Buncrana man Jonny Bonner haunted his neighbours from Cockhill Celtic as Finn Harps advanced to the second round of the EA Sports Cup.
Finn Harps 3 Cockhill Celtic 1
by Chris McNulty at Finn Park
Bonner’s brace, with his first goals in Harps colours, squeezed Harps through against the Ulster Senior League champions, with Sean Houston adding a third for good measure.
Bonner’s penalty, on the half-hour, was cancelled out by Derek Doherty 18 minutes from the end, but a cracking second by Bonner, four minutes later, restored the lead.
Cockhill had probed well in the second half and got a leveller when, after being put through by Garbhan Friel, Doherty riffled across former Cockhill net-minder Harry Doherty.
The goal woke Harps from their second-half slumber and Bonner delightfully put them back in front.
From about 30 yards out, Bonner dipped a fine shot in off the underside of Gavin Cullen’s crossbar, the Cockhill player-manager having been just a couple of yards off his goal-line.
Sean Houston, just a minute after coming on, copper-fastened the win with his fourth goal of the season, as he tucked home after being initially denied by Cullen to send Harps through.
Harps took the lead when Bonner scored from the spot
Eddie Dsane, who impressed in a substitute appearance against Shamrock Rovers on Friday night, did well to stave off a couple of challenges, before being taken down by Peter Doherty.
Bonner stepped up to convert for his first Harps goal.
Harps gave a debut to Raphoe youngster Simon McGlynn while there were first starts of the year for Doherty – a winter signing from Cockhill – Thomas McMonagle and BJ Banda.
McGlynn could and should have doubled the Harps lead on the stroke of half-time but headed wide from point-blank range after connecting to Caolan McAleer’s centre.
Cockhill are on the cusp of a fifth Ulster Senior League title in a row – a feat achieved only once before, by Fanad United in the 1990s – and arrived at Finn Park boasting a six-point lead at the summit.
Cullen, Peter Doherty, Friel, Gerry Gill and Conor Keddy were among the ex-Harps contingent in the Cockhill squad.
Cockhill had a big chance in the 24th minute when Friel flashed across goal after breaking the line.
Beforehand, Jimmy Bradley just failed to connect with a Gill corner, while McAleer surged forward before drilling wide.
Just two minutes before the lead goal arrived, Packie Mailey might have broken the deadlock, but he headed off target having got on the end of a delicate chip into the area by McMonagle.
Cullen got a hand to a low, powerful cross by Banda with McGlynn breathing heavily down his neck, while the Cockhill ‘keeper saved from Ethan Boyle.
It was a sometimes-tetchy first half with three players – McGlynn for Harps and Gerard McLaughlin, Jason Breslin and Friel – entering the notebook before the changeover, when Bonner’s spot kick was the only separator.
By the end, McGrath had cautioned eight players and it felt at times as if the full compliment mightn’t see the conclusion.
Friel went for the spectacular and the acrobatic all at once 12 minutes into the second half, but his attempt was well over the crossbar.
Bradley was closer when his first-time effort whistled just over the top before Doherty levelled and Bonner, within four minutes, restored the lead for the hosts and they were on their way into the second round draw.
There was still time for McAleer to squander a brilliant chance in stoppage time, firing wide of the far post after being put through by Dsane.
Finn Harps: Harry Doherty; Michael Funston, Packie Mailey, Thomas McMonagle, Gareth Harkin (Ciaran Coll half-time); Ethan Boyle, Jonny Bonner, Eddie Dsane, Caolan McAleer; BJ Banda (Sean Houston 80), Simon McGlynn (Barry Molloy 69).
Cockhill Celtic: Gavin Cullen; Paul McDermott, Peter Doherty, Oisin McColgan, Jason Breslin (Paul McKinney 84); Derek Doherty, Gerard McLaughlin, Gerry Gill, Ronan Doherty (Conor Keddy ’32); Jimmy Bradley, Garbhan Friel.
Referee: Damien McGrath.Tags: