BY RYAN FERRY
THERE are many players who go through a football season without coming close to touching silverware, so it was remarkable that Bonagee managed to secure a domestic treble last May.
Bonagee just missed out on league honours but in cup competitions, they reigned supreme.
They won the North West of Ulster Intermediate Cup, the Knockalla Caravans Cup, as well as the Donegal News League Cup.
Jack Parke made a huge impression with Bonagee in his first season at the Dry Arch Club and his contribution to their success saw him secure the Donegal News Sports Star of the Month award for May in conjunction with Brian McCormick Sports & Leisure.
“It was a great buzz for the team,” said Parke after he collected his award.
“Three cups in a season is a great achievement for any club.
“We’re just happy to get the trophies. It was a busy schedule. I think we played the three finals in ten or twelve days.
“It was a big push and everyone was needed. It was great to finish up with three cups.”
Bonagee saw off Maiden City 3-2 in a lively encounter at Newbuildings to win the cross-border Intermediate Cup.
Jason Gibson’s men then defeated Aileach 3-1 to land the Knockalla Caravans Cup title and they travelled to Gortakeegan to complete the hat-trick and saw off Monaghan United by three goals to two in the League Cup decider.
They were questions posed in all three encounters but Parke and Co found the answers.
He said: “Maiden City were a good footballing side. They were young and fit.
“We were under the cosh in the last five minutes and big Packie (Mailey) came on and shored it up for us.
“We got over the line and it was nice to beat them. They had won three or four cups in the north so it was good that we were able to stop them winning another.
“We played Aileach in the second final at Maginn Park. It was another tough one because they played some great football as well and they came at us in the first thirty minutes.
“We probably just had more experience on the pitch and we were able to out-play them in the last forty minutes.
“The final against Monaghan was probably the hardest one. They were very up for it.
“They got a couple of goals from set-pieces and we had to work hard for it.
“Thankfully we had the quality up top to finish it and get the win.”
As well as their local cup joy, Bonagee also reached the quarter-finals of the FAI Intermediate Cup last season and were unlucky to lose 1-0 against Rockmount from Cork.
There was also the opportunity to play in the FAI Senior Cup and after hammering Pike Rovers, they were rewarded with a glamour tie against Shelbourne.
Parke and his teammates would eventually lose 4-0 against Damien Duff’s Shels but they gave a good account of themselves, especially when you consider that they were still in pre-season at the time.
“It was a good experience. There was a big crowd and it was a huge night for the club.
“It was tough against a quality team like Shelbourne, who moved the ball really well.
“Their fitness levels were unreal. To be fair we held them out until just before half-time and then they scored.
“If we could have got to the break at nil-nil you never know how things might have played out.”
Parke has earned stellar reviews for his performances in the backline for Bonagee, and that hasn’t just been at a local level.
The Glenmaquin man was identified as someone who might be capable of playing for the Republic of Ireland Amateur side and he hasn’t looked out of place since being handed a green shirt.
“I was first seen when we played Rockmount down in the Intermediate Cup.
“They contacted Jason then to see what the story was. You can’t play for the Amateur side if you have made a senior appearance.
“I got called down to training then in Dublin and I worked my way into the team.
“We played at home against Wales down in Cork, and I started that match.
“We played over in Wales two weekends ago and I started in that match too.
“Hopefully I can kick on now. We have a tournament in Bulgaria in October, so hopefully I can get in the last 18 for that.
“We have two training sessions coming up and two matches against Northern Ireland.
“It’s a very good standard of football and a great experience for me especially when I’m only 21.”
Parke played his schoolboy football with Lagan Harps and he soon came to the attention of Derry City.
Things didn’t work out at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium, but he still hopes and believes he can get a crack at senior football.
“I played with Derry at 17s and 19s and it just didn’t work out for me. I didn’t push on into the first team.
“I still have loads of time if I can push on.
“But I would like to try and see if I can get to that level.
“These teams are bringing in experienced players from other countries and not many youth players make it into these teams.
“Hopefully if I get a few years under me with Bonagee, I might get a chance.”
For now, Bonagee remains his priority and they have started the season well by twice beating Letterkenny Rovers.
They appear to be in a decent place, and while Parke is disappointed that Monaghan United have pulled out of the USL, he is eyeing up a jaunt at the league title.
“Hopefully we can kick on this year. We have a couple of good signings in with Conor and Stephen Black.
“We will be hoping to push on and challenge for that league this year.
“Five teams isn’t ideal but we just have to play whoever is in front of us.
“It’s a great level of football and hopefully we can get more teams into it in the coming years.”