keresaspa: (Jimmy Edwards)
Yesterday was spent on a wild goose chase of sorts, trawling out to Twinbrook on the off-chance of catching a match. When I got there, sure enough Glaston were indeed playing Sandy Row in the Brooke Activity Centre as promised (albeit with kick off fifteen minutes earlier than promised), but there was no access for spectators and so I was forced to watch it through a fence. Five minutes of that did me until I thought "swive this" and buggered off, content in the knowledge that even I'm not desperate enough to endure 90 minutes of the second tier of the South Antrim League. As such I must face the crushing reality that for me the football season is most likely over.

Still, I can't really complain I suppose because it has been a thrill ride if you like that sort of thing (which I do). 54 matches in all was a slight drop on last season's probably unmatchable total of 58 but it still represented a good haul of live football, starting on 28th June 2014 with Crusaders playing Airbus UK Broughton in a friendly and ending last Saturday with Brantwood wrapping up the Ballymena and Provincial League campaign with a 4-3 win over Newtowne. During the course of the season I witnessed 187 goals (give or take one or two when I got distracted) and visited 28 grounds including first ever trips to Holm Park in Armagh, Inver Park in Larne, Celtic Park in Glasgow, Dennyfield in Bradford, Imperial Fields in London and New Victoria Park in Newtongrange as I endeavoured to spread my tentacles into Britain a bit more.

There were good times and bad times. For the bad times I will do well to forget: a Monday night hammering for Donegal Celtic up in the mountains of Knockbreda in the League Cup in August; an undeserved 1-0 defeat at Harland & Wolff Welders soon afterwards (the first of many matches where DC played well but still lost); the horrors of Islandmagee the following Saturday where the crowd have to be the biggest load of agrestic, ugly, bigoted, small-minded shitkickers I've ever had the misfortune to encounter; the futile attempt to get a bus from Celtic Park whilst having to wait with all the drunks in Glasgow; the near funeral atmosphere at Seaview whenever Newington were playing and their three supporters turned up; and hearing a home side committee member refer to their only black player as "the N*gger" at Shankill United a few weeks ago. But then there are always the highs: the aforementioned Crusaders-Airbus match when anything would have done to break the monotony of no football but where they contrived to serve up a 3-3 thrill-ride; the 3-1 win at Newforge Lane the day after my birthday when a DC promotion challenge seemed a possibility; being the last man standing at Dundela when the rest of the travelling support deserted a 3-1 defeat during which DC were forced to play in a late 90s Carrick Rangers away kit; the crazy atmosphere at Armagh City, again despite defeat; the traditional ball-freezing conditions at the annual post-Boxing Day beano that is the Border Regiment Cup final; my annual day out to Paisley Park to see Albert Foundry; getting fed like a fighting cock in the boardroom at Bangor; my annual day out to The Diamond to see Rathcoole; seeing Colin Valley destroy 18th Newtownabbey OB 8-1 at Valley Park having attended the reverse fixture earlier in the season and been unimpressed by the toxic atmosphere 18th had created at their ground; and of course, above all, the final day at Lakeview Park, Loughgall when, against the odds, DC stayed up.

So, barring a minor miracle (rumours abound of a match next week in Portadown, although I'm not sure I want to shell out the fare just for a Mid Ulster League match, whilst there may be play-offs) the football season is now over in terms of my live attendance. Until the final week in June (hopefully) or the first week in July (hope not) I am forced to find something else to fill in the gaping maw of ennui that is Saturday afternoon, something made all the worse by the year ending in an odd number. If I really start to lose the thread I may have to bite the bullet and take in a couple of Wednesday night Women's League matches at Seaview and/or Solitude but we'll cross that bridge when we can to it. Until then, so many memories and roll on next year.
keresaspa: (Max Miller)


See that? That's me wanting the season to start, that is. As much as I enjoy watching Crusaders labouring to a 1-0 win over Harland & Wolff Welders because every other match in Belfast has been cancelled thanks to rain (yup, summer in Northern Ireland) I want the proper season as much as Yebin wants her ice cream.

Buoyed as I am by the fact that Donegal Celtic have won all five of their pre-season friendlies (admittedly against the hardly stellar line-up of Camlough Rovers, Ballynahinch Olympic, Immaculata, Colin Valley and Newry City) I am even of the mind that the team might actually do something this season. Inevitably that will fade as the postponements start to rack up and the team huffs and puffs its way through three matches a week (or the board decides it doesn't want promotion again) but for the time being I am uncharacteristically optimistic and await Saturday's jaunt to Carrickfergus on tenterhooks. Right now nothing short of a title win and two cups will be good enough although when it's all over I suspect a season on the fringes of the promotion hunt will just about satisfy. Either way, the sooner the better.
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: (Dora-Kai Lan-Kitty)
As night follows day so it is inevitable that the weekend brings rain and, whilst I for one avoided its brutal onslaught as it fell overnight, nevertheless it rent its path of destruction and brought about the inevitable postponement of the latest in a long line of Donegal Celtic home matches to fall at the altar of precipitation. Mind you, a light drizzle cancels matches up the Suffolk Road nowadays and my mind is boggling at just when they're actually going to finish their programme at this rate. Heck, if the club weren't poorer than a church mouse's bankrupt uncle I would suggest leaving the old place to its fate and seeking alternative accommodation but that's about as likely as Alka Yagnik deigning to become my good lady wife so the cycle of rain-postponement-rain-postponment will continue.

Still, I did have an alternative as my old friends Albert Foundry were at home and, given that they play on a high elevation grass pitch, weather causes little concern for them (in direct contrast to DC, whose pitch is grass and is located at a high elevation). I knew that today the challenge that awaited them was Dromara Village, a little club from the wilds of County Down, about twenty miles straight up the road from me. So far this season I had yet to have the pleasure of watching Dromara in action, despite my peregrinations, but I had heard the rumours and read some of the results - an 8-1 home defeat from Foundry, 12-0 away to Ards Rangers, 6-0 against an otherwise hapless Islandmagee. So as I approached Paisley Park in the dear old Highfield estate today I did so with two results in my mind: East Belfast 0-6 Derriaghy and Colin Valley 5-4 Bryansburn Rangers, the biggest win and highest aggregate scores I had ever seen. Could they be outstripped?

Well, stone the crows, for no sooner had the match kicked off than Dromara took the lead. As occurrences went it was right up there with the time Iain Duncan Smith experienced pity in the shock stakes but it galvanised Foundry into action and soon they swept. A goal was ruled out unfairly for offside before they genuinely equalised and then ran riot, racing into a 5-1 lead after 25 minutes and going in 6-1 up at half time. Frankly it was a painful watch at times. Dromara were even worse than I could have imagined, second to every ball, passing back to Foundry on the rare occasions when they did get the ball and unable to perform even the most basic of football stuff. That they appeared to be playing with five defenders instead of the more usual four made it even worse, as the Foundry players swarmed like skaven on a dwarven stronghold (were said stronghold made of bone china and straw and defended only by Jack Duckworth's pigeons). Had Foundry made three substitutions and brought on me, Professor Stephen Hawking and Misao Okawa Dromara still would have been ludicrously outclassed. I lost count of the number shots Foundry had but fifty would be a conservative estimate and the fact that they "only" managed an 8-1 win was as much due to their own profligacy as anything Dromara managed. In the end it became like the Christians and the lions and when the final whistle went it was a blessed relief that the lions finally swallowed the last bit of God-fearing gristle. Never in my life have I witnessed such a one-sided match and the sooner Dromara are relegated the better as this was a bit of a waste of time for both clubs. Mind you, the miser in me was satisfied as, having paid three quid to gain entry, I was paying only 33.33 recurring pence per goal and that's my idea of value.

So in all a fun diversion, even if a team of cardboard cutouts would have given Foundry about as much trouble as Dromara did. Derriaghy's record disappears as Foundry-Dromara is now the biggest kicking I've ever witnessed and the Colin Valley-Bryansburn goalfest is equalled. DC allegedly face Institute next week although there's every chance a passing roustabout may spit in the direction of DC Park, flooding the pitch beyond use in the process and thus forcing me to find more Amateur League thrills. If that's the case then more of the same please.

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: (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: (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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