Sunday, 27 December 2009

THE SUNDAY FOOTBALL SAGA



A fellow Irish League follower got in touch recently after my previous post on my reaction to the Linfield and Glentoran Boxing Day postponement.  We got together over a few pints (bitter) for a one-to-one. He posed some interesting questions....

- Why should Linfield play 2 matches in 48 hours if they don't have to?

They don't have to. They didn't. It was a decision totally up to them and I accept that.  The Glens have a big game at Portadown on Tuesday night too.

- And what exactly do Rangers and Celtic playing on a Sunday have to do with anything?

Ah come on, do you really need me to answer that one for you...

- Sunday football is not the great saviour it's billed as by those who lobby for it as they are competing with live English Prem.

Agreed. We will never be in a position to go pound-for-pound against the EPL. We come up against live football at most hours of the day though. Switching games to a Sunday will probably make no difference to attendances. But why be so set against it to the point where you inconvenience the biggest game of the season? Money is tight in the Irish League. Clubs are on the verge of collapse as we speak.

- And do please tell me what this "Uberprod" mentality at Windsor Park is?

My original remark was "The 'Super-Prod' mentallity from the hierarcy at the South Belfast club yet again pulls us back to the past."  Do Linfield answer to the Free-Presbyterian church now?    I've encountered Protestant Bluemen labelling Protestant Glenmen 'sell-outs' for breaking the out-dated tradition of no football on a Sunday.  It may only be a bit of banter but there tends to be a moral superiority undertone to it.  Staunchly refusing to kick a ball on Sunday in the name of 'Protestantism' does not mean you will get into Heaven any quicker.

- And what is this "Might have been" you speak of? The sides will meet later on in the season.

The 'what might have been' I speak of regards the five Irish Premiership games being cancelled.  It was disappointing as I wasn't able to attend a match while I'm back in Belfast for the weekend.  Top marks for analysing my post to the death by the way!

On the weather...

- I must admit, looking at the weather, I was surprised by the postponement, but, one night of improvement has been up against three/four days of continuous frost.

It was a surprise indeed, especially when I saw the Sun come out just after 11am! But if the pitch isn't playable then that's that I suppose.

- I seem to remember five out of six fixtures in August 2008 being postponed due to the weather, so summer is hardly immune to inclement weather, as has the LOI fixture lists during the summer months.

Agree entirely, but why close yourself off to the idea?  Personally, I'm not against it but I'm not totally convinced it would be a wonderful thing for the league either.

On the Glentoran invitation to Linfield to put the game back 24 hours to Sunday...

- There are many examples in English football of clubs declining Sunday games after Saturday postponements.

Correct. But you won't come close to a 10,000 bumper crowd in the rearranged fixture. Then again money wouldn't be an issue with Linfield. And you can take that as a snide dig if you want (you seem to have taken my post to heart which wasn't the intention) but the truth hurts.

- Exactly how is Linfield looking after their players schedule "Dragging us back to the dark ages"?

I don't blame any club for looking after their players schedule. My issue was with Linfield's inability to play Sunday football. Dark ages = unable to move away from the past. Sunday football. No! Never! is the reply time and time again from a minority at Linfield FC.

- Amongst who is NI the "Laughing stock" of the Western World over Sunday football? Has anyone ever publicly mocked NI over it? ?

I know scores of people outside of Northern Ireland looking in at us and exposing us as a backward looking country with regards to the Sunday football saga. What kind of mentality resides in the people who are so set against playing football on a Sunday, yet pass up God's day of rest for a protest outside a football stadium?

Only in Northern Ireland.  Progression has never been our strong point!

Saturday, 26 December 2009

MAKE "TABOO SUNDAY" HISTORY



Boxing Day.  Saturday 26th December, 2009.  It's supposed to be a 10,000 sell-out at The Oval for the 'Big Two' clash between Glentoran and Linfield. 

I post three hours before kick-off - It has since been cancelled.

Like an Henry handball, myself and many other Irish League fans will feel cheated out of 'what could have been'.  It reaffirms recent calls for a switch to summer football.  I for one am losing reasons for arguing this proposal.  It was reported that today's game (along with four others) was cancelled due to frozen pitches, which might be the case in the rest of Northern Ireland but in East Belfast?  Not a chance.  As I look out my window just 3 miles from the ground itself, I see the Sun shining and the only frost in sight is that of a toy 'Frosty the Snowman' across the road from me.

In previous years I have attended the Oval for this fixture in the snow.  Today's postponment is just another dagger through the heart of the Irish League. 

Pre-postponment Glentoran were threatened with a £40,000 fine from the IFA.  Following the lack of football today it could be much more costly than that.  The already faltering interest levels in the local game will wither and die, unless of course.... we play the match tomorrow instead.

Wait, we can't do that.  It's a Sunday...

That's right, Linfield have turned down the offer from Glentoran to re-play the game within 24 hours of it's cancellation.  However, I'm not surprised.   The 'Super-Prod' mentallity from the hierarcy at the South Belfast club yet again pulls us back to the past.  At the risk of offending Jesus at Christmas time, it's time to wise up and stop becoming the laughing stock of the western world.  If Rangers can play Celtic on a Sunday, why can't Glentoran play Linfield??  It's a head-scratcher of the highest order - and I don't just mean the 'Orange' one.

I can appreciate players such as Glentoran's Michael Halliday's conflicting view on the matter.  No-one should be forced to play football on a Sunday.  If that be their wish, the clubs should give them their full support on what is a highly sensitive issue.  However, no-one should hold back the overwhelming majority in support of Sunday football. 

Northern Ireland is the only place in Europe (maybe even the world) where playing football on a Sunday is very much frowned upon.  Infact, it was such a taboo that only recently the IFA have decided to scrap this ancient-rule that hung over football in this country like a death sentence.

My message to those opposed to Irish League games taking place on a Sunday is simple.  Go to church in the morning time, pop into Centra for a few groceries, then join the rest of us in the 21st Century.

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PS: The game between Crusaders and Cliftonville is the only survivor of the weather this Boxing Day.  Congratulations to the backroom staff at Seaview who had the foresight to bed-in their new 4G synthetic pitch last month.  It is essential for the league if it continues to operate during the winter months in Northern Ireland. That'll be 11 and a half out of the 12 then.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

BOXING DAY BONANZA!!


It's that time of the year again; the only weekend of football where Irish League clubs can actually expect to make a profit from their upcoming matches.  Boxing Day (that's St Stephens Day for 'The Reds') is the biggest day in our local football calendar - even bigger than Irish Cup final day.  I know this because the 26th of December involves at least FOUR traditional derbys each year in the Carling Premiership.

North Belfast derby
Crusaders vs. Cliftonville

The Sheep Derby
Coleraine vs. Ballymena

The Merseyside derby of... Craigavon
Glenavon vs. Portadown

and of course... 'The Big Two' derby
Glentoran vs. Linfield

This special festive helping of local rivalries has been spiced up thanks to the level of competition this season.  Come the new year one team from Crusaders, Cliftonville, Linfield and Glentoran could be top of the pile.  It certainly makes this weekends fixture list all the more appealing to the loyal followers of the league.  Long may it continue!

However, the stand-out game is current champions Glentoran up against bitter blue rivals in Linfield.  That's no disrespect to the Crues and the Reds, but nothing compares to a Boxing Day clash between Northern Ireland's two most decorated clubs.  It is quite simply a special occasion.  Unfortunately though, in recent years this fixture has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.  Hopefully come Sunday, football will be the only headline maker as the Glens stand to be fined £40,000 should their fans rise to the inevitable Linfield 'bait'.

Last year at Windsor Park certainly left a bad taste in my mouth after a few headers from the 'Dee Street Massive' decided they were going to pelt Linfield fans with fireworks and various seats ripped out of the North Stand.  Not only was it totally and utterly pointless, but it shed Glentoran supporters in a terrible light considering we had been outclassed by a superior Linfield side on the day.

3-0 was how it ended last year at Windsor, but I anticipate a much closer affair this time round.  I have this one down as a 2-2 thriller.  I think we might even see a Gillespie special.  Here's hoping anyway!

------------------

PS: Crues to beat Cliftonville at Seaview.  Coleraine to win the sheep derby, and a share of the spoils in the battle of mid-Ulster in a game that will spilt the whole of Craigavon in two... probably from laughing.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

SEÑOR EVANS ON LOS GALÁCTICOS RADAR


Evans Above: Jonny scores in NI's 3-2 win over Poland earlier this year

A quick jump aboard the rumour-mill this week throws up a 'Real' corker.  Our Jonny is being touted as the next Manchester United player to hot-tail it out to Spain and join the Madrid giants. 

"Go Jonny Go Go" may be the cries from the Spanish capital, but in reality, the young lad from Rathcoole is going nowhere.  He is United through and through.  Would you believe... he even bleeds red.

BBC Northern Ireland recently screened a documentary following Jonny and his promising career on the pitch.  See it here if you missed it.  Like myself, a United fan growing up in Belfast, he is living out the dreams of thousands throughout Ireland.  What's better is that he takes it all in his stride and never forgets his roots.  It's easy to see why the glitz and glamour of Real Madrid wouldn't get this Manchester United fan all hot under the collar.  The same depth of loyalty shown couldn't be said for some of his previous team-mates at United.  Señor Ronaldo, Señor van Nistelrooy, and Señor Heinze all left the "Red Devils" for "Los Galácticos", however it was to be a relative step-down for both the Holland and Argentina internationals.  It remains to be seen how that Portuguese fella embraces his recent arrival at the Bernabau.

Jonny - come lately - has excelled for both club and country.  However, injury has temporarily cut short his fantastic start to this season.  It is no coincidence that United have not faired well in his absence.  A future Northern Ireland captain of that there is no doubt.  He advocates that himself, "It's always been my ambition to captain my country one day".  But I'm not getting carried away because at the tender age of just 21, he still has alot to learn.  Old Trafford is the right place to do just that.

There's a certain paramilitary mural in Jonny's native North Belfast that sends out the message "Prepared for Peace, Ready for War".  It's a message Evans has taken and adapted to his career on the football pitch.

Prepared for partnership.  Ready for war.  Rio and Nemanja take note.

Evans Above, Jonny - you took something perfect... and painted it red.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

RYAN GIGGS & S.P.O.T.Y



No, this isn't just another episode of a well known BBC cartoon where a superstar footballer special guests alongside Super-ted and company;  this is Ryan Giggs and the Beeb's "Sports Personality of the Year".

That's right Giggsy scooped 'the biggie' of the BBC sporting world.  A sporting world that includes...

- no live Premiership coverage
- no live (or highlighted) Champions League coverage
- the odd 'Championship' match involving the might Toon
- a poor man's version of Soccer Saturday (sorry Gabby, there's just no substitute for Jeff Stelling)
- and Mark Lawrenson

A stunned Ryan Giggs said he was "in total shock" after winning the 2009 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. 

Understandable.

I had it down to a final lap slog-fest between David Hayes and Jenson Button.

But, it was the public that voted.  Yes those heartless swines even had the cheek to vote out Jedward last month. Scandless.

I didn't vote myself, but given the choice my allegiences obviously would have forced me to vote David Healy Ryan Giggs.  Why? Because he is my idol.  He was quite simply the George Best of my era (1986-present).  Giggs is 'THE' model footballer.  This is a player who's most compromising situation off the pitch arose when the gaffer (Sir Alex) made an unexpected appearance at a quite innocent house party where Lee Sharpe attempted to lead a young impressionable Ryan astray.  David Beckham and Tiger Woods he is not.

He is however Manchester United's shining light in a relatively average season by their standards.  The 36 year-old Welsh wonder has been instrumental in what could be considered United's 'transition year'.  But unlike such years gone-by where Djemba-Djemba, Bellion, Kleberson and co. have been misguided by a tired, weary, begruding and often difficult to be around Roy Keane;  Ryan has inspired rather than transpire.

The sports personality of the year for 2009 isn't a just award for Ryan though.  The 1991-2009 sports personality of the year would be make a more worthy title for the lad.    I'd even be confident enough to label him United's greatest ever player, and confident enough to do some football betting to win some cash. That's right, ahead of even the Holy Trinity of Law, Charlton and Best

Am I mad?  Very much so!  But 11 Premier League's and two European Cups, not to mention the numerous other trophies pocketed by the Salford-raised Giggs tells its own story really.

I'm delighted the 'beautiful British public' agree with me.

And it seems we haven't seen the last of the left-wing wizard after Giggsy's new contract extension this week.  The most respected Manchester United player of all time.  Giggs' award may have been a token gesture, but is undoubtedly an inspiration to all sports men and women.  The most gifted, loyal, and genuine personality in sports today. 

Ryan Giggs OBE would top most sports followers lists.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

RESTAURANT REVIEW #1

Date: Friday 4th December
Location: South William Street, Dublin
Restaurant: Alfie's
Rating: *



It's been a while since I've had a gorgeous meal in a fancy restaurant. Unfortunately, my recent experience at ALFIE'S restaurant on South William Street will keep me waiting that little bit longer. For a restaurant based in such a central position in Dublin, I expected a higher level of customer assurance.

As part of a workforce out on the town to celebrate the arrival of Christmas, it was clear the festive cheer was still to greet ALFIE'S. Given our group pre-ordered our food weeks before via extensive discussions with the restaurant with regards to what was on offer, I would have expected to have the opportunity to eat what I had in-fact ordered. Upon arrival I was informed the scampi was not available. Others, who had pre-ordered burgers and stir-fry were also told in no uncertain circumstaces these were no longer available. Why wasn't our group informed of these last minute alterations in the menu? Dear, oh dear.

In the end I settled for the Scallops - all FOUR of them. The less than appetizing 'ice-cream scoop' of mash-potato dumped rather tragically in the middle of my plate won't win any masterchef awards much to my disappointment.

"Friendly, informative service, modern decor and a vibrant atmosphere will make your dining experience one to remember" is what ALFIE'S offers via its website. I can assure anyone who may have the displeasure of dining there that this was certainly not the case on my visit.

What's it all about, ALFIE??

Sunday, 6 December 2009

THEY'RE NOT NORTHERN IRELAND, THEY'RE BRAZIL



And now for something completely different... I am going to surprise alot of people and back the boys from Brazil (excludes Deco) to win the World Cup in South Africa next year.

The draw itself didn't send too many shockwaves around the world, but the stand-out matches will be in Group G where Brazil need to stamp their authority on the tournament early on.  That's because Robinho and co. will come up against the big names that Sepp Blatter so desperately wanted to get into the tournament.  Portugal is their name - messrs Ronaldo, Deco, Simao and Nani are the 'star-power'.  Brazil will also come up against Drogba, Kalou, and the Toure brothers of the Ivory Coast and, of course, Hong Yong-Jo of North Korea.

I may be early but here is how I think the groups will end up...

GROUP A
France  (the support from Ireland will inspire them)
Mexico  (not as strong a Mexico team as we're used to)
South Africa  (utter pish)
Uruguay
  (unlucky not to deny Maradona's men from qualification)

GROUP B
Argentina  (should be too strong for everyone else)
Greece  (Greece's peak was 2004, on the slippery soap)
Nigeria  (missing a Kanu or Jay-Jay these days)
South Korea  (always well organised, could spring a surprise)

GROUP C
Algeria  (I'll be honest, I know sweet FA about them)
England  (will cruise the group)
Slovenia  (could run USA close for 2nd)
USA (too much PL experience to fail to qualify, surely?)

GROUP D
Australia  (aging squad, Cahill's the only threat)
Germany  (will have no problems early on)
Ghana  (thank you, come again)
Serbia  (my outsider tip to lift the trophy, great side in the making)

GROUP E
Cameroon  (expect them to prop up the group)
Denmark  (between them and Japan for 2nd)
Netherlands  (will be a walk in the park)
Japan  (see Denmark)

GROUP F
Italy  (defensively they will be tough to breach as usual)
New Zealand  (the whipping boys of WC 2010)
Paraguay  (straight fight for 2nd with the Slovaks)
Slovakia  (see Paraguay)

GROUP G
Brazil  (always turn on the style in the big games)
Ivory Coast  (will huff and puff, but won't blow any houses down)
Korea DPR  (unknown quantity, may take a zero tolerance approach)
Portugal  (extremely fortunate to qualify, they should take advantage)

GROUP H
Chile  (2nd should be a foregone conclusion)
Honduras  (rock bottom)
Spain  (expect Villa and Torres to improve their goal tally throughout)
Switzerland  (excelled in qualifying - that'll be their only claim to fame)


PS:  Reason for the video above?  Well, being born in 1986, that was probably the closest I will ever come to seeing Northern Ireland play at the World Cup.  I blame Blatter. And Henry. Everyone else is.

Friday, 27 November 2009

"LIVERPOOL GOT WHAT THEY DESERVED"



Old Trafford's resident 'Aunty Scouse*' is back in the headlines today for his latest helping of LFC-bashing. The United stalwart - or is that just plain 'wart' for non United fans? - claims Liverpool got everything they deserved after being knocked out of the Champions League at the group stages on Tuesday night.

As much as I loved THAT celebration all those years ago, I think it's time Gary buried the hatchet with his friends in the Republic of Scouseland*.  Why?  Because that very hatchet could end up lodged in the lad's spine should he attempt to intimidate the already irate Scouse mob any further.  My advice to Neville would be to let sleeping dog's lie.  After all, that's all Liverpool have been reduced to this season - or so it seems at the moment.  Let's leave the gloating until the end of the season.

Until then, as fourth choice right-back at United, Neville should perhaps let his feet do the talking. When John O'Shea, Wesley Orange Brown and one (possibly two) spotty Brazillian kids are ahead of you in the pecking order at the Theatre of Dreams, it's probably best to concentrate on winning your place back in the manager's plans.

Message to Gary:  Football first, Scouse*-bashing second, Chelsea third, Arsenal fourth... and 'with hope in our hearts' Liverpool a 'deserved' fifth ;)
 
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* in this article, the term "Scouser" refers to the red side of Merseyside only.  Therefore I guess only Liverpool supporters should take offence if or where they feel the need to.

Friday, 20 November 2009

KEANE LAMBASTS THE FAI



It's not everyday I'd agree with Roy Keane, but today in a BBC interview the most famous/infamous player to captain the Republic of Ireland was 100% correct.  The FAI are a laughing stock for begging FIFA for a replay of the ROI versus France game.  So are those I heard last night on FM 104, ranting to Adrian Kennedy about this planned protest at the French Embassy in Dublin today.  A bit of 'cop on' please, and stop feeling sorry for yourselves.  That old ship has sailed.

And just out of interest, what kind of reporter attends an interview and 'let's his phone ring out' instead of switching it to silent?? My vote goes to Dennis Pennis.  It's lucky Roy Keane has matured because in his earlier days as a player I believe that inparticular reporter's mobile telephone would be left ringing in a place where the Sun don't shine.  Couldn't believe the cheek of the lazy journo, he should apply for a job with the rest of the muppets at the Andersontown News.  The interview itself was controversial enough, without this clown so rudely interrupting...

*RING RING*

Keane: Who's phone is that? That's the second time it's gone off.

Reporter:  I think that's my phone, sorry.

*RING RING*

Keane: Why don't you turn it off? You're sitting there, that's the second time it's gone off.  Why don't you put it on silent?

Reporter: It's not the second time.

Keane: But why don't you turn it off??

*RING RING*

Reporter:  I'll turn it off in a minute.

Keane: So you're just gonna let it ring?

Reporter: No, I'll try and let it ring out.  

*RING RING*

Keane: Oh right... that's good manners.



PS:  I gather the reporter has never heard of Alf-Inge Haaland...

Thursday, 19 November 2009

HENRY SWAPS GALLIC FOR GAELIC !!



Thierry Henry, take a bow son. In the space of four days you have just managed to de-throne Lassana Diarra as public enemy "numéro un" among the followers of the Republic of Ireland football team.

The Frenchman's technique to first control the ball with his arm then maneuver his hand to neatly cushion it into his path to set-up his team’s winning goal was sublime. In fact it should earn him a call up to the senior panel at Down GAA. They could do with talent such as that in their ranks.

In all seriousness though, ROI can quite rightly feel hard-done by. This was their best performance in the World Cup Qualifiers to date. They certainly saved their best ‘til last. Robbie Keane was a Trojan all night long. He was a real pain in the "derrière" for the French. The only time he stopped running was to compose himself for a fine finish to give the Republic the 1-0 victory over the 90 minutes.

In contrast, ‘Les Bleus’ were brutal. Chelsea striker Nickolas Anelka looked to be their only threat playing out of position on the left wing. The manager of France should quit while he’s ahead. I’m no expert on the French national team but leaving Benzema, Govou and Malouda out of the starting line-up? That was scandalous.

Not as scandalous as what was to occur in extra-time though. After much complaining that Anelka should have been awarded a penalty for a clear ‘dive’, and the numerous French off-sides which would you believe, were actually off-side, France were beginning to lose their cool. Yet another hopeful/hopeless (delete as appropriate) long ball punted forward which looked to be going out for a goal-kick. But step forward world superstar Thierry Henry, who would turn the tie on its head with one of the most blatant acts of cheating you will ever see in football. His resulting pass set-up William Gallas who would put an end to any plans the Irish had of topping up their tans in South Africa next summer.

While I was disgusted with what happened to the Republic of Ireland, I find it hilarious the calls being made for the match to be replayed. Are you serious Dermot? So, every time there is a controversial decision in a football match (which is every game in the EPL) the match should be automatically replayed. If that were the case then individual seasons might need to be prolonged by about ten years in order to get the fixtures completed.

It has only been 12 hours since that treacherous act took place in Stade de France and already I'm fed up with the constant moans about how 'unfair' it was to lose.  Let’s not lose sight of the fact that over the two legs France scored two goals in total, and the Irish scored one. The Henry hand-ball was bad but it’s not the first time a legend of the game has made headlines for all the wrong reasons. ‘The Hand of God’ in the 1986 World Cup where Maradona scored with his hand against England to send them packing is just one example of teams being ‘screwed’ out of football matches.

It was an event that didn't gain a lot of sympathy from this island though. The whole place sold out of Argentina shirts that summer.

You reap what you sow.



PS: Trappatoni and co. should have seen something like this coming a mile off if he had of tuned into the Olympic's last year!

Friday, 13 November 2009

THE STONE ROSES EXPERIENCE @ THE ACADEMY



Sometimes football clubs are associated with the biggest names in world music.  The link between the two is more often than not down to the area the artists were brought up in.  Manchester City have Oasis.  Liverpool FC have Gerry & the Pacemakers.  Everton have (say a few) The Beatles.  Glentoran have Van Morrison.  And then Linfield have David Jeffery.   

Manchester United have long been associated with local indie-band The Stone Roses.

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Stone Roses’ groundbreaking debut album, the cover band have announced they will perform the band’s hits at Midnight at The Academy this Friday 11th December.

“The Stone Roses” themselves were famously declared the “Greatest British Album of all time” by NME.

The Stone Roses Experience are widely regarded as the most accurate tribute to The Stone Roses. Sell out shows all over the UK and Ireland have shown the popularity of the Stone Roses music is still as fresh today as it was back in the late 80's. The band focus on bringing the authentic live sound of the Roses to audiences who never had the pleasure of seeing the original band, using the original instruments as closely as possible and tweaking that desired classic Roses tone.

For the complete Stone Roses Experience, this IS the one.



The Stone Roses Experience... coming to The Academy, Middle Abbey Street next month.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

SWINE "LES BLEUS" OUTBREAK IN DUBLIN



Forget In-fluenza, think more In-form-Benzema.

World Cup fever is the latest infectious disease to hit Dublin. So under strict orders from the doctor (Dr Paisley) I have been advised to return North to Belfast this weekend where the chances of catching it are virtually impossible, unless of course Slovakia and Slovenia are nuked (see group 3).

However, Swine 'Les Bleus' is what followers of the Republic of Ireland should be extremely wary of come Saturday night. It might have been all smiles holding Italy to a 2-2 draw at Croker last month, but do that in the upcoming play-off against France and they can expect to join their Northern neighbours on the "it's good but it's not the one" scrapheap.

There is already a bit of a buzz going on in Dublin at the minute (and I don't just mean the nice fellas down on Aston Quay with the blue bags). Everyone is talking association football, which certainly makes a change in these parts. It's all about beating the French.

Not for me though...

I'm looking forward to my return to the 'wee six' this weekend where I'll be following in Jeff Stelling's footsteps with my very own version of 'Soccer Saturday'. On my return to God's Country I shall take in Northern Ireland's very own Croke Park... Seaview. Followed shortly after by a trip to the South (steady..) Belfast version of the Theatre of Dreams...Windsor Park. Ok so it's no Old Trafford, but it puts Dalymount Park to shame!

Anyway, my starter from the day's tasty menu will be at 2pm for Crusaders (2nd) vs Glentoran (3rd) in the Carling Irish Premiership. I'd like to take this opportunity to wish our manager Alan McDonald well in his recovery from illness. I've stated before I didn't think he was the man to take the Glens forward this season, but I am left numb with guilt at the thought that some of my fellow supporters could sink to the depths of despair with sickening text messages sent to his mobile phone following our 6-0 defeat to Coleraine last week. No manager should have to put up with that sort of crap. So I'll be at Seaview to give Alan the benefit of the doubt as manager of Glentoran Football Club. Sometimes maybe it takes a thumping at home to wake the team up. In saying that, I believe the game will be a dour 1-1 draw.

Next up is the main course where Northern Ireland entertain Serbia. Judging by the tickets still available at Windsor on Saturday, I don't think it has caught the imagination of some NI fans. Then again, you have to question the term 'fan' in this case. For me, I don't care whether we are playing Brazil at the Maracana or Outer Mongolia on an ice-rink, I am hooked on all our international games. 5pm on Saturday will be no different. The bonus is we're at home. You can't beat the walk down Tate's Avenue whilst necking a cheeky bottle of the monk's finest chanting "We'll Support You Evermore!" and managing to look like someone that's just broken out of Purdysburn for the day.

For the match itself I can't see past a Serbia victory. My heart says we could slay another dragon of European football if Healy finds his scoring boots and the two Celts impress. But the head says 3-0 to the Serbs.

Finally, for dessert (if I can stomach any more) it's off to the nearest pub to catch the start of the Republic vs France game. PaddyPower are offering odds of 8/1 for a 2-1 win to France which looks tempting. Although the bet of the day comes from this very website.  I'm offering odds of 32/1 that I gain entry to 'The Bot' in my Northern Ireland attire.

On second thoughts, I think I might just hop on that 19:16 train back to Holywood...

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

POOR PAT, RICH KENNY, ANGRY MAN...



And there was me thinking MNS was the highlight of Monday night's on the box!

But no, step forward the crazy, camp, heckler in the audience on RTE's current affairs programme 'Frontline' last night. The man who was seen 'earning' his three minutes of fame looked like a cross between Keith Gillespie on a diet of pastie baps, and Brian Kennedy... balls and all. 

The show itself is fronted by former 'Late Late Show' presenter Pat Kenny; a man who no matter how much of a gent he may be, always tends to attract his fair share of arseholes in the studio.  His latest heckler focused predominantly on his 11 hour-week, £600,000 salary for Radio Telefis Eireann.

I salute Pat Kenny for taking it on the chin.  It's a small price to pay when you take into consideration that the mad man in the audience had a point.  Eamon Dunphy take note.

It all made for hilarious late-night television - making the latest series of 'The Panel' unofficially a flop.

Forget Louis Walsh, get this mouthpiece on the X-Factor panel.  Oh the tears....

Sunday, 8 November 2009

THE BLUES WILL BE HAVING THAT BACK THANKS ALAN


Old McDonald had a team... save the eeyi-oo's, his team have been shite all season. The 6 (six) - nil defeat at the Oval at the hands of lowly Coleraine has to be the final straw.  Alan McDonald simply has not one clue. I do no not wish to elaborate as the list could be endless. Thanks Alan but it's time to go.

BRING MARTY QUINN TO EAST BELFAST.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Off-colour Rio doing a Jaap...



On Sunday I was at Anfield to witness a below-bar Manchester United performance.  It was a game I knew we wouldn't win if Torres played.  Unfortunately he did, and inspired Liverpool to a 2-0 over their fiercest rivals.  For me, the Reds needed the win much more than their Mancunian counterparts, because a loss for Liverpool would surely have prolonged their 19 year wait for the title... and sent Rafa Benitez packing. 

So, broken arm and all (long story), I sat myself in the hallowed surroundings of the Bill Shankly Suite pre-match praying that Jamie Carragher continues his poor start to the season and lets his Scouse compatriot Wayne Rooney in for a few strikes on goal.  I was also praying I wouldn't be sniffed out as an undercover Manc, but I think I pulled it off with the odd dodgy "Showned La'd" at the end of every sentence. Then, after bumping into the literally larger than life Eamon Holmes, I realised I was not the only plastic Manc in the home end today.  And with my nerves put at ease I made my way to my seat based in the classy Centenary Stand, padded seats and everything.

Minutes into the game and I soon realised it wasn't Carragher I should be expecting the mistakes from, it was the world's most expensive defender Rio Ferdinand.  In fairness, he wasn't alone in having a stinker of a game, his partner in crime Nemanja Vidic made Dirk Kuyt actually look like a decent centre forward for once.  In the end the Serbian quite rightly put himself out of his own misery and took an early bath five minutes from time for the third game with Liverpool in a row (has to be a record!).

But whilst I am certain Vidic will bounce back from his annual stinker against Liverpool, I am much more concerned about Rio.  His loss of form this season has been surprising to say the least and is serious cause for concern.  The way in which Fernando Torres out-sprinted him to put Liverpool ahead was unlike Ferdinand, a defender whose high acclaim stems from that very attribute.  When Torres struck, I couldn't help but think back to 2001 when Jaap Stam was showing similar nervous signs at the back for United.  In the end Fergie had seen enough and offloaded his most experienced defender, citing the reason as Stam having 'lost a yard in pace'.

Time will only tell if my theory is proved right.  But with young Northern Ireland startlet Jonny Evans waiting in the wings, Ferdinand's place at the heart of the United defence isn't as secure as some might have believed. 

Watch this space...

PS: I never did get my hands on an LFC beachball.  It was probably a good thing seeing as the joke of the day arrived in the 94th minute when that great player called 'Egg-Nog' scrambled any plans Manchester United had to poach a late equaliser at Anfield... and leave Sir Alex with egg on his face!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Derry City to return to the Irish League...



Arguably the biggest team in the North-West of Ulster, it seems the famous/infamous Derry City are being touted for a return to the Irish League. 

The call is being made by former Derry City legend Liam Coyle.  In his statement he claimed "Moving to the Irish League is the only way forward for Derry City if they want to survive.  If the Irish League was to take them back in it would mean less travelling."

He added:  "It makes sense to go back and play in the country they are in."

It has been 37 years since the farcical situation emerged where-by the Candystripes opted out of IFA football and fell into the loving arms of FAI football.  But this is 2009, we are in the longest recession in Irish history and suddenly those loving arms arn't quite as tightly wrapped around County Londonderry's finest - and I don't mean Coleraine.

Yes, Derry City have revelled in the good times, and there were many since their conversion to League of Ireland soccer. They are a team that have proven they can more than hold their own amongst the elite of the South's football.  Two LOI titles, four FAI cups and a few fantastic runs in Europe are testament to their list of endevours over the years.

But now the bad times are on their way.  The recession isn't just limited to those pesky 'bankers', it has effected everyone.  Derry City are no different.  So the suggestion is that maybe a return to the Irish League could put an end to their financial crisis.  And from a footballing perspective I'd be very much in favour.  Apologies to any Institute fans out there but Derry City are a much more attractive proposal for the Sky Sports cameras, not to mention the expansive fan-base that only the Red and White Army offer.  It's a no-brainer.

However, the real issue here has nothing to do with what happens on the pitch.  It's political.  Returning to Irish League football would be like admitting that yes Derry City are in fact a football club from Northern Ireland.  The mask would finally slip.  A decision like that certainly won't go down well among those Ultras in the Brandywell at Halloween.

In hindsight it's easy to point fingers as to who was responsible for Derry's withdrawal from the Irish League. The IFA would be a popular choice in many quarters.  My choice though would be the Troubles.  They impacted strongly on IFA decision-making during the turbulent years of the 70's and 80's.  But why shouldn't they switch the venue of games on safety grounds?  Was one Bloody Sunday not enough?

As a devout Glenman I've heard all the conspiracy theories first-hand from fellow supporters about how the IFA go out every season to fix the league and hand Linfield the title. I have evaluated all the facts and have drawn the conclusion that I think this assertation is bullsh*t.  I begrudgingly admit, Linfield have a superior advantage due predomiately to their home stadium, marketability, fan-base and the harsh reality that they are the biggest club in Northern Ireland.  Supporter clubs in areas of Londonderry, and the one on the Shore Road next to Crusaders FC are examples of their continued 'loyal' following throughout the country.

Those with influence at Derry City Football Club need to think outside the box on this one.  A return to their natural home in the Irish League?  It would cut-out all those financially crippling long trecks to Cork, Galway and Dublin for a start.  The all-Ireland Setanta Cup will still remain, should they qualify.  Cross-border football doesn't mean having to leave one Irish governing body for another.  Just ask the founding members of the Irish Football Association, Cliftonville FC - a club currently thriving in the middle of this recession.

Let's see a Derry City ruffling the 'Big Two's' feathers with a sustained assault on the 71 league title's between them.  We can't guarantee big wages (unless your employer is FonaCab) but we are now reaping the benefits of our clubs not going full-time.  Stability first, growth second.  The IFA have got it right this time. 

Alot of this depends on Derry City officials to bury the hatchet with those at Windsor Avenue.  The removal of the chips from any remaining hunchbacked shoulders in the Bogside and Sandy Row areas in-particular would also be well-received by all.  Then, and only then, should they make the much anticipated return home to the revamped, refreshed IFA Carling Premiership.

'Le Jeu Avant Tout' ----------- 'The Game Above All'

Monday, 19 October 2009

Reasons to be cheerful.. Un, Deux, Trois




Today seen the biggest ego in football (next to Cristiano) get the draw he wanted.  The 'big boys' of European football have been issued their life-line for world cup qualification.

It was this afternoon that the play-off's in the European Qualification region for the World Cup were drawn.  Republic of Ireland were dealt arguably the cruelest card of all, paired alongside former World champions France. 

The draw in full was as follows (left team at home first)...

Republic of Ireland vs France
Portugal vs Bosnia Herzegovina
Greece vs Ukraine
Russia vs Slovenia

FIFA's decision two weeks previous to introduce seedings for the play-off draw in order to help the bigger, more marketable nations take their 'rightful' place on the world stage, could have a detremental impact on everyone else... and FIFA doesn't seem to mind.  How the so-called protector of smaller nations Michelle Platini has kept so quiet during this quite blantant moving of the goalposts beggars belief.  Have FIFA gagged the UEFA chief? Have they slipped a few extra sugars into his tea?  Or could it be that Platini's own country stood to gain massively from the change of rules? In my view, this seems to be the case.

As a neutral looking at the draw, it would seem the next eight games will be a mere formality.  France, Portugal, Greece and Russia all have favourable draws due to their seeding status.  However, as much as I'd rather see the likes of Ronaldo, Benzema and Arshavin showcasing their 'star-power' at the greatest competition in world football, I would (to quote Kevin Keegan) "LOVE IT, JUST LOVE IT" if this masterplan to bundle them into the tournament through the back door back-fired.

So here's to the little guys... Republic of Ireland, Slovenia (should have been NI!), Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Ukraine. 

But you know what, despite the cards being stacked against them, I still think there's room for at least one shock somewhere in Europe. 

The French should have coasted their group with Serbia their only real threat, yet they only just sauntered over the finish line into second place.  The Republic of Ireland came close to topping a group that involved the current World champions, Italy. They will give France a fright at Croker but I feel with the all-important second leg being in Paris it could be curtain's for the Irish if Benzema and Henry up the ante.

The same can be said for Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal.  They got lucky in the final round of games and have Denmark to thank for disposing of the Swede's for them to sneak in behind them.  They're up against super-minnows Bosnia-Herzegovina, a relatively unknown quantity, but as we saw with Serbia topping their group, Portugal should be on their guard.

Greece versus Ukraine is probably the most likely one of the four matches to go against FIFA's seeding stategy.  The Greeks are fading quickly.  The Euro 2004 winners had aruably the easiest group during qualifying yet made a bit of a hash of even attaining second spot.  They did it, but face a strong Ukraine side who pipped Croatia to second place in a group that contained a resurgent England.

Finally, Russia will be up against Slovenia.  Expect a Russian win at home and away in this one.  No disrespect to the Slovenian's but they're not a great side.  They did well in beating Czech Republic, Poland and Northern Ireland to second place, but really that was all about the amount of draws those three teams had with each other... not realising they were leaving the door open for the unfancied Slovenia to shimmy on through!  No sour grapes from me though, I think they were value for second place (even though we beat them at Windsor!)

Good luck to all the minnows. Cristiano can top up his tan elsewhere this year, South Africa and the footballing world doesn't need you... but FIFA unfortunately does.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Niall & Paddy's Road To South Africa!



Today see's the much deserved call up to the Northern Ireland squad for two Derry bhoys currently showcasing their skills at the Celtic Football Club.

On a purely footballing note, this is good news for Nigel Worthington's green and white army.  Both Niall McGinn and Pat McCourt have been in excellent form recently and the addition of these two players can only make our midfield stronger.  McCourt has been making all the headlines in Scotland with some strands of the tartan media putting Paddy on a par with, who else, but George Best!  Then again, since when did anyone actually believe anything The Sun newspaper published?!

Sorry, but the Best comparison is definately pushing it (unless they mean his drinking exploits).

However, McCourt would be right to set his sights first and foremost on making himself a regular fixture in the Celtic line-up week-in week-out before any credible comparisons can be drawn.  Same goes for young McGinn.  He's probably seen some of the limelight taken from him by Paddy's publicity in recent weeks but there's no doubt about it, the former Dungannon Swifts & Derry City winger is one for the future.  It was duely noted by the lads in the Northern Ireland set-up.  They rate him very highly.  They also realise a huge gap has been left in the NI midfield with Keith Gillespie's departure from international football, and the opportunity for Niall is definately there.

Expect both Paddy and Niall to get run-outs in next months World Cup 'qualifier' against Czech Republic.  The word 'qualifier' not really justifying it's use in this occasion as both teams are all but out of contention barring a San Marino draw with Slovenia... and to be fair to San Marino, there's more chance Michael Jackson doing a 50 show comeback tour 'live from the grave'.

But you can bet that should the inevitable occur, Paddy and Niall be back stronger than ever next year for the European Championship's in 2012. 

Good luck bhoys! Do 'Our Wee Country' proud.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

HAPPY GUINNESS DAY!!

















It's not quite Paddy's Day but I'm all for random excuses to celebrate and get legless!  17:59 today marks the 250 year anniversary of our favourite old hobo's brew 'Guinness'.

A drink the whole island can be rightly proud of. So Billy from Ballybeen, put down that can of McEwan's lager, and raise a glass of the black stuff (no, not Buckfast!) to another of Ulster's finest.  The Guinness family, though Protestants, claimed descent from the Magennis Gaelic Catholic clan of County Down in the 1600's.

So not only were they of the 'Orange' persuasion, they were from the beautiful county of Down!  And who says Guinness always tastes nicer in Dublin?? What a load of Dog's Bollocks!!

If you're wondering why the celebration doesn't kick off until 17:59 - that marks the year Guinness was founded.

To coincide with the anniversary of this great Irish institution, Dublin's top venues and indeed some of the city's smallest pubs will be playing host to some of world’s biggest bands as Ireland marks 250 years since Arthur Guinness signed the lease on the St James’ Gate Brewery to create one of Ireland’s true icons.

Bands confirmed to be performing in Dublin tonight include Kasabian, Estelle, The Kooks, Razorlight, David Gray, Soul II Soul, The Blizzards, Sugababes, Jamie Cullum, The Enemy, Calvin Harris, The Undertones, Mongrel, The Wombats, Richard Hawley, David Holmes, Black Swan Effect, Imelda May, The Hot Rats, Reverend and the Makers and Republic of Loose.

Me? Well, I'll be serving those pints of Guinness at The Academy on Middle Abbey Street, just off O'Connell Street (the place where conveniently the Luas met a Dublin Bus last week!).  We won't be the highlight of the celebrations that's for sure (the main event is at the Guinness storehouse) but it should make for a very special night regardless wherever you are in the city.  I'm reliably informed Dublin's very own Imelda May headlines, along with The Kooks, Richard Hawley, Sharon Shannon, and the lovely ex-Neighbour Natalie Imbruglia!  I know I know, I wanted Tom Jones in there too...

By the way, if you can't make it to Dublin for the festivities, be sure to flick over to Sky One for live coverage (it's ok to do this - the football was on last night).

250 years and still going strong.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Black Stuff - Where are you drinking yours?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

If You're Second You Are Nothing...

... Ferguson & Shankly - 9/10. Irish Connection UK recommends! Essential read for United & Liverpool fans - a must have for budding young managers!



Shanks and Fergie.  Two absolute legends in English football.  Two proud Scots, two proud clubs.  The embarassment of riches that both Manchester United and Liverpool now enjoy can arguably be put down to these two men. Roughed-up in the 'slums' of Glasgow, they brought their own unique traits to the game yet you can't help but draw the similarities both men posessed as football managers.  They may have plyed their managerial careers in vastly different era's in time, but that Glaswegian grit to be a success remained consistant throughout.

Oliver Holt is an award-winning sports journalist who writes for the Daily Mirror newspaper. Essentially this was his take on the careers of Bill Shankly and Sir Alex Ferguson.  Comparisons aplenty throughout this book which perhaps reflected worse on Ferguson that it did Shankly.  Take into consideration this book was published in 2005 when United were going through their biggest trophy drought since the early 90's.  Holt's view of Sir Alex was that he "perhaps should have retired in 2002 when he originally proposed".  At the time this may have seen as a credible statement.  Yet to doubt Ferguson is to dance with the Devil - and I don't mean Fred the Red!

Bill Shankly was one of the greatest.  Liverpool Football Club was his life.  He started the revolution at Anfield, yet walked away.  He claimed he just wanted a break from the game, but that was hardly going to leave the club in the best of situations.  It would inevitably led to an increased lack of stability.  Therefore the decision was taken to appoint his successor, the great Bob Paisley, Shankly's right-hand man.  Shankly couldn't stand his break from the game, he wanted back in.  He thought Liverpool would have welcomed him back with open arms - they didn't.  In many ways the story Holt told of 'Shanks' was that of a lonely man who simply wasn't complete without his club, Liverpool.  On the other hand, you have Sir Alex Ferguson, probably the greatest manager of all-time.  23 years in charge of Manchester United, and counting!  With United it was Championships galore, FA Cups aplenty, three major European tropies and the countless rest.  But perhaps his greatest achievements (don't laugh) came as manager of Aberdeen.  He broke the 'Old Firm' dominance in Scotland.  It was no longer a two horse race between Rangers & Celtic.  Ferguson had even taken the 'Dons' to Europe, and conquored that too!  The man is simply a genius.

So when it comes down to it.  Who's better? Ferguson or Shankly? Silly question, hand on heart it's Fergie.  Even the head say's Fergie.  Britain's (world's?) longest serving manager with two European Cup's in the bag.  Shank's got close in 65' but alas never got his hands on 'old big ears' - the mark of a truly great manager.  Holt claimed throughout the book that Ferguson stayed on too long and Shankly never stayed on long enough.  He's right - about Shankly.  He didn't stay on long enough. The reigns of impending glory were handed over much too soon. Who can argue with Bob Paisley's record? He's still ahead of Fergie in European Cup triumphs.  Yet Shankly is the man most people will refer too when they talk lovingly of the history at LFC.  That is why I feel Shanks and Paisley are on a far with one another.  They both share the development and glory of Liverpool FC.  Whereas with Ferguson, it was all him.  Sir Matt Busby was the role model - Sir Alex Ferguson took it to the next level - and continues to do so. 

So all in all, the title of the book suggests 'If You Are Second You Are Nothing'.  This cannot be described as the case for these two icons of the game.  Ferguson and Shankly are in-comparable.  Credit must go to Oliver Holt for his analysis on their distinct footballing successes.  He has judged both men as history will... in a class of their own.

“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that.” - One quote uniting two great men.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Windsor Park it is then...


And so, we know at last the Irish Football Association's opinion on where they see Northern Ireland international matches being played in the long-term. They shall remain at the home of Linfield FC at Windsor Park.

The South Belfast venue has played host to some of my most memorable nights in football. My favourite was the historic Healy strike against England in 2005 (wasn't everyone's?!). But for me, his consolation header against Norway a year previous in a 4-1 defeat was just as special, ending 1298 minutes without a goal. Windsor rocked, quite literally. Those who have experienced the Railway Stand will know what I'm talking about. It is now closed, leaving Northern Ireland matches a whole section of fans down. The place is an accident waiting to happen!

Good on the IFA for making it clear what's going to happen. Windsor Park will see a re-vamp. Lets bring this fine old ground into the Twenty-First century. Let's have a national stadium that will surpass even that of the great Huddersfield Town, and the likes, who ply their trade in the lower leagues of English football.

Of course, I'm not oblivious to the fact this decision will once again see the political aspect brought into play once again. Northern nationalists will say it should be moved out of the predominately loyalist area it is currently in down by Sandy Row. It's a fair point.

As Jim Bowan would say, "Let's have a look at what we could have won"...

Option 1.) A brand spanking new stadium at the city centre location of Ormeau Park - in close proximity to Central train station and an excellent Metro system. Surely, the best way to get more Northern nationalists to switch back to the 'one true Ireland' and attend NI matches is to stick the thing on their doorstep! But then again, I wouldn't hold my breath...

Option 2.) The Maze. A good idea at the start. We talked of rugby, football and gaelic games being played here. We would all meet up once a year, hold hands in the centre spot and proclaim our shared sporting future. We'd see Ulster one week, Norn Iron the next and of course the mighty County Down GAA!! But once we all pulled ourselves from cloud nine (or cookoo land for most people) reality had one long lingering bite. Political football's, political rugby ball's, and even political hurley's were brandished around like a Graham Poll yellow card, ultimately pinning several nails into the proposed site in Lisburn. Yes indeed Gerry, let's build a 'shrine to the hunger strikers'. It really must have been a slow news day for the Sinn Fein propaganda team on the Falls Road. Foot in mouth disease finally putting an end to moving our national stadium out of Belfast.

Option 3.) The Blanchflower Stadium in east Belfast. 10 minutes on the metro from the city centre. Overlooking our favourite son's airport (no, not Eamon Holmes!). The new stadium would also be in full view of our picturesque Harland & Wolff cranes. A real gem of a location. It was a winner in my book - and plus Glentoran would be it's long-term residents ;)

However, it isn't to be... for now. Tradition rather than extradition reigns surprime as it usually does in local football. But we are seeing increasing signs of change. Glentoran vs Bangor was the first ever Irish league game to take place on a Sunday in the country. It's a decision that was brought about through the IFA's dropping of the dreaded 'Never on a Sunday' rule. So, there's hope for the future of football in Northern Ireland.

After alot of consideration on this issue I feel keeping national football at Windsor Park is a good decision by the IFA. It is one of the most progressive associations in current times. For example, the Football For All campaign is being used as a model for other aspiring nations with political issues. The Sea of Green initiative (where fans are encouraged to dress-up in as much green as possible) is without doubt catching on, especially in middle-class Catholic circles. I know this first hand. I know of quite a few Catholic's who wouldn't miss a game at Windsor - home AND away. Any excuse to don the green and white of the super 'Norn Iron'! What can I say, North Down know how to breed them.

People can bad-mouth Windsor Park all they like (and believe me I've done it many's a Boxing Day). But in all fairness we (the Green And White Army) are trying to attract open-minded supporters, there's no sense in attracting you're die-in-the-wool republicans. At the end of the day these people interperate anything progresive to do with 'Our Wee Country' as another blow to 'Irish Freedom'. Let's have more fan versions of your Sammy Clingan's, Gerry Armstrong's of the world. Guy's who just love their football and support their local heroes. Real football people.

I want to see Windsor Park continue it's cross-community initatives, but for Healy's Sake let's have our wee stadium re-built, re-vamped and something all of us can be proud of. Scrapping that slave-like contract with Linfield would be a good foundation in furthering association football in Northern Ireland...

Friday, 4 September 2009

New Northern Ireland Flag?


Thoughts?

Personally, I like it.

Credit to a fellow member of the 'OWC' website for what I believe should be the new flag that finally differentiates us from the rest of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.

The old 'Ulster Banner' quite simply didn't have the appeal to all sides of Northern Ireland's very much divided community. With this flag I believe it can represent something, every citizen of this great little country of ours, can relate to. Especially at Northern Ireland football matches. With all that green seen on match-day's within the ground it would be a great idea to include the colour in our future flag. Add the 'St Patrick's Cross'. And while we're at it, stick in the Red Hand of Ulster within the six-sided star (of St David) representing the six counties that make up 'Norn Iron'.

Certainly I would welcome YOUR views on the flag.

What's your first impression?

What's your second one?

Do you think it is representative of Northern Ireland?

Would you prefer it with/without the crown?

Can you relate to it?

Would you be proud of it?

What were your views of the previous official flag of Northern Ireland - the 'Ulster Banner'?

Friday, 28 August 2009

That Keef Gillespie Thing...


Well it looks like the time has finally arrived. Former Manchester United & Northern Ireland star Keith Gillespie is set to make his full debut tomorrow afternoon for Glentoran. He couldn't have picked a greater stage to make his arrival on the hallowed green turf at the Oval. Irish League Champions vs League of Ireland Champions - Bohemians - in the opening group game in the all-Ireland 'Setanta Cup'.


The Glen's last NI international to be signed was Michael O'Neill - now boss of Shamrock Rovers - who was nearing the end of a decent career he had carved out for himself. He was a safeguard for Glentoran at that time, someone to take charge of midfield and use his experience to help the likes of Paul Leeman and Scott Young at the time. I just wonder, will Gillespie offer the same guidance to the young players coming through at the Oval?


I mean he was hardly the model profesional that say somebody like O'Neill was. I lost count of the number of times it was reported he had fallings-out with team-mates, managers etc. One sorry tale even resulting in a 'fair dig' between himself and George McCartney. I hope he has learnt his lessons and guys like Daryll Fordyce can learn from Keef this season.


I'd be surprised if Fonacab forked out another season on his wages so this may well be Gillespie's last hurrah. Lets make it a memorable one... starting with a victory in the 'Battle of the Champions' tomorrow!


COYG*





*That's Glentoran AND Gillespie!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

€400 - 1 (one) Goal


Tallaght-fornia. 20/07/09. The night Cristiano Ronaldo made his Real Madrid debut. He didn't disappoint, but some of his team-mates did to be honest.

It took Real Madrid 87 minutes to break down the Shamrock Rovers backline last night in what was to be a heartbraking defeat for the home side. Billed as 'David versus Goliath', I found myself asking two questions... One - Which one was Goliath? and two - Out of the 10,900 spectators, just how many of them will be at the Bohemians game next week?

My first question was finally answered three minutes from time when new signing Karim Benzema controlled blissfully from a long ball and slotted home cooley past Rovers keeper Barry Murphy. 40 million? Sure that's only Madrid's bargain bucket!

I have to say as a Glentoran supporter I couldn't help but feel a touch of jeleousy at the sight of the 'Galacticos' of world football, Real Madrid, playing a football match against a Shamrock Rovers side of similar prestige to that of the Glens. But hey, every club has its day in the limelight. After all we hosted Manchester United this time last year at The Oval (albeit a second string eleven).

But, I'm genuinely delighted for Rovers to attract Real, and hope this is the boost local football currently requires.

That is all for now. (BTW I've a spare programme from the match if anyone wants to start a bidding war!)

Monday, 22 June 2009

Trappatoni meets Ireland at Oasis gig



Well folks, I was at Slane Castle at the weekend for the Oasis gig. Noticed Manchester City and Republic of Ireland bad-boy Stephen Ireland blagged a few free-bies off the Gallaghers! Couldn't help but imagine Republic boss Trappatoni lurking in the bushes keeping watch over his prized asset that has yet to grace his team.

Here's part of the conversation between the pair I managed to overhear at Slane after the Trap came out from stalking the Cobh clown...


... How'ya Gio "whats the story mornin' glory"

The Trap (who has been "all around the world" in football management) had a "masterplan" as he tried pleading with Stephen Ireland to "let there be love" but the "boy with the blues" snapped back "oi trappers, stop crying your heart out!"
"Where did it all go wrong?" says the trap who looks like he could "live forever" the way hes going.

Please Stephen just "stand by me".

Ireland responded, "Some might say" i don't deserve to come back after the way i've treated my country. But "Tomorrow never knows"......
"d'ya know what i mean" Trap?***
***may not have taken place