Thursday, 12 November 2009


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...

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