keresaspa: (Seagull)
It's ate bread now given that I've been home since Sunday and, as I suspected, the Dreamwidth exodus seems to have killed this journal stone dead but the tenth annual London extravaganza probably needs to be recorded anygate.

Ergo )

Murder

Mar. 6th, 2017 10:25 pm
keresaspa: (Default)
*Insert weak joke about visiting Edinburgh lots before waffling for ages about most recent visit*

Therefore )
keresaspa: (Cartman)
Hell, even I think I've been away too often recently. The joys of growing up in a warzone, I suppose. And let it be known too that the following load of old rambling nonsense should have been published yesterday but my internet provider decided to give me a day of no service just to remind me who the boss is. Thanks as ever Virgin Media, I would denounce you as vermin but recent events have drawn me closer to that class of creature. Intrigued? Didn't think so but read on anyway, it's good for chilblains.

Read more... )

Nedderbury

Oct. 8th, 2016 12:33 pm
keresaspa: (Gus Goose)
Such is the regularity with which I go to Edinburgh these days that it hardly seems worth mentioning.

But let's anyway )
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 )

Hello

Oct. 10th, 2015 10:14 pm
keresaspa: (Obelix)
Such is the regularity with which I visit dear Edinburgh these days that it hardly seems worth kicking this thing into life just to describe the latest visit. Still, it's a pattern I've established these last twelve years or so and as such it must continue. If there is a moral to this story let it be thus - don't walk backwards, it gets on everybody's tits.

Mulch )

Lon-done

Jul. 17th, 2015 09:43 pm
keresaspa: (Reiko Ike)
Is this thing still on? Only one way to find out I suppose:

London )
keresaspa: (Percy Sugden)
It's convention that I recount in some detail the events surrounding any journeys I make for the entertainment of the reading none so I suppose I shouldn't break from that tradition following my recent excursion to the occupied territory of Scotland. So without further Apu:

Edinburgh and environs )
keresaspa: (Cynthia of Witching Hour fame)
It was probably a little silly of me to attempt two matches in one day, what with Belfast being in the grip of roadblocks caused by bicycles and slack-jawed gawpers incorporating torrential rain, but I decided to make the effort nonetheless. Ordinarily I would have been satisfied, or at least satisficed, with attending Sport & Leisure Swifts' crunch relegation decider in the afternoon but other things forced my hand. Saturdays in Belfast allow unlimited bus travel for two quid so I was excused walking duty but I was aware that the chaos was due to ensue once afternoon descended and so I resolved to get my bones out west as early as possible.

Inevitably bus travel was already a bit banjaxed with the hordes descending early and roads already getting blocked but by and by I made it to the salubrious environs of Poleglass, a huge sprawling housing estate (although some residents will tell you it's actually four or five small housing estates) sandwiched in between west Belfast and Dunmurry in a sort of no-man's land that is neither one thing nor t'other. An 11AM kick-off was the order of the day as advertised but when I arrived there was a half an hour wait on account of the visitors getting delayed in the roads melee. Nevertheless, despite the driving rain and the saturated nature of the pitch, Colin Valley reserves kicked off their match with their Bryansburn Rangers counterparts and before long it was raining goals as well as - well - rain. Valley took the lead in the first minute before Rangers took charge. They were 4-1 up at half time and it ended 5-2 in their favour, a shame as I have a bit of a soft spot for Colin Valley. But it's always good to see some goals for your trouble, I suppose. As a Division 3D Northern Amateur League match it is the lowest level of match I have attended and it also represented my third time watching a Bryansburn Rangers side this season. Total goals from the three matches - 23. Must try to catch them again next season.

After the appetiser (and a quick lunch that I just about had time to gobble down) it was time for the main course as I made my return to Glen Road Heights for the first time since November 2012. With my attentions firmly on DC, Sport & Leisure Swifts had fallen by the wayside but I still cocked the odd eye at their results and felt it was a shame how they were heading meekly out of the league. Then former DC manager Pat McAllister took over and, after a slow start, they dragged themselves up and going into the final match they needed a win to be guaranteed survival, having looked dead and buried about a month ago. A decent crowd by Swifts' standards had turned out to watch the crunch match against the mighty Chimney Corner (great name, pretty ropey club) and they were treated to a nervous, but wholly committed, display by the home team. Swifts' number 11 summed them up - a tiny man (5'4" if he was lucky) with little real skill but a bundle of energy who ran the feet of himself and was always after the ball. Their efforts were rewarded in the end as they took a narrow 2-1 to get the win they so needed. As it turned out it didn't really matter after all as their closest rivals, Killymoon Rangers, were roasted by Tobermore United and so will be relegated but the sense of relief in the home ground was palpable and I must admit I got caught up in it a bit myself, notwithstanding the presence of rather distracting nuisance children running wild. Not what you want when you're already a bath of nerves.

One more match awaits as I'll be up at Brantwood on Tuesday night cheering on yet another of the minor teams that I sympathise with as they attempt to beat Dollingstown and secure a long overdue return to the league in place of Killymoon. Still, barring a minor miracle, that's my lot for Saturday matches until the pre-season friendlies get going. Contemplating what I'm going to do with Saturday afternoons when my last blank weekend was in early July is giving me the cold sweats but for now I would prefer to look back on a grand year of 57 matches following DC and beyond. Ah, there's nothing like it. Roll on next season.
keresaspa: (Tiger Jeet Singh)
I have very a vague recollection of riding a tricycle out the back yard (no gardens in those days, we wuz poor but we wuz happy) when I was around two or three but details are sketchy at best as to whether it was actually mine or not. Beyond that I've never had any involvement with pedal contraptions in my life. Whilst every child would happily free-wheel through the barrios of Belfast and its environs the notion never appealed to me, being something of a lazy little git and also (little did I know) struggling with the reduced energy levels that haemochromatosis imparts. As a consequence not only have I never owned a bicycle but I can't actually ride one and the few occasions on which I have attempted to utilise a static exercise bike I invariably pedal backwards, a bizarre affliction caused by a combination of my lack of cycling knowledge and my laterality.

As time has gone on my feet have become my mode of transport and given that something like 75% of my a-to-b movements are now accomplished by walking inevitably cyclists have become my natural enemies. Just as cyclists hate the drivers so we walkers detest the cyclists with their horrible attitudes, their silent speed and their flagrant disregard for the rules of both the road and the pavement. I've lost count of the number of times I've expelled a sexual swear-word after some bike bugger who suddenly whizzed past my shoulder at a dangerously close distance or who, upon encountering a red light, suddenly mounted the pavement to speed at pedestrians. And don't get me started on the hateful tossers who ride a bike to walk their dog (dogs being runners-up in the walker's natural enemy contest).

As a consequence you don't need to guess how much interest I have in those long, drawn-out cycling contests like the Tour de France. Well, stone me because suddenly the Italian version is taking place on my bloody doorstep. Strictly speaking it hasn't even started yet but I am without doubt completely sick of it already. Now we all know that I'm a total droopy-drawers and as such the enforced jollity and enthusiasm that has arrived along with lycra-clad steroid guzzlers might be appealing to all of my fellow denizens of Farsetshire but for me they can cram it with walnuts.

On Monday we had the Belfast marathon, the annual spectacle of sweating nonsense that renders every May Day in Belfast a junk day in which it is impossible to get anywhere. Now we are to have four days of solid disruption just to determine which jacked-up pedaller gets to go on to the next stage or something. God knows public transport in Belfast is bad enough but for the next few days it is going to be so slapdash that it might as well not even exist. Belfast will become every bit as impassible as on any 12th of July and all for a substantial loss and the possibility of advertising (because there are apparently a significant number of people in the world who have never heard of Belfast but will do so because a bicycle ride is here). Give me strength. I know that the local mugwumps are obsessed with brining daft one-offs to this city but this is one we really could have done without. At the best of times this is a congested hell hole, where the simple chore of getting from one side of the city to the other can take over an hour by pubic transport, but with all this nonsense doing anything will be virtually impossible, particularly for those without cars and who have impaired mobility. But who cares, eh, we have a bunch of juiceheads on bikes that nobody has ever heard of so it's all worth it. Had the council ever bothered to invest in a transport infrastructure that doesn't rely on the roads all of this might have been no big deal but they haven't and a result for the second time in a week the city has to come to a standstill for some silly little race. Why this couldn't have been dumped in the Glens of Antrim or some other hick place that no sod ever goes is beyond me, rather than ballsing up a whole city just for bloody cycling.

Put it this way if I don't get to the matches on Saturday because of all this tripe then I'll be frightfully cross with the organisers. Rotters.

Buffoonery

Mar. 8th, 2014 08:33 pm
keresaspa: (Diggory)
Butter my arse, but what an absolute pisser of a day that turned out to be. Gnash and stamp.

As yesterday was yet another in my catalogue of blood-lettings (getting mighty sick of that shite) I consoled myself with the thought that at least today I could return to the Suffolk Road and watch my first Donegal Celtic home game for the first time since last year. So off I set, nice and early by my own standards, full of the joys of spring on what proved a fine sunny day. I should have known something was going awry when I reached the town and saw yet another rumpus involving those fucking Nazi flag protest dickheads outside the City Hall who appeared to be in a tussle with a group looking to do something for International Women's Day (Socialist Party, hang your collective heads in shame for running like shite from a group of loyalists grannies and press-ganged children). Still it was all good and I headed off to the west, decamping at the bottom of the Suffolk Road as I fancied a bit of stroll. As I passed Falcarragh Drive (about five minutes from the ground) I thought "must have a look at the phone", as I generally ignore the blasted thing on a Saturday. What do I find therein - a collection of messages informing me about early morning shenanigans, culminating in a "match off" text. So there I stood in the middle of nowhere, twenty minutes off three o'clock, only to discover I had got my run for nothing. Bollocks! My own fault in a way obviously as I should have checked the phone before leaving but I'm still mystified as to how a pitch can be waterlogged when we've had hardly any rain. Honest to God, they couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery up there! It's getting to the point where I don't expect to see any more home matches this season because if the pitch is unplayable on a day like that then it'll never be usable again. Why are my anxieties about DC going out of business resurfacing, I wonder?

Reliant as I am on public transport it took me the guts of an hour to get across town to Seaview, more on the off-chance that there might be something going on there rather than with any foreknowledge. Still, Seaview being Seaview, of course there was a match on and, whilst I missed the first half hour due to the Metro bus service being a steaming pile of dogshite, I still was on time to see both goals as Crusaders reserves beat their Coleraine counterparts 2-0. It's strange to think that when [livejournal.com profile] burkesworks accompanied me there in the summer it was my first visit to Seaview as I am now getting sick looking at the place, given that it is one of the few venues in the city capable of resisting a bit of drizzle. Actually scrub that as I'm not getting sick looking at it at all and am very thankful that it is always there and always has a match available when, as happens so often, one's own team lets one down.

I was out in such good time that I was able to pay a visit to the recently opened Sick Records on my way back. Nice little shop, if a bit hipster for my taste and I generally don't buy much in the way of new vinyl, given how stupidly overpriced it invariably is. Nevertheless their second-hand section, though small, was not without its charms and I was able to touch for a Conflict album and a compilation of Japanese psychobilly. Indeed they had a decent selection of psychobilly at competitive prices which I may well revisit. Classy too that they let you keep the plastic sleeves for your purchases although, given the price of those bloody things, I don't expect that to last too long. Either way, nice addition to the local scene. For breadth of choice I prefer Head (although their recent move seems to have brought about a thinning out of range and a general rise in prices), for good punk stuff and a chance to moan about illnesses I prefer Dragon and for a good old rummage through all sorts of mess and a bit of banter I prefer Track Records in Ballymena but I imagine I'll drop in from time to time and the more choice there is amongst independent music shops the better I suppose.

So not a total loss altogether but nevertheless I am frightfully cross with DC right now. Bloody gits!
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.

Cor blimey

Jul. 17th, 2013 10:13 pm
keresaspa: (Albert Gladstone Trotter)
Hello you. Yes it was London time again recently but I got back too late last night to record my exploits. Never fear, I'm here now to "entertain" the reading some with every minor detail. "Enjoy".

Hit it )
keresaspa: (Cow)
So this time tomorrow night I shall be ensconced on the Suffolk Road for a rare foray by yours truly into night football as we have the second leg of the IFA Premiership promotion/relegation play-off between DC and Warrenpoint Town. After the first leg on Tuesday night the country mob are defending a 1-0 lead so it promises to be tense stuff.

2012-13 has been a traumatic season for DC with the club battling relegation throughout and suffering that effective six point deduction for fielding the suspended Sean Cleary in their win over Lisburn Distillery. Much has been said about the IFA telling DC Cleary was fine to play in a phonecall but that was never going to wash as it is hard to prove and DC always get a whipping from the IFA anyway. In the end the deduction had no effect as Distillery finished bottom anyway and DC were 13 points behind tenth placed Dungannon but their form had been good and Dungannon were in sight before that ruling knocked the stuffing out of the team a bit. Add in the woefully low crowds and the success of Cliftonville leeching away the west Belfast fenians to the north and it has been a rough old time all round. DC's problems can be summed up well by the red and white colours currently flying all over the place on the Falls Road, despite that area being much closer to DC than Cliftonville.

Warrenpoint meanwhile have reason to feel that they could be ready for promotion. The demise of Newry City at the start of the season has left a gap in the south Down football scene that they hope to fill. They can also look to the accomplishments of Ballinamallard United, another side with recent non-league experience (Warrenpoint played in the Mid-Ulster League until 2010), who have just secured a top half finish in their first ever season in the Premiership. Like Warrenpoint, Ballinamallard are based in an area where there is little obvious competition from other clubs and have prospered as a result. For Warrenpoint the chance to be the standard bearers for south Down football, as Ballinamallard have been for Fermanagh, is an appealing one

The lack of adequate floodlighting at Warrenpoint’s Milltown ground already added a hint of controversy to the first leg as it was brought forward to a 7:15 kick-off in order to cope with the lack of light. DC complained that this gave their players little time to be collected from work and ferried the 45 mile trip to the match and certainly they put in a below par performance in losing to a Daniel Hughes strike. Hoping that the crowd can play a part, DC have cut their admission prices to half for Friday’s 7.45 kick-off and are admitting under-16s free. With Warrenpoint likely to bring a large travelling support for what will be the biggest match in their history DC’s ground will likely see its largest crowd of the season (although most of them will most likely disappear again as soon as the match is over). God knows how I'll be getting home given the woeful public transport in this city (and I have to get a bus up an hour before kick-off because of the crap timetables) but this one is too important to miss.

The play-offs in Northern Ireland are certainly not a £90 million affair but for one club on the outskirts of west Belfast and another close to the border this one game will define their respective futures. I'll be cheering on the lads but I must admit I do rather have that sinking feeling about this one. I hope it's just my default pessimism kicking in but I may well be meeting those awful Larne supporters again next season. Oh lummee.
keresaspa: (I got the last dodo!)
Because of playing a suspended player DC sacrificed the three points won here and saw the game awarded as a win to Distillery so the eight point gap at the bottom over which I enthused was cut down to two with the hitherto dead and buried Distillery suddenly in touching distance. As such today's game at New Grosvenor took on extra significance and so I decided that I would by hook or by crook make my way out there to witness what unfolded.

But first a quick history lesson. Formed in 1880 by cricket playing workers from a Belfast brewery, the Whites spent most of their first century based at Grosvenor Park on the Grosvenor Road close to the Falls. They were generally a Protestant team and the area was fairly mixed (Gusty Spence lived there for a while) but following the outbreak of the Troubles and the rigid division of working class areas along sectarian lines the Grosvenor became all Catholic and suddenly Distillery seemed rather out of place. In 1971 a fire bomb went off burning the ground down and Distillery decamped, sharing grounds with Crusaders and Brantwood, until in 1980 they finally settled in the Ballyskeagh Stadium on the outskirts of Lisburn. They named the ground New Grosvenor after their old stadium but confusingly it is also a greyhound racing stadium under the name Drumbo Park. Yes, the same edifice has three names, two of which are not only still in use but are both sing-posted at the entrance.

Another facet of New Grosvenor is its location. Nominally in Lisburn, it is in the arsehole of nowhere really, with Ballyskeagh one of a handful of very rural villages that Lisburn has swallowed up in a desperate attempt to convince us all it is a city. As such for a non-driver access was likely to prove a bloody nightmare. The first part was to catch the train although that involved a two mile walk to the nearest station, Belfast being a notoriously train free city. As usual I underestimated myself and made it in time for the half twelve train, rather than the one o'clock as I had intended meaning that it was before one when I decamped at Lambeg train station. A further mile and a half hike through a rural back route followed before I arrived at New Grosvenor a full hour and ten minutes before kick-off. Yikes!

It's a pretty decent stadium in terms of facilities it has to be said, not a million miles away from Bradford Park Avenue's Horsfall ground albeit with a dog track rather than a running track and a large executive box type area facing the main stand (closed today mind you as it's only for racing patrons rather than football ones). The home side had a decent enough following for a club lying bottom with the hearty band who came to follow DC heavily outnumbered. Nevertheless for all the sound and fury from the white-clad hordes DC, after a slightly ropey opening, soon took control of proceedings and dominated for most of the first half. So it continued after half time with livewire Stephen O'Neill, who had been the source of much of DC's creativity, scoring a nifty goal about ten minutes after the restart. And that was it. Distillery huffed and puffed a lot but they had no real chances and if anything DC could have scored another to put it beyond doubt. 1-0 it was and a five point cushion restored, with Distillery once again looking doomed. I'll not cont my chickens yet as anything could happen and there still might be a relegation play-off to "look forward" to but as it stands DC will need a big collapse to go down automatically. A lift back up to the station was procured to save me the hassle of trudging back up the hick trail and as such I was able to get an earlier train home, leaving me plenty of time to run right into a nice Apprentice Boys of Derry march not far from my house. Good old marching season, back with a bang.

Still good fun, good result and it takes my grounds visited total for this season up to twelve (in order of visit: Solitude, DC Park, Glen Road Heights, Newforge Lane, Dalymount Park, Skegoneill Avenue, Grosvenor Recreation, Windsor Park, Horsfall Stadium, Dub Lane, Wilgar Park and New Grosvenor). What more can you ask for from an otherwise unremarkable Easter Tuesday?
keresaspa: (All cops are not nice)
Banjaxed. That just about sums me up at this precise moment. Hectic. That just about sums up the day I have had, albeit in a good way.

With a ticket to the League Cup final secured, a 5:35 kick-off decreed by the Sky Sports cameras (FA Cup weekend so they're really hard up for live matches) and a bunch of Intermediate Cup matches kicking off at half one I decided, for reasons I have long since forgotten, to attend two separate matches in one day. I had two choices - Bloomfield or Immaculata - and I reasoned that east Belfast on a Saturday is a write-off warzone and it is nowhere near Windsor Park so the only option was Immaculata v Islandmagee. High end stuff.

Rolling out just after midday I took the bus down to the city centre but was forced to alight early to get to a Post Office and fire off a late ebay sale. Getting off at Shaftesbury Square I ran into the Sandy Row massive on their weekly pilgrimage to the City Hall, hauling all manner of union jacks along with them. SO much for the filth supposedly taking a harder line with road blocks as the mob marched along the road the whole way and the PSNI did sod all except provide an escort for them. Traffic couldn't move of course - if that's not blocking roads then I don't know what is.

Immaculata play on the Grosvenor Road in what is essentially an all weather pitch in a leisure centre. No covered standing or nothing, which was a real pity as it pelted with rain from start to finish. Islandmagee, meanwhile, is a cacky little place on the Antrim coast between Carrickfergus and Larne and known only as the scene of the last witch trial in Ireland. They are however at a higher level than Immaculata, playing in the Premier Division of the Northern Amateur Football League, with Immaculata two divisions down in the NAFL 1B. For all the good it did them, mind you, as the Grosvenor mob triumphed 2-0 to advance to the fifth round, much to chagrin of the actually quite large crowd of Islandmagee supporters and associated culchie hangers-on, many of whom had made the trip because the lousy weather had wiped out a huge chunk of the card on the local football scene. The standard of play was appalling (particularly Islandmagee's number nine, a portly chap who seemed completely incapable of staying onside) but I suppose it is to be expected at this level.

With match one done and dusted a strolled back down the Grosvenor to Great Victoria Street train station and hopped the rails up to Balmoral, as the boys in black had decreed all Cliftonville supporters had to access the ground via Stockman's Lane and the Boucher Road rather than the more usual (and easily accessible) Lisburn Road. Balmoral station is about a mile and a half from Windsor's North Stand, nothing to me normally but a hell of a trek in torrential rain. Having steadfastly refused to yield to the smartphone craze I was effectively bereft of all information and thus was riddled with anxieties about postponement as I wended my way along the bland and featureless pedestrian-hating eyesore that is the Boucher Road. When I finally made it the match was still on but the rain was still pissing down non-stop and the two goalmouths were already glue pots. Things weren't helped by the on pitch compère, whose attempts to force the atmosphere for the cameras was unwelcome and annoying. It was a north Belfast derby at Windsor Park, we really didn't need some tosspot to create atmosphere the place was heaving on its own.

The game kicked off in atrocious weather conditions, with things slippery underfoot and parts of the pitch throwing up spray. Things were fairly evenly matched in the early going with both teams having half chances but then it all went wrong for the Crues as Diarmiud O'Carroll and Joe Gormley scored in quick succession to put Cliftonville 2-0 at half time. Bad to worse for the Shore Road shites not long into the second half as Paul Heatley got a straight red for a brutal tackle from behind on George McMullan. I've not seen it since but it did look a TV red card to me i.e. the sort of challenge that would see you sent off in a Sky Sports match but in the Irish League would normally be a yellow. I could be wrong of course as I just saw it in real time but by local standards it looked a bit harsh. Crues were toast by this point with two sweet strikes, one from Gormley and one from bald-headed midfield stopper and unsung hero Ryan "Cats" Catney, killing them off. Gormley, who had a belter of a match, might even have completed his hat trick late on but in the end there was to be no more as Crusaders surrendered meekly in losing 4-0. Given that Crusaders are second in the table behind Cliftonville a more competitive match was anticipated but they never got going and in the end the Reds were more than worthy winners. As the final whistle blew the rain, which had continued bucketing down throughout at levels that abandonment seemed a distinct possibility at times, suddenly stopped as if God himself had looked on and saw that it was good. Verily if this Cliftonville team does not go on and add the title to this League Cup triumph then something will be seriously wrong as they were at times imperious here.

The hike back to Balmoral was a little easier in the dry although in the dark the Boucher Road seemed somewhat interminable and the long wait on the lonely platform was a tad eerie and the train only left me two miles from home but the walk back up was easy as I had a spring in my step that comes only from the communal sharing of triumph. This was only the second time I personally had watched Cliftonville in a final - the first being the anti-climax of the Irish Cup defeat to Glenavon in 1997 - so to finally see them taking a trophy in a one-off match in the flesh was elating to say the least. Certainly a hard old slog but well worth the effort for a bit of early grass roots fun followed by a historic and emphatic win for the Reds.
keresaspa: (Tiger Jeet Singh)
It has been a rather dodgy start to this new year all things considered. Well, on the plus side it began decently with a rare win for Donegal Celtic over Glenavon on New Year's Day, albeit with the hassle of a Sunday service on the buses meaning that the whole thing took a lot longer than it should have. Still, I mustn't grumble about that as DC are now a whole four points clear of the automatic relegation place and Distillery (so far) show no signs of a Lazarus comeback.

Since then it has been a bit of a duffer. My right foot continues to get worse with little miss physio (well, she's actually about six feet tall) as much as saying at my last appointment that because her one idea for treating the problem wasn't working she is ready to throw the towel in and discharge me to grin and bear the pain. I suggested acupuncture (yes, I have to come up with the solutions even though she's the one with the training) but it turns out that she doesn't know how to do, the physio who cured me with it in 2009 has disappeared and the only one left who knows how to do it is on an extended absence. It's a pity they don't bother funding the NHS but I suppose at least we have Cromac Street in Irish, the Armagh Planetarium in Ulster-Scots and the Titanic visitors centre so who needs health provisions?

Today meanwhile was the latest in my hateful return to fortnightly venesections and it was the biggest screw-up since the days when junior doctors were doing them. My left arm stopped flowing despite the nurse wiggling the needle about in my vein umpteen times (it didn't work but at least I got to experience a lot of pain and discomfort) so they swapped over to my right arm where, about two thirds of the way through, the needle fell out and a crimson tide issued forth saturating the whole place in my precious lifeblood. Were it not for my insistence that enough was enough I suspect a third vein would have been tapped but in the end I was allowed to limp away, safe in the knowledge that the whole thing would have to be done again in two weeks.

On top of all that the bloody loyalist bastard protesters are blocking the streets again over their arserag flags and some idiot has left the celestial heating switched on so as early January is having horribly sticky temperatures reminiscent of May. 2013, get your bloody act together.
keresaspa: (Obelix)
Christmas done and dusted then. Mostly got money and music in terms of presents. Ate sweets. Came close to weeping with the agonising pain that now infests both legs. And that's about that.

In the football the way the fixtures fell meant that I had two trips to Solitude in quick succession to watch the champions elect pick up six points. Boxing Day proved difficult to get to because of the aforementioned leg pain and the lack of buses but I still managed the schlep up to north Belfast in between regular stops to wince in pain. Little over a month ago I would have strolled that in no time and bemoaned the fact that Cliftonville wasn't further away but suddenly I am a broken man and a simple walk to Solitude destroys me. I had thought that the decision to make it an all ticket affair was a tad overambitious, despite local rivals Crusaders being the opposition, but in the end it was fully justified. The ground was a complete sell-out even with the normally defunct Main Stand opened and there was virtually no room to move in the section of the Main Stand where I wedged myself. It was certainly rough on the old legs although the bloke behind me had it worse, stood as he was with a broken foot wedged in one of those Reese Witherspoon style protective boots. How the poor sod managed it is anybody's guess and I certainly didn't begrudge him the odd spell leaning on my shoulder, despite his being a total stranger. Still the sardine-tight conditions made for a beezer atmosphere with even yours truly, a notorious tightlip, joining in the singing. The match itself was a very even contest with both sides having their moments and the Reds unquestionably guilty of a poor final ball more than once. Crues had their chances too but Timmy Adamson, whom I witnessed destroying the defence at DC recently, failed to take his chances and in the end substitute Joe Gormley scored the only goal to give Cliftonville the win. The performance was decent without being brilliant but in terms of what has gone on so far this season we are talking about the league's two top dogs (as I predicted this summer) so a 1-0 over Crusaders has to be placed into context. A defeat or draw here would have seen the doubts creeping back in but the win makes Cliftonville look an increasingly good bet for the title.

As for today, I decided to give the old legs a rest and get a bus day ticket, although as a sop to my attempts to avoid weight regain I stayed on a few stops past the ground and got off at the Westland estate for a little exercise. Returning to my more usual home of the small section of terracing under the Main Stand today, it was little surprise to see a greatly reduced attendance for the visit of Dungannon Swifts. Certainly the forty mile or so journey from South Tyrone to North Belfast proved to have little appeal for the Swifts supporters, who numbered little more than thirty souls in the away stand, including at least one baby. Given the busy programme over Christmastide and the relatively lowly status of Dungannon Swifts there were one or two unfamiliar names in the Reds team, with squad rotation putting in a rare appearance in the Irish League. Cliftonville had a ropey start, with nothing really coming off although they were fortunate in that Dungannon couldn't get their acts together either. Liam Boyce bustled one in around 35 minutes with a towering header before Geordie McMullan added a second from the penalty spot in the second half. A bit of a low-key performance here, with Dungannon having the odd chance here and there but for Cliftonville quality just about told and a 2-0 was a good result. Nine points ahead going into the new year is a healthy lead and no mistake, although Linfield's ominous rise up the table means nothing can be taken for granted.

All in all two good games that provided a fine dose of festive entertainment. I'll look forward to getting back to my spiritual home in Lenadoon on New Year's Day (although the awful bus service will mean split second timing will be essential) but it was indeed great to watch back to back wins for a very strong team. Nice one.

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