One more domestic game for me in 2014-2015, and it was the Irish Cup Final at The Oval. As I was at Shamrock Park last Saturday, I decided to get a ticket. It was a late decision for me to go to Shamrock Park last weekend, but it meant i’ve been to all but one Irish Cup Final since 2006.
The last two years have been as a neutral, with one of the finalists being at home to Linfield the Saturday before. That was a bit of a lucky coincidence.
Hopefully, next year, i’ll be there watching Linfield. It is expected that the 2016 Final will be held at Windsor Park, assuming there are no more snags with the redevelopment of the stadium.
Even before the problems with the West Stand arose, there was always going to be problems accommodating supporters with only two stands. No doubt the IFA were secretly hoping the two finalists would be two lesser supported clubs.
Ravenhill was mentioned, but not for me. The crowd behind the goal would have been too far from the pitch to get a decent atmosphere. It is curious to see football fans wanting big football matches played at non football stadiums. If Ravenhill had similar problems as Windsor Park, I have my doubts that rugby fans would be crying for Ulster to play at Windsor Park or any football ground.
The Oval was the only option for the game, it’s first since 1995. It was my first Oval Cup Final since 1992.
As I headed to the ground, there was a change in usual arrangements, with tickets being taken off supporters as you entered the tunnel towards the turnstiles, with the turnstiles not being used, as supporters walked in through an empty gate. It will be interesting to see if those arrangements are in place for ticketed league games next season.
At the Sydenham End, there was a temporary stand in place. I didn’t think it was possible to have an arrangement in place, but it seemed to work ok. Feel free to correct me if you were at that end and saw something different.
One thing beyond the organiser’s control was the weather, which fluctuated from slightly wet to very wet. It didn’t really help the game.
I’d previously been to matches between Glentoran and Portadown before. Most recently, the Irish Cup Semi-Final in 2013, which finished 1-0 to Glentoran. I’d also been at the final stages of two matches in 2010 (on my way home from five a side), both of which finished 1-0 to Glentoran.
I’m not sure me being there was going to be a good omen for Portadown.
Curtis Allen had the first moment of the game when a header went wide.
In the early moments, Portadown were nervous, giving away soft free-kicks, throw-ins and corners in their own defensive third. Glentoran couldn’t take advantage of it. Portadown gave them enough opportunities to do so.
Despite their nervousness in their own defensive third, Portadown had some attacking moments in the first-half. Not a lot though. Those that did happen usually had a Glentoran body in the way to clear it. Portadown’s best moment came when Mark McAllister had a shot blocked by a defender.
Glentoran’s best moment after Allen’s header was when David Scullion was able to get enough space to shoot, only to fire the shot over.
In a further example of Portadown’s defensive nervousness, Garry Breen almost presented Curtis Allen with an opportunity to score by dithering on the ball and inviting a tackle. Fortunately for Portadown, Allen was unable to get on his feet to run through on goal after winning the ball, and Portadown were able to clear the danger.
It was a poor first-half, both sets of fans were hoping the game would improve in the second-half.
Portadown started the second-half strongly, a cross causing problems for Glentoran, while Sean Mackle wasted a glorious opportunity to cross, with the ball going straight to Elliott Morris.
The game was won and lost soon afterwards in the space of under a minute. Michael Gault chased a short backpass and was tripped by Glentoran’s Willy Garrett. The referee decided it was no foul. It should have been, and if he awarded it, it would have been a red card.
Even more ludicrously, Elliott Morris picked up the backpass in question, and Portadown didn’t get an indirect free-kick for it.
Glentoran went up the field and created an opening down their left, with David Scullion getting space in the box to fire home.
It was the first real chance of the game. As soon as Scullion lined up to Shoot, there was only going to be one outcome.
Portadown had some pressure afterwards, but it was all huff. They never really looked like scoring for all their possession around Glentoran’s penalty area.
Their best moment came when a Garry Breen header was superbly saved by Elliott Morris.
When Portadown had a set piece, you never felt like Portadown were going to score from it. Even when the ball dropped to them in the penalty area, there was always a Glentoran body in the way to block it.
There was an air of inevitability that it would finish 1-0. As the final moments neared, there was a bit of handbags between both sets of players.
Glentoran held on to win the cup.
The previous night, Warrenpoint beat Bangor in the Promotion/Relegation Play-Off to secure another season of top flight football.
I’ve nothing against Warrenpoint, but I was hoping for a trip to Bangor in August or September. I’ve enjoyed my two visits to Warrenpoint, so hopefully, next season’s visits will be during the warmer months.
No more domestic football until July, when Irish League clubs re-enter Europe. Hoping for Crusaders v Malmo and Glentoran or Glenavon v IFK Gothenborg, if only to tick the two Swedish clubs off my UEFA 101 Club list, and of course Linfield to get one of the unseeded minnows.
Before that possibly, is the Setanta Cup, with the draw supposedly being on Thursday. Details remain sketchy, but i’m hoping for Cork v Linfield as i’ve never been to Turner’s Cross, and haven’t been to the city of Cork for fifteen and a half years.
For me, the 2014-2015 season still has some life in it with trips to Old Trafford, Gresty Road and then Northern Ireland v Romania, before a short pre-season, and then 2015-2016 will be underway. I wouldn’t want it any other way.