The Best XI I Played Against: Benny Bonner

Benny Bonner is a well-known figure in Donegal soccer circles, and is a Drumkeen United club stalwart.

He made his debut for Drumkeen against Keadue when he was only 13 and has been playing regularly since he was 15 years of age.

The talented left- back has spent most of his career with Drumkeen, but he also had two years with Finn Harps, and won the Donegal League Premier Division title with Drumoghill.

Bonner has this week picked the best 11 (4-4-2) he has faced over the last twenty years, with honourable mentions for Gareth Wade (Kildrum Tigers), Seami ‘Nanny’ Friel (Fanad United), Chris Malseed (Letterkenny Rovers), Mark Callaghan (Kildrum Tigers), Damien Crossan (Kildrum Tigers), Darren McElwaine (Letterkenny Rovers), and Ross Connolly (Buncrana Hearts).


Gavin Cullen (Cockhill Celtic)

This was an easy one because Gavin had to be in for the success he has had with Cockhill. We could be playing them down there but you’d hear him roaring in Drumkeen. He is a brilliant organiser and a great goalkeeper in general.

Gavin Cullen

Dermot Kelly (Kildrum Tigers)

Dermy played for a few different teams but I think he was at his best when he played for that strong Kildrum team. He was a big, strong lad and he could defend as well. I always had to keep an eye on him bombing up the right side.

Barry Porter (Letterkenny Rovers)

Barry was one of (Danny) McConnell’s men and he was a class defender. I would have only been a young fella when I went up against him but he stood out a mile. He wasn’t the biggest but he was a threat at set-pieces, and rock solid when it came to defending.


Shaun McElwaine (Fanad United)

Shaun was a rolls royce of a defender when he was playing with Fanad. He was good in the air, and a strong defender, and very comfortable on the ball as well. I tried to sign him a few times for Drumkeen, but he wouldn’t come.

Shaun McElwaine

Jonathan Minnock (Letterkenny Rovers)

‘Minno’ was coming towards the end of his career when he was playing for Rovers, but he was still as solid as you would get. I was in behind him at Finn Harps for a couple of years and got to see his class up close and he was brilliant. He’s a good fella, quiet but opens up a bit if you get a few in him!

Ivan Sproule (Institute)

We would have played Institute a few times in friendlies when I was up with Harps, and I have never seen anyone as quick as Ivan Sproule. I thought Chrissy Breen was quick, but Sproule was rapid. He didn’t have the end product at that time, but it did come later on and he went on to have a very good career with Hibs, and played for Northern Ireland too.

Malachy McDermott (Cockhill Celtic)

Big Mal has been key to Cockhill’s success down through the years. He has everything you would want in a midfielder. He can pass the ball, he can win the dirty 50/50 challenges, and he can score. I played with him for a few years in the interpros and he was one of the main men for the USL.

Malachy McDermott scores a goal for Cockhill.

Keith Ward (Bohemians)

We played Bohemians in the FAI Cup at Dalymount with Drumkeen in 2010 and Ward ran the show in midfield. His feet were just too quick and we couldn’t get near him. I thought I had seen the end of him after that but a few years later we had a Knockalla Cup match against Derry City Reserves when I was with Drumoghill, and who rocked up but Ward. A class player.

Gerry Gill (Cockhill Celtic)

I just had to have Gerry Gill in this team. I marked him numerous times down through the years and I’m still not sure which foot is meant to be the weaker one. He played at a higher level and you can see why because he’s excellent on the ball.

Ronan Coyle (Kildrum Tigers)

No questions about this one, Coyle has to be in it. I never saw anyone with a better first touch than Ronan, and he could take the ball from the sky and put it into his stride and bang. His finishing was second to none as well, and that’s why he made the best USL team of all time.

Ronan Coyle in action for Kildrum.

Garbhan Friel (Cockhill Celtic)

They used to call Garbhan ‘ramrod’ down about Cockhill and he was some striker. He might not have been as gifted as Ronan but he would never give you a minute’s peace. He was hard to handle and he scored goals for fun too.

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