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Lee Bonis: Larne striker aiming to remain in contention for Northern Ireland call-ups

Lee Bonis in action against Ballymena United
Lee Bonis scored one of Larne's goals in their 3-0 win over Ballymena United

Sports Direct Irish Premiership - Cliftonville v Larne

Date: Saturday, 26 August Venue: Solitude Kick-off: 17:30 BST

Coverage: Live on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app from 17:15 BST; live text commentary with in-game clips on the BBC Sport website and app

Larne striker Lee Bonis is aiming to continue the impressive form which saw him earn a call-up to the Northern Ireland squad for June's Euro 2024 qualifiers with Denmark and Kazakhstan.

Bonis's consistent performances and 15 goals in 34 Premiership outings proved a significant factor in Larne winning their first ever Irish League title.

The 24-year-old is eager to remain in NI boss Michael O'Neill's thoughts.

"As a Northern Ireland fan, it was massive for me," explained Bonis.

"I'm so thankful to Michael O'Neill for including me in the training camp."

'Every young player's dream'

The former Portadown forward joined Larne for a reported Irish League transfer fee of £100,000 in January 2022 and his contribution towards the Inver Park club's historic success last season saw him earn a new three-year contract in the summer.

Bonis was not involved in the matchday squads for either of the European qualifiers in June but, with further matches against Slovenia and Kazakhstan to come in September, a first international cap remains very much an ambition for the striker.

"It's every young footballer's dream to play for their country and in the future I just want to score as many goals as I can to give Michael reason to pick me. I want him to keep having me in the back of his mind," he explained.

Bonis was reportedly the subject of interest from a number of English and Scottish clubs during the summer but a transfer failed to materialise.

"The new contract showed the faith that Larne have in me and while I still would like to get a move across, it will happen if and when the time is right.

"If I keep scoring goals then hopefully I will get spotted and the chance will come. For now, I'm enjoying training every day and playing my football."

The defending Premiership champions remain unbeaten after four matches of the new campaign, having drawn with Dungannon Swifts and Coleraine, and defeated Glentoran and Ballymena United.

Bonis has found the net twice already in the new term.

Next up for Tiernan Lynch's men is a trip to Solitude to face a Cliftonville side who have won three of their first four fixtures under new manager Jim Magilton.

The game, which kicks off at 17:30 BST on Saturday, will be broadcast live on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app.

'Having the right mindset'

Bonis scored five goals in four league encounters with the north Belfast Reds in the 2022-23 campaign, including a sensational second-half hat-trick in the space of six minutes as Larne ran out 4-0 victors in an October encounter at Inver Park.

"Cliftonville play good football, they like to play in tight spaces, so it is up to us to combat that. They always make it tough, especially at Solitude, and they're on a decent run," reflected Bonis.

"We need to have the right mindset - win our home games and pick up as many points as we can away from home.

"If we can do that we should be in and around the top, though I expect three or four teams to be in the reckoning for the title.

"Personally, my target is to score 20 goals and provide 20 assists. That's my aim."