BONAGEE United manager Jason Gibson says that the next ten days are ‘absolutely massive’ for his team.
Bonagee host Finn Harps Reserves on Thursday night before heading to Leckview Park on Sunday for a derby with Letterkenny Rovers in the bmcsports.ie Ulster Senior League.
On Sunday-week, Bonagee welcome College Corinthians to Dry Arch Park in the FAI Intermediate Cup.
Although Bonagee have lost just once in the League – against champions Cockhill – they trail Gavin Cullen’s team by five points at the summit.
“Cockhill, to their credit, have set the bar,” Gibson said.
“We lost once this season and we’re still off the pace. Being honest, we are nearly in must-win situations.
“Against Harps, in our next game, we need to look at getting three points.
“That, in a way, says a lot about us. We were disappointed after the Cockhill defeat and that shows how far we’ve come. We kind of beat ourselves up after that game.
“We went into the Christmas break in the semi-final of the Knockalla Cup and the League Cup, we’re in the next round of the Intermediate Cup and we’re challenging in the League.
“We’re firing on all fronts with loads to play for. We strengthened up where we needed to and the additions will help us.”
Bonagee have signed former Finn Harps captain Packie Mailey and this week Gibson added the name of Institute’s Niall Grace to his ranks.
Mailey arrives having most recently been with Ballinamallard, although his 2019 was mainly spent in the colours of St Mary’s, Convoy.
“We felt that we were lacking aerially,” Gibson set. “We were susceptible at times with set pieces. That raised its head the day we drew in Fanad. Packie has great experience and will bring a bit of composure. He’s played at a good level and hopefully will help us.
“It’s an area we wanted to strengthen. You find about the ex-senior players, they come in with good maturity and experience. They bring a good level to it.”
Grace was placed on the transfer list by ‘Stute boss Sean Connor last weekend and Gibson was delighted to snap up the versatile 27-year-old.
“Niall can play right up the centre of the pitch and he has played up front front before, too,” he said. “When a player like that becomes available, you always have to be interested.
“Paul Higgins (Bonagee coach) has to take a lot of credit for signing Niall as he worked with him in the past. We’re not certain where we’ll use him yet, but players like him in a squad are invaluable.”
Bonagee are still awaiting the arrival of an International transfer certificate (ITC) in order for Grace to feature.
Bonagee are down Garbhan Grant and Chris Breen through injuries. Breen broke down at training on Tuesday night, but Gibson hopes that Grant, last year’s top scorer, isn’t far off a return.
“Garbhan hasn’t had a right run of it yet this year,” he said. “He hasn’t been injury free at any stage this season, so he’ll be like a new signing when he comes back.
“We have a lot of games and a lot of competitions still to play.”
Harps needed a late Deano Larkin winner to overcome Harps in their last USL meeting and Gibson is expecting a similarly tight affair.
He said: “We have played Harps twice already and they bring a different challenge to other games. It’s never easy against Harps and we don’t expect this week to be any different. You just don’t know who they might land with. They move the ball at speed and move opponents about the pitch, we need to be on top of our game.
“There are six points to be had this week and we need to be aiming for six. It’s a massive week for us.”
bmcsports.ie Ulster Senior League
Thursday, January 9, 8pm
Bonagee United v Finn Harps Reserves
Saturday, January 11, 2pm
Fanad United v Finn Harps Reserves
Sunday, January 12, 12 noon
Cockhill Celtic v Derry City Reserves
Sunday, January 12, 2pm
Letterkenny Rovers v Bonagee UnitedTags: