keresaspa: (Percy Sugden)
There's a song where some bloke with a fake accent sings "hold me tight and whisper love is forever" playing everywhere, all the young ladies are wearing bits of plastic in their hair for some reason and my breath permanently smells of diluted Harp and Dorchester Superkings. Not literally but it might as well be the case as I'm forced to fall back on a survey, just like in the old days (assuming it doesn't contravene the terms of the new Russian language-only agreement that I was just forced to sign on here). So anyway:

· What kind of a mood are you in right now? Meh.
· What's been on your mind lately? Non-payment of debts by a certain airline and non-delivery of Bandcamp orders.
· What has been the best part of the past week? The second goal in the match I just got back from. Best I've seen live all season. Some youngster named Pearse who ran along the edge of the box and then stroked the ball into the top corner for my local club Rosario against Grove United in an NAFL 1B match.
· What has been the worst part of the past week? Phoning the flybe call centre this morning. God but I hate the phone.
· Where are you? In my flippity floppity floop.
· What did you last eat? A rather unpleasant cottage pie.
· What did you last drink? Chocolate Moo.
· How many hours of sleep did you get last night? Three at best. I just don't sleep any more.
· What are you wearing? Green jumper, blue pyjama bottoms with a grey stripe, fawn socks and brown sandals. Every bit as stylish and dashing as it sounds.
· What did you do yesterday? All sorts of pointless nonsense.
· What are your plans for tomorrow? Respiration and that.
· Have you learned anything new lately? Theoretically, how to replace a broken handle on a window but I won't know if I've genuinely learned it until the new one arrives and I undertake the changeover.
· Who was your last text from? Hotmail, who have suddenly become security conscious to wanky levels.
· What was the last website you visited besides this one? RateYourMusic.com
· Who did you last compliment? What did you say? Can't remember. There was a homosexual barista rather taken with my moustache a while ago so maybe that. (Read that wrong didn't I - who did I last compliment. No idea, never do, haven't the confidence.)
· When was the last time you exercised? I threw the weights around the other night, to little purpose.
· Are you listening to any music right now? No, TV's on in the background.
· What's the last thing you Googled? "Newington Dundela abandoned". A match was abandoned recently after some nutjob slapped the ref and I was looking to see what will happen as a consequence as it might impact on my mob.
· Is there anyone in the room with you? No.
keresaspa: (Diggory)
The short version of this is that London was rather good apart from the going and the coming, which were hell on earth. On the off-chance that anybody is still reading this (and I note in my extended absence that I am now down to one person submitting regular updates on my friends list) I shall expand at some length about what took place.

The Austrian stork nurtures the kites )
keresaspa: (Snowman)
If all else fails )
keresaspa: (Cow)
As a consequence of Donegal Celtic's continuing extended hiatus from all football, combined with the rainfall levels that suggest it really is Sodom and Gomorrah times again*, I was able to continue my tour of the backwaters of east Belfast on Saturday. My travels took me to Sydenham, deep in the arse of the east, to witness the spectacularly named East Belfast take on Derriaghy Cricket Club (who play football, despite their name). I'm not sure if the UVF's Jamie Bryson, an extreme right candidate in the upcoming elections now too, was playing for his club side or not but if he was it made sod all difference as Derriaghy wiped the floor with East Belfast, winning 6-0 despite having a perfectly good goal disallowed and a penalty saved.

Of course last year Sydenham was all over the news after a mural of George Best was replaced by one of the UVF, resulting in a lot of hand-wringing by those in the media and politics who still like to continue with the canard that the UVF ceasefire is genuine. It's not an area of Belfast I regularly visit so it was only Saturday that I finally saw it with my own eyes:



Disappointed to say the least. Given the fuss that had been kicked up I was expecting it to be a massive triumphalist epic covering several buildings but in the end it was a crappy little thing about ten feet high on the side of a tiny little outhouse.

Leaving aside the nonsense of the message (if loyalists are being oppressed it is by the government, which is part of the British state apparatus, so blind loyalty is frankly the daftest reaction going and with their savage beatings and drug dealing there are few oppressing loyalist communities more than the Uve) I think the fuss was all pretty nonsensical. Regardless of their message, I'm something of a fan of the paramilitary murals and am generally left rather cold by the "community mural" crap that goes up in their place. We all know the loyalist paramilitaries run their estates so for me it makes sense to have their stuff on the wall rather than covering it with some old crap about Ulster Scots (which nobody in the loyalist estates of Belfast speaks anyway) or CS Lewis (whom nobody in the loyalist estates of Belfast reads anyway). As spontaneous outpourings of dissent and examples of outsider art I love the bones of them and frankly one of the great shames of recent years has been the way Sinn Fein has taken control of the walls in the republican estates and are plastering in them in all that "cultural" crap that has become their obsession now that they're lurching increasingly to the right. Apart from anything, were there something really worth getting worked up about it would be the fact that the nearby Belfast City Council-owned park and sports facility is plastered in UVF insignia too but nothing was said about that.

In and off itself this mural is hardly anything to write home about but I for one would rather see it than some fantasy of smiling children or, worse yet, yet another one about the bloody Titanic. And as for the argument that a paramilitary mural will dissuade tourists from visiting Sydenham, frankly any tourist that visits Sydenham is bloody mental anyway. Let's face, the UVF is as active as it ever was so why pretend otherwise? If the Fenians have a problem then resist Sinn Fein's dominance and put up murals in support of the New IRA but getting all precious about a statement of fact (that the UVF remains armed and active) is just silly.

* I appreciate that Sodom and Gomorrah were totally separate from Noah and his flood and were destroyed by fire and brimstone rather than rain but the New Creation didn't bother recording a song about Noah and their Jesus Freak craziness deserves a bigger audience.

From a purely aesthetic point of view my favourite loyalist murals are this one, this one and this one (subsequently removed), although I rather like this one too because I made money out of the picture.

Wet

Jan. 31st, 2014 08:38 pm
keresaspa: (Cartman)
It's the wettest January on record we are told. I can well believe it as I can't remember a day this month where it hasn't pished it down. The map on the link provided suggests that in Northern Ireland we have got off relatively lightly but they could have fooled me. The lack of a discernible winter, combined with the continuing deluge, has made things right bloody miserable and, as previously mentioned, played havoc with the local football. I have a few possibilities lined up for tomorrow but the inability of this place to come to grips with the internet means another run for nothing may be my reward. The ones I'm looking at are all on plastic pitches and thus should, in theory, be immune to rain-based cancellations but even Bangor had to call of a game recently due to rain so clearly in this dundering-in plastic is no protection. A Clarence Cup tie between St Patrick's Young Men and Ards Rangers out on the Boucher Road looks most likely (likely to be a glamorous affair), although a return to Iveagh United's hovel out in Twinbrook is another possibility. Colin Valley, who vie with Albert Foundry and Brantwood for the title of my second favourite local team, are supposed to be in action at home and would have been worth a visit but alas they play on that increasingly obsolete substance, grass, and so are about as likely to kick off tomorrow as I am to win this year's marathon.
keresaspa: (Huffy beardy weirdy)
Lousy "winter" weather (for which read non-stop torrential) combined with a woefully underfunded and poorly maintained stock of football pitches meant that the local game was decimated today. For my part I walked out to the Oval to watch Glentoran reserves face Queens in the Intermediate Cup, taking the mother of all soakings in Templemore Avenue, only to get there and find the place locked up. No custodian to announce "game's off, mate", no note on the gate, not even a local spide to tell me "there's no game the day, beardy-buck", nothing. Very shoddy way to treat people who make the effort to turn out for your lesser games, Glens.

A cross-town dash meant I made it in time for the second half of the West Belfast Brigade Derby at the Shankill's Hammer pitch, where the plastic surface is impervious to water and where I was able to watch Albert Foundry overwhelm their Shankill United hosts in front of a packed ground to take a 3-0 victory. It was only when I got home that I found out that Shankill had scored three in the first half that I missed and it had actually been a 3-3 draw but I suppose one half is better than nowt. Still, it really is a pain in the arse just how much simple rain buggers up the local game here, given how poorly maintained the pitches are. They really need to dig money up from somewhere to kit everybody out with the plastic because Cliftonville and Crusaders play no matter what and indeed Seaview seems to have a match every couple of days with no ill-effects (Crusaders and Newington play their home games there, as occasionally do Carrick Rangers for some reason, most non-league cup finals are held there as are various women's football matches). Because of all these postponements Donegal Celtic won't be playing again until 22 February with their last game having been on 4th January and the last home game on 28th December. Nigh on two months with no income will be a bitter blow; the club were lucky to survive the summer's financial meltdown but it would be a bloody shame if something as lame as the weather killed them off.

Now here's a blast from the past. When did we stop doing these and why?

Read more... )

Dun with it

Dec. 8th, 2013 06:47 pm
keresaspa: (Tiger Jeet Singh)
Dunmurry is a suburb of Belfast or Lisburn (depending on your perspective) that used to be a separate village but has now been swallowed up by the expansion of both larger settlements. It can essentially be divided in twain between the Catholic and Protestant parts, the former represented by the republican Twinbrook and Lagmore, the latter consisting of Dunmurry village and a couple of outlying loyalist estates that are strictly speaking in the village of Drumbeg but generally included as part of Dunmurry. Dunmurry is, frankly, a shitehole and stands alone as probably my least favourite part of the greater Belfast area with even the soul-destroyingly horrid Upper Knockbreda Road left in the shade.

Despite this, as part of my quest to visit every football ground of intermediate status or better in said greater Belfast area (I'm taking the limits of the Metro bus service as the edges for now, meaning that ten remain unvisited, a doable target by the end of the season), I found myself in the selfsame Dunmurry yesterday. Dunmurry Young Men play in Division 1B of the Northern Amateur League on a bit of grass that they have erected a fence around. Despite the fact that you can watch the match from the main road they still expect two quid entry at a level where higher up clubs often charge nothing. You then have to stand on a five feet wide gangway between a broken wooden fence and their clubhouse to watch a match taking place about twenty feet below in a hollow. As if the ground isn't a big enough dump some inconsiderate tosser decided that for the entire ninety minutes their hateful bastard of a dog would be free to run back and forward barking its head off and getting in everybody's way. The brute spent a good two minutes sniffing my crotch and wouldn't bugger off no matter how much I told it to do so, spending the rest of the time generally annoying everybody by marching back and forward and yapping non-stop. Call me old fashioned but if I'm expected to shell out two quid to watch a bunch of amateurs I really would rather not have to spend the evening removing dog hairs from my clothes into the bargain. I'm not a dog person (nor a cat person, or a children person or an anything that hangs around your legs making a nuisance of itself person come to that) so I really hate the tendency that some dog owners have of foisting their beasts onto everyone whether they want them or not. If you must bring a dog to a football match put a leash on it or better yet stay the hell away. Nuisances.

And, just to add insult to injury, no bus came for half an hour so I was stuck in Dunmurry for thirty minutes longer than I wanted to be. Thankfully though I have now ticked off both grounds in Dunmurry village and will, with any luck, not need to visit the godforsaken place again. Roll on next Saturday when I can be in the much more salubrious surroundings of the Monkstown estate. Much more like it.
keresaspa: (Julius Nyerere)
When did people (in this part of the world at least) start dressing their houses for Hallowe'en? The Christmas tack has been going on for most, if not all of my life - Johnny Adair and his chief hitman Stephen "Top Gun" McKeag notoriously had an annual competition to outdo each other with the tacky decorations on their Shankill pads - but now I see several houses festooned in witches, skeletons and "beware of ghosts" signs to draw attention to the fact that that most pointless of dates in the calendar is a few weeks away. I can recall some houses putting up the odd little thing on the night itself in the past but some of these have been up for several weeks and it has become an epidemic recently. Today's journey took me through west Belfast and out to the Twinbrook estate in Dunmurry for the match (Iveagh United 5 Bryansburn Rangers 2 with a massive delay due to a broken ankle for one of the Bryansburn lads in case you were interested, which you weren't) and for the entire journey the Hallowe'en bedecked houses were the most prominent feature in the otherwise unremarkable views. The Americanisation of culture is often a shame but, along with the practice of inserting the word "like" in the middle of a sentence (as opposed to at the end of a sentence, a fine old Belfast tradition like), I think the growth of Hallowe'en, with its pointless loud noises, its demands of money with threats of violence and the increase in annoying drunk people, is one of my least favourite aspects of it and the fact that it has now joined Christmas as a whole season devoted to worshipping at the shrine of consumerism is really rather depressing. What's the All Saints Eve equivalent of "bah, humbug"?
keresaspa: (Cynthia of Witching Hour fame)
After spending the last three Saturdays in Poleglass, Rathcoole and Sydenham respectively my hopes of finally returning to DC were scuppered by the success of next opponents Limavady United in the William Craig Memorial Cup, an intermediate competition in the north-west, and the enforced postponement of the league game so as they can play their quarter final (I think). Still, "never mind" I thinks to myself, "as the east coast equivalent, the Steel & Sons Cup, is having its quarter finals at the same time and I quite fancy a return to Paisley Park for Albert Foundry's clash with Crumlin Star". Except that's gone west as well as, in the sort of cock-up between club and IFA that DC supporters are well used to, Foundry are out of the cup, their replacements are the erstwhile Ulster Poly team and the match is in the depths of Newtownabbey on Friday night. A real shame as Foundry-Star would have been a ding-dong (and is potentially an Irish League rivalry in waiting) and I always hate to see a team excluded from a competition for any off-field reason. It also means that come Saturday I am left with a straight choice between Iveagh United out in Twinbrook or one of the Newtownabbey pair of Mossley or 18th Newtownabbey O.B., all in Division 1C of the Amateur League. Don't let it be said I don't lead a glamorous life!

As for Roy Hodgson's joke I'll not say much as too much has been written about it already but my own take is that it wasn't intended as racist but it was a daft choice of metaphor by an otherwise intelligent man. But, on the positive side, it has overshadowed the inevitable slew of "we can win this" rhetoric from the press and the more deluded members of the England support. Oh, when will they ever learn?! And I should probably declare now that, given my usual side Paraguay have failed to make the cut (finishing rock bottom of the CONMEBOL standings no less), my support at the next World Cup will be given to Bosnia. Why not?
keresaspa: (I got the last dodo!)
Alas and alack for [livejournal.com profile] abstract_ellie is but a fleeting visitor round these part nowadays and, as the only other Baggie to frequent this area, her absence is the main reason for my lack of discussion on West Bromwich Albion's travails these days. But sod that because I simply can't ignore today's result - Manchester United 1 West Bromwich Albion 2. Yup, the most successful club in the soi-disant best league in the world, not to mention said league's reigning champions, beaten by Albion at their so-called theatre of dreams. Yes, I know Alex Ferguson is gone and under David Moyes they're easier to beat than a suspect in shackles but this is still a team that was able to take the field with Marouane Fellaini, Robin van Persie and Antonio Valencia - nearly 70 million quid's worth of talent - left on the bench so this is still a massive accomplishment.

I had expected Albion to struggle more this season than last (and I still do) but all credit to Clarkey-boy for this one. We may have played them at the optimum moment but player for player United are still miles ahead of Albion (and nearly every other club) so to beat them in their own backyard is excellent. Credit too to Saido Berahino for getting the winning goal. Albion's youth season, as I previously bemoaned, has produced absolutely nothing in years so it is heartening to see this lad coming along and finally giving some hope that at last the club that produced the likes of Bomber Brown, Bryan Robson, Ally Robertson and Len Cantello is finally going to grow another one. It's still very early days and I would hate pressure on him but he looks special already and the sooner he gets his new contract the happier I'll be. What with his emergence and new signing Amalfitano getting the other goal things might be looking up.

For my own part however, I spent the day in the less glamorous surroundings of Valley Park, Good Shepherd Road in the republican Poleglass area of west Belfast/Dunmurry filling up a DC-free Saturday by watching Colin Valley face Bryansburn Rangers in Division 1C of the Northern Amateur Football League. And what a game that was too! My last three matches have been a 3-2, a 6-1 and a 3-3 but today took the biscuit as I witnessed my highest scoring match ever. Colin Valley (the Colin being a small river in the area, not some bloke's name) took a very early lead and then had another disallowed before Bryansburn (an area of Bangor) got their act together and scored two of their own. Valley then scored a penalty but Rangers retook the lead and went 4-2 up after a comedy own goal by a Valley defender. That was only half time though as Colin Valley came out like lions and turned on the style scoring two to equalise things at 4-4 then striking again late on, this time an own goal by a Bryansburn man, to take the win by the odd goal in nine. Breathless stuff all round and a great advert for the non-league game here as, whilst the quality was certainly lacking, the entertainment definitely was not. DC are away in the hillbilly outpost of Castlederg next week so I'm unlikely to see them and as such will again have to get my Saturday fix at this level but if things continue the way they're going on I can look forward to Oragnefield Old Boys shading it against Abbey Villa with a 10-8 win. Or wherever I end up.
keresaspa: (Seagull)
Monkstown is one of the historic old townlands that make up of County Antrim and it is - along with Carnmoney, Glengormley, Jordanstown, Whiteabbey, Whitehouse and Whitewell - one of the seven villages formally merged in 1958 to form Newtownabbey, a new town on the outskirts of north Belfast that is now Northern Ireland's fourth largest settlement. Inevitably, what with Newtownabbey being, for the most part, solidly loyalist, there are a number of loyalist sink estates dotted around the area, but the place is probably best known for it's medium-light industrial estates (heavy industry is all but dead here now outside the shipyard and even that is only kept open to stop the UVF coming out in insurrection). Canadian telecom giants Nortel were formerly a big wheel in the area but the recession claimed them and their factory is now a memory. Despite this the Nortel social club continues to exist and their football club, formerly known as Standard Telephones & Cables, continue to function under the moniker Nortel FC. With Donegal Celtic kicking their heels on account of their previously documented failure to enter the Steel & Sons Cup it was to this area that I decided to decamp today, in order to watch the aforementioned Nortel face the might of Comber Rec in the Premier Division of the Amateur League.

My decision was informed by the good grace of the otherwise execrable Translink Metro bus service to bring back the £2 Saturday day ticket meaning that I could be spared the near nine mile hike and thus was free to explore the outer reaches of the Greater Belfast non-league scene. Nortel's Monkstown Avenue home is on the edge of Cloughfern, an area I don't know very well, so I had a right job finding the place, especially as the entrance to the ground was for no particular reason concealed from all view. In the end I was lucky to make it in time for kick-off, despite arriving fifteen minutes early. Mind you, that's pretty typical of this place as most football clubs, bar the very biggest, get very shoddy treatment from their local councils when it comes to grounds and I suppose Nortel should be thankful they have one at all.

NAFL rules demand that all intermediate teams must at least have a fence round their ground and that's about as far as Nortel have gone in terms of development. Still it didn't put the supporters off as a decent crowd turned up, including about twenty or thirty from Comber (pretty embarrassing given that last week, two leagues higher, I was one of only nine who made the short trip to support DC in a losing effort at nearby Distillery) and, for some reason, two separate and completely unrelated miniature schnauzers. The match itself was, rather surprisingly, a total belter. Less than five minutes in Comber had a penalty, a cheaply given-away affair in which the Comber man backed into the defender until he fell for it and put his arm across the Comber guy, allowing him to crumple as if hauled down. For all the good it did them though as the Nortel keeper saved it and it galvanised the team as they took a 2-0 lead, with their number 11 running riot down the flank to set up two goals for the number seven. Nortel dominated the first half and could have had a few more, missing a couple by inches and hitting the bar.

Comber came back after the break, helped by some duff refereeing, and were soon back in it with a well-taken goal. Then all hell broke loose. A strapping, bald and rather fat gentleman wore the number four shirt for Comber and had put in a good shift in defence when he suddenly lost the bap and took a swing at a short shaveling who had come on as a substitute for Nortel. Naughty boy received his deserved marching orders and the game became rather needlesome thereafter but ten man Comber refused to lie down and scored a second with a wonderfully struck free kick. The man advantage soon told though as the profligate Nortel had wave after wave of attack, finally bundling the winner in late on with what appeared to be an own goal by the Comber keeper. A couple more could have been added, including a strike that hit the post, but in the end 3-2 was to be it.

Monkstown Avenue is unquestionably a poor ground, even by the standards of the league, it's very difficult to approach and the whole industrial estate vibe is rather soul-destroying. But despite all this the football on display was a wonderful exhibition of blood and thunder enthusiasm and was as good a way as any to spend a fine autumnal day. And heck, DC could do worse than have a look at Nortel's number eleven whose passing was startlingly accurate for this level. DC's administrative screw ups were ludicrous and an embarrassment to the club but if all these off weeks can be filled up with football like this then I'll not really mind after all.
keresaspa: (Nana Mouskouri)
The pre-season tournament hosted by a non-league club is always fun as you get a few matches played back to back and a nice way to kill a few hours. Well I say always fun, in fact I was only guessing as I had never previously attended one before today. However today I made the trip to see just such an occasion as once again I went back to the Skegoneill Avenue home of Ballymena League members Brantwood to watch them host a tournament featuring Championship 2 side Sport & Leisure Swifts, Northern Amateur League Division 1A (confusingly, the second tier of that league) club Orangefield Old Boys and Crusaders Reserves. This was to be my second visit to a non-league ground in three days as Thursday evening saw me watch Donegal Celtic lose 2-1 to NAFL 1A's Immaculata in a match in which DC were so abject against a team three leagues below them that it has left me expecting another relegation battle rather than a promotion chase for this season. Frankly DC's performance was more suitable for a gong farmer than a paying crowd (yes, Immaculata expected money for entry to what is essentially a leisure centre all-weather pitch). All things considered I would have been much better off staying at home that night. But I digress.

This interminable hot weather has played havoc with my sleep patterns and Skeggy is a good hour and a half trek away from my drum so I was forced to forego the first two matches, played in the morning simultaneously, one in Skeggy and one in the playing fields next door. When I arrived the third place match had just started between the two losers i.e. Sport & Leisure and Orangefield. Swifts, a team I briefly followed at the start of last season, took an early lead and soon went 2-0 up to the delight of no-one whatsoever as they had brought no supporters, unlike the east Belfast minnows who had brought a surprisingly large crowd. Well, about fifteen people but still, you don't expect the likes of Orangefield OB to bring any travelling fans. Taking advantage of a lull in the second half I went over to a freshly erected tent to get a burger from the barbecue and, as is inevitable whenever I decide to purchase any refreshment at a football match, I promptly missed a goal as Orangefield pulled one back. With practically the last kick of the game Orangefield, resplendent in their in no way partisan orange shirts, equalised and then, for reasons I'm still not sure about, a penalty shootout was held to determine a winner. It was a truncated version in which each team took three rather than the standard five penalties but having said that each match was shorter than normal to give the amateurs a slight rest on yet another baking hot day. Orangefield won the penalties 3-2 in the end to take third place and raise some serious questions for Sport & Leisure's prospects for the coming season. So no changes there then, as Angus Deayton used to say.

About ten minutes later Brantwood and Crusaders reserves kicked off and within about seven minutes Brantwood were 2-1 up. I've actually forgotten the order the goals were scored in such was the speed with which it all happened but so it was. Crazy stuff. Inevitably the pace slackened a bit as the match wore on but Brantwood had the upper hand for much of the match and in the end were worthy winners, with the final score 3-2. Heat was really beginning to win the battle now and it told on the referee, whose combination of paunch, fine moustache and past the collar hair despite male pattern baldness gave him the air of the sort of man who might run a discreet shop in Soho or (more likely) Gresham Street, as this match ended up lasting not much more than an hour. A wooden plaque with little shields attached, listing the previous winners of what is an annual event, was wheeled out and presented to the winners at the end as the watching several expressed their appreciation.

This was my second visit to Brantwood this year and for the second time I have come away feeling "what a nice club and what a shame they had to jack in their Irish League membership". As I said the last time with Crusaders on their doorstep their decline was always inevitable but there's something about their gameness that is appealing and you can't moan when you get to watch two matches in a fading but still atmospheric old ground for the grand total of zero GBP. I'll keep an eye on their results for the coming season and hope that they can do the bizzo carrying the flag for Belfast in the Ballymena and Provincial League next season. Tomorrow sees a rare Sunday match as DC host Cliftonville in the Fenian derby but I'm still undecided due to the problems of navigating Belfast on a Sunday and the threat of storms but for today I'll just say a good time had by all. Well done, the Brants.
keresaspa: (Diggory)
Last weekend's big rain brought one benefit - an abandoned match had to be replayed and so as a result, deep into May, there was actually a Saturday match in Belfast yesterday. OK, so it was in Division 3A of the Northern Amateur Football League and was between two reserve sides but my withdrawal symptoms from live football attendance were such that I have to take what I can get. The match in question pitted the reserve side of Albert Foundry against their counterparts from Newington YC, a club theoretically from the Antrim Road area of Belfast but whose lack of a home ground has lead to them playing their matches in Larne this season. On Friday night the Newington first team won a play-off against the world famous Dollingstown to secure a place in the Irish League for next season so this might be their reserves' final NAFL season.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will recall that I visited Albert Foundry's Paisley Park home earlier in the season. In the grim environs of the Highfield estate I stood and watched as the home team destroyed Ardglass in front of nine paying punters and about 25 in all on a day when local favourites Linfield were idle so I reasoned that a reserve game would be lucky to attract double figures. Hence I was a little bit surprised as I tramped along the West Circular Road to see several others heading in the direction of that well-renowned theatre of dreams (and bowling club) on the outskirts of the Shankill. Well, stone me because when I got in the place was packed to the gills and kept on filling up until about half an hour in. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say there were about three hundred people there and when you consider that a midweek league tie between DC and Dungannon attracted a mere 39 souls recently then that's quite a shock. Admission was free obviously (well, you can't really ask for money to watch non-league reserve football, can you?!) but Foundry's drinking den will most likely have done its best trade of the season from this turnout and once again I was struck by just how useful an addition to the Irish League Foundry could be if they could only siphon off even a fraction of the Linfield support from the Greater Shankill, lower Ligoniel and Ballysillan.

I promptly discovered that the turnout was inspired by the fact that Foundry reserves had a one point lead over their Newington counterparts at the top of the table so effectively this was a title decider of proportions not seen since Arsenal faced Liverpool on that fateful day in 1989 (well, if you squint a bit). Newington took an early lead to send their travelling support (travelling fans at a reserve match, I ask you) wild but soon afterwards Foundry got the equaliser they required after a goof by the Newington keeper. In the middle of all this the Foundry keeper got injured and, in the absence of an alternative on the bench, a tall centre half was forced to play out the rest of the match in goal. To his credit he had a solid game and I quickly learnt that he had previously played as a keeper so it wasn't a huge disadvantage. The match fell apart a bit in the second half, much to the consternation of one of the Foundry player's WAGs who decided I was the very chap she needed to spend the second half talking to in order to alleviate the tedium. Then, with about ten minutes to go, one of the Newington players struck out of nowhere, rifling home the ball from distance. Foundry were unable to mount a comeback and so against the odds Newington secured a double title triumph as the one day only Foundry supporters trudged away disconsolately.

A surreal day, all things considered, watching football in summer heat and standing in a packed out ground to watch reserves when I stood in the same ground to watch the first team with a "crowd" that could have comfortably fitted into my bathroom. On a personal level it drew the curtain on my most active season as a football supporter to date. There had been a few seasons in the 90s where I was a semi-regular but including the pre-season friendlies I have managed 42 matches this year, a personal record. I established another personal record by attending 15 grounds - DC Park (14 times), Solitude (11 times), Glen Road Heights (3 times), Paisley Park twice and once each for Newforge Lane, Dalymount Park, Skegoneill Avenue, Grosvenor Rec, Horsfall Stadium, Dub Lane, Wilgar Park, New Grosvenor, Mourneview Park, Ulidia and Ashley Park, Dunmurry - which was eleven more than I had managed in my entire life up to that point. Above all I discovered that it's hard to beat the cut and thrust of actually attending a match and, despite relegation, I await DC's assault on the Championship in August with bated breath.
keresaspa: (Diggory)
Northern Amateur Football League Division 1A
3rd May 2013 (Kick Off: 19:00)
Ulidia Playing Fields, Ormeau Road, Belfast

Rosario YC FC: 0
Downpatrick FC: 0

Yup, after all these years my glorious record of never having attended a goalless draw has come to an end in the most insalubrious of circumstances. Woe is me. Next time I get the notion to tramp down to Rosario in the evening remind me not to!
keresaspa: (Fran Drescher)
With my usual two up the country today and the city centre in the control of not only Willie Frazer but also the Orange Order (unopposed as ever by the shit-scared republicans) my options for the football were limited. My initial choice was Ford v Colin Valley in Division 2A (which is actually the fifth division of that league and the eighth tier overall) of the Northern Amateur League, a three mile stroll away from my house. I made it there a few minutes before kick-off and was faced with the grim reality of football at such a lowly level - three pitches with matches going on, not so much as a fence round the pitch the match was to take place on and bugger all fans for either club. There and then I decided on a new rule - no fence, no attendance - and I left them to it, safe in the knowledge that there were other options in the vicinity.

About a mile and a half away there were two Championship 2 (third tier) matches taking place so I shuffled off in their general direction. PSNI v Chimney Corner was a possibility but in the end I plumped for Queen's University against Lurgan Celtic, primarily because I had been to the cops' Newforge Lane ground earlier in the season but not my alma mater's place. Similar set-up to the filth, being a vast complex containing a variety of grounds for different sports and it took me a while to find the football ground. Inevitably the crowd was fairly meagre, although most of those in attendance were Lurgan Celtic supporters and - given that I owe allegiance to their west Belfast kinsmen, given that my ma was born in Lurgan and given that I don't have that most American of traits of being a fanatic for an educational institution's sport teams just because I attended it as a student - I decided for one day only to join them.

The first half was fairly end to end with both teams looking half decent but neither mustering much in the way of finishing. I had seen Lurgan Celtic earlier this year and they looked better here even though it appeared to be the same team as before ("Jazzer", "Buckshot" and the rest all still being present and correct). The main event of the first half came near the end when as the ball ran out of play the pair of players chasing it went careening into a surrounding fence. It look innocuous enough but far from it as both men lay there for ages before the Queen's player was helped off whilst his Lurgan opposite number remained prone. He was there so long that it seemed he might be dead but in the end it turned out he had shattered his knee and it was well into half time before the ambulance men carried him out in a wheelchair. The Queen's guy got off a bit lighter but his afternoon was also over and his foot had to be strapped up. All action stuff!

QUB came out for the second half like men possessed but soon it returned to the earlier fifty-fifty stuff when suddenly Celtic won a very soft free kick not far from the Queen's box. A chap called Niall Lavery stepped up and stroked the ball delicately over the wall and into the net for the only goal of the game on the hour. For the rest of the match Queen's frantically tried to get back into the game but they just couldn't get it together and Lurgan held on in the bitter cold for a win that leaves them still in touch with the promotion race (but which pretty much condemns Queen's to another year in the basement).

Overall, not a bad game, played to a fairly decent standard in rather lugubrious surroundings. It wasn't my first choice match (I had hoped to go watch Albert Foundry but these interminable flag protests have meant Saturdays in the Highfield estate are not an option), nor indeed my second (but I abandoned the Ford game, reasoning that I would have been as well watching some wee lads having a kickabout in Cherryvale as remain at Strangford PF) but as bronze medals go it proved a dinky little diversion.

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keresaspa

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