And i’m back into the madness of it all. That was an enjoyable three weeks off.
My first game of 2022-2023, although it wasn’t planned that way.
A friendly against St Mirren is better than usual offerings, but it’s the sort of game that you would be more excited about if it was away.
That was, until it was announced that admission to this game would be free, then my arm was twisted.
Before you ask, I didn’t get my face painted pre-match.
This would be my second time seeing St Mirren, having seen them face Hibs when I went to Edinburgh Fringe in 2019.
I did lurk about trying to find a decent spot to sit for the first minute of the game, getting into my seat just in time to see St Mirren go 1-0 up with a close range finish from Alex Greive.
It would have been natural to start to wonder if this was going to be a long afternoon.
Thankfully, that was not to be the case as Linfield worked their way back into the game.
Joel Cooper had already been torturing St Mirren defenders for a few minutes when his cross found it’s way to Daniel Finlayson to score against his parent club.
That is one way to get their attention when you are out on loan.
You just know that South Standers are going to get his name wrong and think that he’s called Finlay Danielson.
Cooper’s performance would have been worth the admission fee alone, if there was one.
Picking up where he left off, a good omen ahead of the domestic season.
For the rest of the half, Linfield were on top and looked the most likely team to score.
Naturally, it would be St Mirren who got the third goal of the game when Jonah Ayunga created space in the penalty are to fire home.
Linfield were actually relived to be only 2-1 down at half-time as St Mirren missed a headed chance from a few yards out in the final minutes of the half.
Both teams made changes at the start of, and then during the second-half, which basically made the game a non-event.
Despite that, the game still had it’s moments.
Daniel Finlayson curled an effort just wide as he looked to send further messages to his parent club.
St Mirren hit the bar while Robbie McDaid and Chris McKee forced St Mirren’s keeper into a save.
The game then fizzled out and St Mirren won the game 2-1. Not that it mattered, it was all about getting minutes in the bank for both teams and for the younger fans, getting their face painted and meeting their favourite player.
There’s been quite a lot to digest during the close season, so here goes:
This game would be followed up on the next two Saturdays with friendlies away to Knockbreda and Harland and Wolff Welders.
Not quite Bray and Stranraer, but still decent. A trip to a ground Linfield haven’t played at since 2018, and a first ever trip to Blanchflower Park for Linfield, although I have been there for a match.
It was confirmed that Linfield will enter the Scottish Challenge Cup once again, beginning in September.
Their game will be on the same weekend as Northern Ireland v Kosovo, so i’m presuming (hoping) that Linfield will be away, presumably on the Sunday.
If it is, ideally Stranraer (if they beat FC Edinburgh) would be perfect.
Or just anywhere that is easy to get to. Might be tempted to make a few days of it depending how things work out.
Talking of Football Trips, the scheduled for Euro 2024 (I know, nothing like forward planning) has been confirmed, and there is a match every day in North Rhine for the opening week.
That is the area of Western Germany that covers Dusseldorf, Dortmund, Cologne and Gelsenkirchen. It’s the only geographic cluster amongst the host cities.
Unfortunatley, i’d have to travel from Dublin Airport (hopefully, they’ll have security queues fixed by 2024) because Belfast International Airport actually isn’t that international.
The schedule for games in that area in the first two matchdays is:
15 June 2024 Group A Cologne
15 June 2024 Group B Dortmund
16 June 2024 Group C Gelsenkirchen
17 June 2024 Group D Dusseldorf
18 June 2024 Group F Dortmund
19 June 2024 Group A Cologne
20 June 2024 Group B Gelsenkirchen
21 June 2024 Group E Dusseldorf
22 June 2024 Group E Cologne
22 June 2024 Group F Dortmund
A game every day for the first week of the competition.
My plan is to fly to Cologne or Dusseldorf for the 14th June 2024, and then travel about over the next three to four days and try to take in as many matches as possible.
By now, fixture lists have been published.
The first thing I can saw is, for fuck sake!!!
I’m going to The Oval on my birthday. I might become the first person in history to get a Football Banning Order for throwing a birthday cake at an opposition player.
The start is generous for Linfield, a great opportunity to get points on the board early on.
It also allows for possible day trips by getting the away games I wanted in August, and on Saturdays (broadcast scheduling permitting).
Whitehead before Carrick away and Carlingford before Newry away. Bring it on.
Talking of that birthday, it’s a milestone one.
I really want to do something special to commemorate it. I’m planning on owning being an old fart.
The plan is a weekend away in Mainland Europe. Ideally a city that I can explore and watch football.
There’s not many options from Belfast because Belfast “International” Airport is shite.
Amsterdam looks the most likely, although Ryanair have just announced some new routes.
One of those is Bergamo, an hour away from Milan, but also home of Atalanta. Great chance for a double header as Bergamo looks nice in it’s own right.
Yes, i’ve already been looking up travel videos on Youtube.
Hit me up with suggestions.
Talking of travel, i’m hoping to get to one of United’s European Group games, as well as the Wolves game in May.
Hopefully, flight prices will be friendly for that first one to make it happen.
I won’t be doing my usual visit to Edinburgh in August as it will be an absolute Covidfest. I’ll try again in 2023.
If you’ve ever been, you’ll know what i’m talking about.
Which is a pity, as the weekend I would have went would have seen a double header of FC Edinburgh v Dunfermline Athletic and Hibs v Hearts. Especially keen to see a game at Meadowbank Stadium, even if it looks grim for football (athletics track and way too big).
Talking of Football Travel, by pure coincidence, a video series i’d watched a few videos on Youtube, Footy Adventures turned up at Windsor Park for this game.
Their video of the match is here.
They also visited Drumahoe. You can see the video here.
You can see my blog from when I visited in November 2019 here.
Meanwhile, a date has been confirmed for the Northern Ireland Programme Fair, Sunday 11th September.
I presume i’ll see you all there.
And finally, Andrew Waterworth announced his retirement, so here’s a flashback to his finest hour (well, fifteen minutes) at Solitude in 2017.