FAIL TO PREPARE, PREPARE TO FAIL

Despite being finally put to bed last week, the ghost of the Newry v Larne debacle is continuing to haunt the IFA from beyond the grave.

The postponement of tonight’s replay has plunged the competition into further crisis as the replay will take on Saturday, the Quarter-Final against Coleraine for the winners, with a replay now scheduled for the date of the Semi-Finals, with Linfield fans not only cheering their team on against Glentoran on Easter Tuesday, but keeping an eye on another match in order to know if their team has a match the following Saturday.

Just think, if the business over the Newry v Larne game was handled in an efficient manner, the Newry v Loughgall tie would have been decided in mid-February.

Due to Linfield’s Setanta Cup commitments, the only free midweek is set aside for the replay (which would now be used for the Semi-final) meaning that if there was to be a replay, this would have to take place in the midweek between the conclusion of the league season, and the Irish Cup Final, with the winning team having to arrange sale of tickets and supporters having to arrange transport and events at a few days notice.

Put simply, it’s a farcical situation that should never have been allowed to get this far. Regular readers of this blog will know that this has been my viewpoint ever since it is escalated to an unacceptable level, not a reaction to my club being dragged into this mess.

It’s not often Linfield fans are jealous of Ballymena United and Portadown fans, but this is one of them. they know who they are due to play in the next round of the cup, whilst Linfield fans won’t know the final arrangements of their tie until the week of the game.

Surely, when the 6th round took place with only 7 fixtures, and Coleraine were drawn against one of three teams, alarm bells should have been ringing?

If that wasn’t enough, surely a Quarter-Final weekend with only three games where Linfield were drawn against one of four teams in the Semi-Final draw. Forget alarm bells, a bloody siren should have went off.

A lot has been made of the fact that nine teams were in the draw for the Irish Cup Semi-Finals. That wasn’t the farce. It’s not inconcievable that you could have four drawn Quarter-Finals resulting in eight teams in the draw. The real farce was, that one of the pots had four teams in it.

Almost un-noticed is the postponement of the game between Coleraine and Portadown, one of two games still to be played before the split. With the post-split fixtures already being decided by the teams being allocated numbers based on their provisional positions, the logical decision would be to let that game take place at another free date between now and the end of the season.

Unfortuantely, this game is to decide who gets the last top six split, and therefore, must be played as soon as possible as a matter of urgency.

This is the second successive season since the league was restructured, that fixture chaos has reigned. Last season, it all began at the start thankfully with plenty of time to rectify the situation, as various midweeks were taken up with County Antrim Shield, Setanta Cup and CIS Cup ties delayed the rescheduling of various league fixtures in need of re-arranging.

Sadly, for the second successive season, the IFA are finding that scheduling a 38 game league season rather than a 30 game season is a lot harder than it looks. Not even reducing the CIS Cup by three games, is helping to free up space.

So what can be done?

The most obvious victim is the County Antrim Shield, a competition sadly long past it’s sell-by date and not even on the radar of fans, who barely raise a groan when their team is eliminated or a cheer when their team wins it.

Questions must be raised at the scheduling of CIS Cup ties on Saturdays. I can understand the idea of 3rd round ties taking place on a Saturday, as an experiment. Sadly, it was an experiment which never really worked.

What baffled me was the scheduling of Quarter-Final ties on a Saturday in December, with various teams inactive on the biggest football day of the week, surely this Saturday could have been better used by arranging a league programme that day?

This fixture cahous, a result of a knock-on effect of postponements throughout December, January and February during (might I add, a once in a lifetime series of weather) adverse weather conditions has once again provided ammunition for advocates of Summer football.

What the pro-Summer football brigade will ignore, is the fact the League Of Ireland games this week have been postponed, as was five out of six Irish League games during a programme in August 2008.

We have to accept that we live in a country where we are at the mercy of the weather all year round. It’s not the adverse weather that is the problem in Irish League football, it’s the lack of free dates in which to re-arrange games into.

Let’s hope that when the schedule for the 2010-2011 Irish League season is announced, those in charge come up with a pre-emptive solution to this scheduling madness.

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NOEL BAILIE – LEGEND

Just thought i’d use this platform to promote a Facebook group worth joining.

For those who don’t know, Noel Bailie has made 997 appearances for Linfield, and hopefully this achievement and service to his club (and football in general) will get acknowledged on a national scale.

His 1,000th appearance is due at some point in mid-April, although he did leave the pitch early during Linfield’s win over Institute on Friday night, though the injury is not thought to be serious.

One of the big fears I had as the magic number approaches is that he may fall short, and there may be some sense of disappointment. If his final career tally is only three figures, it won’t make him any less of a legend.

Mentally, i’ve got a joint tribute blog for himself and Glenn Ferguson (Who is scheduled to retire at the end of the season) written in my head, but i’m going to wait until the end of the season, as to put anything down on my desktop now would be like writing a premature obituary, to be held in stock until an appropriate time.

Such is Noel’s modesty, the only medal he is looking to be presented to him this year is a Gibson Cup one, and the only day out he wants will be the Irish Cup Final.

Feel free to join the group, and help see a local man who has done so much for a game we all love.

Noel Bailie is everything that is good about football. I’m glad he plays for my club.

DOIN THE DOO

Was out this morning walking along the Lagan Towpath, and stumbled upon some excellent graffiti in an abandoned house, not far from the Lock Keeper’s Inn, the cafe which is used as a shining example of Castlereagh Borough Council’s excellent ‘Grants For Young Entrepreneurs Programme’, supported by Iris Robinson.

I’d always noticed the graffiti from afar, but never really knew how to get access to it. What I saw was pretty basic, but my curiousity got the better of me, and I checked out the abandoned building nearby, and saw some fantastic pieces of art, which are sadly hidden away from the general public.

The one that put a smile on my face was a drawing of Slimer from Ghostbusters.

Apologies for the poor picture quality. What looked good on my camerascreen didn’t really translate when I uploaded it onto the computer.

Another piece that was eyecatching was one title ‘Joker‘, the second of which is in Belfast.

That’s two pieces of graffiti in Belfast, and Batman has done nothing about it.

Incidentally, the other photo is on my Flickr account.

The two best ones are an image of Betty Boo and one titled ‘The Most Nasty

Due to the location of the building, not far away from Newforge Country Club, it does make me laugh at the thought of such acts of vandalism taking place not far from where loads of peelers hang out.

Enjoy.

ANCO

Another new graffiti spot today, and a big thank you goes to UTV.

They did a report on Thursday night about visitors from Barcelona and New York when I spotted it, as they filmed an interview on Garfield Street, inbetween Royal Avenue and the offices of the Human Rights consortium.

I’d already been there a few months ago to photograph some other artwork there, which turned out to be by local artist Kev Largey.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about these two pieces of art, as part of a write-up about an exhibition of his work currently taking place at QFT.

The latest addition is by an artist called ‘ANCO‘, whose work can be found a lot over Belfast, and is situated beside Largey’s art.

Further down the street is a tribute to Andy Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup’ piece, entitled ‘Community Confidence’.

Unfortunately, they were blocked off by railings so I couldn’t get a proper photograph.

Apologies in advance for the picture quality. The drab and overcast weather this afternoon wasn’t very friendly to a hobby photographer.

So, as our visitors from New York and Barcelona might complain about our transport infrastructure and the number of derelict buildings in Belfast City Centre, at least they got to see some good graffiti.

See Also

Kev Largey Flickr Account

ANCO video on Youtube

WARREN FEENEY/GRANT McCANN MURAL UPDATE

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog looking at some of the football related graffiti and murals that have or are currently occupying wallspace in Belfast.

One of those featured was a ‘Welcome To Sandy Row’ mural, featuring images of Grant McCann and Warren Feeny in action for Northern Ireland.

Since it was uploaded, there has been an addition to the mural, which I noticed when I was in Sandy Row earlier today.

The image of McCann and Feeney now has a mosaic of the IFA crest above it.

Apologies for the poor composition of the photo, but the mural is situated in front of car parking spaces, and traffic going in either direction mean you have to take your photo from the footpath.

The original photo was taken on a Sunday morning, when traffic was lighter both in terms of parking and driving through, making it easier to get the photo I wanted.

You may also notice that a crowd has been added into the background of the image, and that the words ‘Our Wee Country’ have been written above the image.

Some other graffiti I spotted was ‘ACDC Bhoy’ written on a wall in Sandy Row and ‘She’ written on a wall in Stranmillis.

Also tried to get some images of the sun going down over the River Lagan, with mixed results.

Enjoy.

I’M A PROPER NEWS LETTER PHOTOGRAPHER YOU KNOW ….

It came as a bit of a shock to me.

Today in work, I got handed an article in last Friday’s News Letter of a round-up of the best Northern Ireland political websites (Blogs, Twitter accounts, etc) on the web by a colleague on the impression that It might be interest to me.

As I read through the article, a screenshot of a blog called ‘Open Unionism’ caught my eye, that there was a picture that looked familiar.

Curious, I logged on to the website, found the story that was screengrabbed, and there it was, my photo, complete with a credit and link.

The picture was one I took of Windsor Park and it was being used in a story about a possible new national anthem for the Northern Ireland football team.

I like the photo, but I think there are better ones out there that I have taken, especially better ones of Windsor Park.

People seem to like it however as it has racked up over 1,000 views on Flickr.

When a made of mine was browsing though my Flickr account, he remarked how he liked the photo, and “Admired my eagerness for turning up an hour before kick-off to get a photo of the ground”

Rather depressingly, the photo was taken at half-time during a match between Linfield and St Patrick’s Athletic in September 2008.

The match was televised on TV, so I decided to pop in to the Viewing Lounge at half-time to view the analysis on TV.

As I was walking in, I noticed how the stadium looked from the window, and decided to take a photo, and luckily, it worked very well.

Any time i’ve had a go during the day hasn’t really worked, the floodlights really add something to the picture.

The most obvious observation of trying to take daytime photos is that the windows are is need of a bloody good wash.

So, i’ll leave you with my two favourite photos of Windsor Park (with hopefully photos of Richmond Park, Dalymount Park, Bramall Lane and Ewood Park to come) as I bask in the glory of being (sort of) a News Letter photographer.

See Also :

Linfield group on Flickr

Panoramic Windsor Park photo by a Flickr contact.

FUCK ART

Headed up to the site of the proposed Cairnshill Park and Ride today to check out the graffiti there.

Nothing special, and it was totally cordoned off with security, so it wasn’t really worth the effort, so I gave it a bye-ball.

Meanwhile walking home, as luck would have it, I saw a new addition to the wall in the alleyway as you walk towards Wellington College, simply scribbled ‘FUCK ART’

It’s good to see that the artist didn’t hold back with their opinions.

That wee alleyway is a strange one graffitiwise. Nothing special in all honesty, though most of the work is very eye-catching and colourful.

It’s a total pain in the arse to photograph though as you can’t get any distance to photo due to the railings.

Enjoy

LOCAL NEWS FOR LOCAL PEOPLE?

Simple question, but think about it. Have you seen any football on UTV recently?

If you’re answer includes England’s recent international, Arsenal, United and Chelsea’s Champions League ties, as well as four FA Cup Quarter-Finals, you’d need to think again.

You see, those matches were shown by ITV, not UTV, an important distinction to make.

So, has anybody seen any football on UTV lately?

Sadly, the answer is a resounding no, as football appears to have completely vanished from their sports bulletins over the last couple of weeks. It’s not as if there hasn’t been any local football lately.

What makes it even worse is that, with time dedicated to football coverage now so sparse, UTV decide to use that time covering stories which are totally irrelevant to their remit.

For example, last Monday, they featured a report on David Beckham missing the World Cup through injury on their late-night show, complete with the Sports Editor of the Belfast Telegraph popping in for a little chat about it.

Exactly how is this a Northern Ireland news story?

A few weeks before this, they did a story about a potential takeover of Manbchester United by the Red Knights group, complete with vox pops taken in the Red Devils bar in West Belfast.

As a Belfast-based United fan, I feel like I can give some form of definitive view on the issue of United’s media coverage.

YES, United have a lot of fans in Northern Ireland, BUT, I seriously have my doubts that any United fan in Northern Ireland uses UTV as an outlet for finding out news on their favourite team.

One arguement ofen use by those in response for calls for improved Irish League coverage is that “There’s only one man and a dog at it”

I was at an Irish Cup tie at The Oval recently, and there was certainly substantially more than “one man and a dog” at it, yet there was no coverage to be seen on the following Monday night’s bulletin.

Another arguement put forward is that “There is always bigger events happening”, which was certainly put into practice in last Tuesday’s bulletin as the only sports story that was broadcast was a preview of the Rugby match betwen Ireland and Scotland.

There is absolutely no doubt that Six Nations Rugby is a bigger story, but, is there really a need for the match to get a four day build-up?

Stranger still, there was no mention of the match in the Wednesday or Thursday night bulletins, so why did they have a preview on the Tuesday night, and not follow it up on the other two nights?

An even bigger insult to football fans, was that the late night edition on Tuesday repeated the same report that was broadcast at 6pm.

Not only was a full fixture list featuring a meeting between 1st and 2nd ignored at the expense of a preview of an event 4 days away, the results were ignored at the expense of a repeat of the aforementioned report later that night.

Such is the culture of repeats and rehashing reports, the late night edition of UTV Live might as well just be called ‘UTV Live For Those Too Lazy Or Too Busy Watching The Simpsons To Watch Us At 6’

Sadly, this decline in coverage has spread to Sport On Sunday, where goals are just condensed down into as short as clips as possible.

When you see instances like this, you can see why football fans in Northern Ireland feel underwhelmed and disillusioned by the coverage provided to them by UTV.

It’s not a matter of Football vs Rugby or Football vs GAA, but of the three main sports, there is only one which is grossly under-represented on our local news bulletins.

Sadly, our sports journalists on both channels are seduced by celebrity and dazzled by patronising soundbites about how some celebrity is “Really enjoying their visit to Northern Ireland”

It has to be said, that BBC Northern Ireland are just as bad, and it’s not just sports journalism where this is prevalent.

Recent news stories featured in our local news have included a story last July about a dispute between Dublin Council and Croke Park residents about noise pollution in the aftermath of a U2 concert on BBC Newsline, or UTV Live doing a feature on the economic benefits to Limerick of hosting a Republic of Ireland international.

Other examples include both channels covering Muhammed Ali making a personal appearance in County Clare and the endless coverage of Real Madrid’s training camp in Dublin last summer.

Stories which have no relevance whatsoever with Northern Irleand, yet these stories are continuiously being broadcast on our news bulletins.

I’m not pig-headed or ignorant enough to say that there should be no Republic of Ireland stories on our news, absolute nonsense. We share a border with the Republic, do cross-border trade with them, as well as people travelling there for business and breaks, so there are obviously going to be stories in the Republic of Ireland which affect our everyday lives.

Sadly, our broadcasters cannot distinguish between what is relevent and irrelevant. That, simply, is poor editorial judgement.

As well as reporting on stories from the Republic of Ireland, the digital departments within BBC Northern Ireland seem content to let their English counterparts do some of their reporting for them, as any story from Northern Ireland which makes the national news, is the same word for word on the Northern Ireland Ceefax and Internet pages as it is on the national pages.

Is it too much to ask for a bit originality, that when you log on to the Northern Ireland section, to see a story from a Northern Ireland viewpoint, rather than a cut and paste of a report written by someone in an office in London?

So please, BBC and UTV, next time I switch on to your evening bulletins, can I please view stories from Northern Ireland, relevant to Northern Ireland and which haven’t been cut and pasted from outher sources?

And as an extra bonus, some football?

SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO EVERY MONTH – APRIL (UPDATE)

It’s now just under three weeks until I go and see James in Sheffield and have a wee break in Manchester.

Unfortunately, the business surrounding the Newry and Larne fiasco means it’s unlikely i’ll be missing a Linfield match.

Of the football matches taking place close to Manchester on 10th April, only two really stood-out. I had hoped to try and go to Aston Villa v Everton, but Villa’s progress to the FA Cup Semi-Final means that match is now postponed.

Sheffield United v Coventry is the other game that caught my eye, with both teams pushing for the Play-Offs. I am a bit reluctant to visit Sheffield twice, having already made plans to stay there on the Thursday.

I’d hoped to see FC United to see them at first-hand, but unfortunately, they are playing away from home that day. I actually have a voucher for free tickets to see them (given away with the DVD release of ‘Looking For Eric’) which I hope to redeem at some point, though most likely next season.

Meanwhile, i’d been offered the chance to travel to the Man United-Bayern Munich game on the Wednesday, which would mean having to write-off my flight to Liverpool. Very Very tempted.

Anyway, currently in the final process of organising a trip to Dublin for the Bohemians v Linfield game. Can’t really be arsed getting up at 6am to get a bus at 8am, to go there and straight back.

Planning to head over on the Friday, stay overnight, then head home immediately after the game.

So, easter is currently looking like this

Good Friday – Dublin
Saturday – Bohemians v Linfield
Tuesday – Linfield v Glentoran
Thursday – James
Sunday – Sean Lock

Already counting down the days.

Meanwhile, got some photos today. Not the best quality, but ho hum.

Got a widescreen of Windsor Park, a sunset photo of the stadium (in the hope of improving on last week’s effort) and a few general sunset efforts leaving the ground.

Spotted some graffiti in the Cairnshill i’m hoping to get a snap of tomorrow.

Anyway, enjoy these :