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!

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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.

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