Womens FAI Cup preview: Bonagee United at home

There is history-in-the-making on Sunday with a first Senior Women’s FAI Cup tie at the Showgrounds when Sligo Rovers welcome Bonagee Utd with a place in the quarter-finals on offer for the winner, writes Conall Collier.

As the League of Ireland side, Sligo Rovers will be expected to win this encounter, but manager Steve Feeney is well aware of the threat that the Donegal women will pose.

“While Bonagee aren’t in the League of Ireland, they are a very successful team and were presented with the Donegal Women’s League trophy last week following another successful season,” suggested the Bit O’Red boss.

The Letterkenny side will bring plenty of support to the Showgrounds on Sunday as it is a relatively short 70-mile journey in comparison to the marathon trip last season when Bonagee Utd played Cork City in the Women’s FAI Cup at Turner’s Cross.

Cork City won that game by 7-0 and Bonagee conceded the first goal after only nine minutes, but they will approach Sunday’s encounter with a reasonable amount of confidence.

Central to the belief that they can win will be the fact that striker Bronagh Gallagher is in top form with some 26 goals to her credit for the season just finished.

“It’s another great opportunity to go out and test yourself against that type of opposition,” Gallagher told donegallive.ie earlier this week.

“We have to set the tempo, this is a step up, so you really have to be on guard for the initial 10 to 15 minutes.

“They’ll have their homework done on us, but we’re looking forward to going up there, it’s a great ground and the commute isn’t too far,” she added.

Bonagee clinched the Donegal Women’s League title with a 5-1 win against Drumbar Utd which left them nine points clear at the top with two games remaining. They scored eight goals against Letterkenny Rovers last week when they picked up the silverware.

The ingredients for an exciting encounter for the spectators are enhanced by the inclusion of the Bit O’Red trio of Emma Doherty, Jodie and Keri Loughrey, all from the Buncrana area.

That trio featured as Sligo Rovers returned to action last weekend in the Women’s Premier Division with a narrow defeat away to Athlone Town.

“The game against Athlone Town last week was encouraging and we finished strongly, hopefully that will stand us in good stead,” stated Sligo Rovers manager Steve Feeney.

“I also have to believe that we are good enough to progress to the next round, we are playing a higher standard of football and that has to count for something as well.

“Bonagee lost to Cork City in the FAI Cup last season at Turner’s Cross, but they will have learned from that experience so, as I said, we will have to produce our best form if we hope to get to the next round.

“Bonagee have already played in the FAI Women’s Amateur Cup final a few weeks ago in Galway against Dublin side Terenure Rangers.

“They lost that final, but then they won the League in Donegal quite comfortably and I am under no illusions that if we are not at our best then it won’t be an easy outing for us,” added the Bit O’Red boss.

Feeney’s claim that Sligo Rovers “finished strongly” against Athlone last weekend is valid and certainly offers signs of encouragement.

Two goals down at half-time and under incessant pressure for a large part of the second-half, the Bit O’Red players came more into the game in the final 10 minutes and, while they never looked like overhauling that two-goal deficit, they can take positives from the closing minutes.

However, Bonagee showed some good form to get to the FAI Amateur Cup final despite losing the decider (6-1) to Terenure Rangers in Galway.

The Donegal women achieved a notable victory in the semi-final when they defeated top Dublin side Killester/Donnycarney by 2-1 after extra-time.

A tight contest is on the cards for Sunday. Kick-off at the Showgrounds is at 2pm and the game is also on LOITV.