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.
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.