank canvas.
“The Ulster Senior League is good competitive football and the games are all really physical battles – but I’m more than happy with that!
“We just want to improve on last year and show progress. Off the pitch, Bonagee is a leading example, but football clubs are about winning silverware. We’re a wee bit off winning silverware, but we just want to improve and have a mark to aim towards.”
FAI INTERMEDIATE CUP
Sunday, September 17, 1.30pm extra time and penalties if required
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