LINFIELD 2-0 CARRICK RANGERS 12.8.2017

After Crusaders win on Friday night, Linfield were already playing catch-up as they kicked-off their opening match of the season, just as they did for 37 out of 38 matches last season.

As Carrick Rangers arrived at Windsor Park, they would face a Linfield side with five changes from their last domestic game, last season’s Irish Cup Final due to injury (Waterworth, Callacher, Clarke) and suspension (Burns, Lowry)

A team who usually struggles on the opening day, with five players missing and facing a team with ten men behind the ball. This had the potential of being a difficult afternoon for Linfield.

While Carrick were winning a lot of headers in the air, Linfield found other routes to get at their goal with low crosses, short corners and balls on the ground. Carrick could handle it, and it looked like a goal was coming.

Niall Quinn had a shot saved while Jordan Stewart fired over, before a low Niall Quinn shot hit the back of the net to put Linfield 1-0 up.

With only 15 minutes on the clock, it was the early goal Linfield needed to avoid getting frustrated.

Andrew Mitchell fired over as Linfield looked for a second goal, while a Jamie Mulgrew cross agonisingly evaded both Paul Smyth and Jordan Stewart when just a touch would have delivered a goal.

As half-time approached, Linfield got a second goal when Kirk Millar headed home from a Niall Quinn cross. That was surely the three points secured.

The second-half was attack against defence again, as Linfield aimed for a 3rd goal that would kill off the game, even though Carrick’s lack of attacking threat so far suggested that 2-0 would be enough.

Robert Garrett and Mark Stafford both had unsuccessful attempts at goal. Stafford was later substituted for Josh Robinson, denying him the opportunity to score against Carrick for the forth successive home game against them.

Linfield looked like getting that 3rd goal when Jordan Stewart won a penalty.

With Lowry, Burns and Waterworth not playing, there was no obvious taker. Paul Smyth had missed the only one he had taken.

Jordan Stewart stepped up and missed it, Carrick’s keeper gathering the ball on the line when it looked like he might accidentally score an own goal.

It was Linfield’s seventh penalty in their last thirteen matches, four of which have been missed. That stat doesn’t include the ridiculous penalty shoot-out against Glentoran in late July.

It didn’t matter as Linfield cruised to a 2-0 win. Carrick had so few attacks, we didn’t get to hear Roy Carroll shout “GET OUT!! GET OUT!!!”

The only disappointment was that Linfield couldn’t get more goals, a four goal win would have put them top. However, Linfield fans will know from last season that being top at the end of matchday 38 is all that matters.

Up next, a trip to Ards.

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EDINBURGH CITY 1-3 MONTROSE 5.8.2017

As you know, when I visit Edinburgh, I like to take in some football while i’m there. I know what you’re thinking – Hibs or Hearts? The answer, was neither, as I headed to Ainslie Park to see Edinburgh City take on Montrose.

I fancied a change and this gave me a chance to visit a new ground for me.

A few years ago, Scotland’s lower leagues were restructured, offering the chance for two of Edinburgh’s smaller clubs Edinburgh City and Spartans a chance to gain promotion to League Two, which Edinburgh City did in 2016 after winning the Lowland League and then beating East Stirlingshire in a Play-Off.

There was one thing that put me off wanting to go and see Edinburgh City. That was the fact they played their home matches at Meadowbank Stadium, which was built for the 1970 Commonwealth Games.

As you will have guessed, this resulted in an athletics track around the pitch and a ground far too big for the team it hosts. A truly grim football experience.

However, it was announced that Meadowbank Stadium was to be redeveloped and, as a result, Edinburgh City would be playing their home games at Ainslie Park, home of Spartans.

The fixture list gave them a home game the weekend I was there. It was a choice of them or Hibs v Partick. I was hoping TV would move the Hibs match and allow me to go to both games, but the news that admission to Edinburgh City would be half price for anyone with a Fringe ticket sealed the deal.

I certainly got lucky going on the weekend I did, with Hearts moving their early home games due to a new main stand being built at Tynecastle. Incidentally, the old main stand at Tynecastle was the only stand in Tynecastle I haven’t been in.

The teams entered the pitch to sunshine and kicked-off in torrential rain. Classic Scottish Summer weather you could say.

Montrose started the game strongly, and then started to dominate. It was only a matter of time before they scored. They did, and then did again a few minutes later. They were hungry for more. Edinburgh City were glad to go in at half-time only 2-0 down.

Half-time was only a relief for Edinburgh City, as Montrose made it 3-0 from a free-kick in the opening minute.

The game was a mismatch, though Edinburgh City did get a consolation late on, a few minutes after having a player sent-off. The match finished 3-1 to Montrose.

I had toyed with staying in Edinburgh until Wednesday. If I did, instead of leaving on the Tuesday morning, I could have seen Hibs v Ayr in the League Cup.

Obviously, I plan on returning to Edinburgh in August 2018. By then, visits to Tynecastle (3 years) and Easter Road (5 years) will be overdue.

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MANCHESTER UNITED 2-1 SAMPDORIA 2.8.2017

A few weeks back, I headed to my first United match of the season, a nice novelty of not having too far to do so, a (relatively) short bus journey to Dublin.

This was my third visit to Lansdowne Road since it was redeveloped. My last one was the 2011 UEFA Cup Final, and my trip had two tenuous United links. I walked past Mike Phelan (in his official club suit) outside the ground, and the winning goal was scored by Radamel Falcao. Whatever happened to him?

It also meant that I would be getting to see some football in Dublin in 2017, five days later than I hoped. Oh, have I got a story for you.

The weekend before, I headed to Dublin for an overnight stay on the Friday, see some Street Art, walkabout and see some football.

The football match I planned to take in was UCD v Cabinteely. I went on UCD’s website and knew to get on the number 11 bus, which was 5 minutes away for about 20 minutes.

So, I got on the number 11 bus, and the Driver confirmed this was going to UCD.

However, when I got off, I discovered I was at DCU, a university, not a football ground. It turns out I had got on the bus in the wrong direction.

It was 7.15pm and I had no hope of reaching the 7.45pm, but there was still some footballing hope as Shamrock Rovers v Bohs kicked-off at 8pm.

I got a bus back to the City Centre and hopped on the Luas.

At 8.15pm and 4 or 5 stops away from Tallaght, I decided to admit defeat and head back to Dublin City Centre.

For future reference, i’ll just get a taxi or ask the Bus Driver five times to make sure he is absolutely sure the bus is going in the right direction.

This match represented an opportunity for me to tick Sampdoria off my 102 Club List.

For me, Sampdoria will always be Vialli, Lombardo, Vierchowod, Pagliuca, Gullit, and the iconic red, white and black stripes across that blue shirt. The current team aren’t quite in the same vintage.

The first save of the game came from David De Gea on his own goal line. From a misplaced Daley Blind backpass. It was very Phil Jones.

Sampdoria were awarded an indirect free-kick for the save, which was blocked, United went on the counter attack and Henrykh Mkhitaryan headed home from a Matteo Darmian cross.

It was one of many instances where Darmian found space out on the left hand side.

Mkhitaryan almost got a second headed goal but he was denied by Sampdoria’s keeper.

Romelu Lukaku fired just wide as he endured a frustrating evening. Thankfully, the goals have started to come in time for competitive games against Real Madrid and West Ham.

The second-half was dominated by substitutions as Antonio Valencia was the only United player to complete 90 minutes.

Ander Herrera had a goal disallowed before Sampdoria equalised when a poor clearance fell to Dennis Praet on the edge of the box.

One of those substitutes introduced, Anthony Martial, was the United player making things happen, and it was no surprise that he was involved in United’s winner, setting up Juan Mata to fire home.

Ander Herrera then tried to emulate Paul Scholes goal against Bradford as United searched for a 3rd goal that would secure the win. They didn’t need it as they were comfortable and in control at 2-1.

The match saw Nemanja Matic make his United debut in a ground he will be playing in for Serbia next month in an eventful week where he signed for United and then celebrated his birthday.

He was everywhere. When Sampdoria passed the ball forward, he was usually intercepting it.

I’ve got two trips to Old Trafford planned in 2017-2018, Bournemouth in December and Watford in May.

Hopefully, when I go to see them, United will be in a position where they have built on an encouraging pre-season, especially when I see them face Watford in May 2018.

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DUNDELA 0-2 LINFIELD 1.8.2017

It has been a busy pre-season for Linfield fans, taking in trips to Wales, San Marino and Scotland before mid-July, which was then followed by a run of friendlies against Bangor, Sheffield United Under 23s, Newry and Glentoran, before a trip to Wilgar Park to take on Dundela, hoping to avenge a defeat to Linfield in a friendly the previous summer, as well as defeat in the Steel and Sons Cup Final on Christmas Eve.

Normally, I would have went to the Bangor game, but a trip to Clandeboye Park in the League in mid August negated the need for me to go to that game. I didn’t go to the Sheffield United game as I don’t usually bother with games against XI teams. By all accounts, I missed out on a good game. Having beaten their Under 23s 5-1, I think it’s only fair that Linfield get invited to Bramall Lane to take on their first team, on the weekend of Tramlines Festival.

I haven’t been to Newry since 2010 and it would have been nice to head over, but it was a weeknight and I was heading to Dublin the next day and it felt pointless going half the way, coming back and then going the full way.

I wasn’t at the Glentoran game due to being in Dublin, but I did get a laugh when I heard Linfield won 1-0 on penalties.

In the early minutes of this game, Linfield had a lot of pressure, with Jordan Stewart, Andrew Mitchell and Cameron Stewart all having chances to score.

The goal eventually came when Stephen Lowry scored from close ranger.

Within minutes, Dundela almost equalised when a corner was thunderously headed against the bar from a corner from close range.

They were soon made to pay for not taking their chance when Cameron Stewart made it 2-0, just when it started to look like he was going to have a frustrating evening.

Not much happened in the second-half, apart from Dundela hitting the bar from a long range shot, and Ryan Strain missing when he was put through, not knowing if to pass or shot, doing both and ending up doing neither.

Ross Clarke came on in the second-half. A player I rate highly, he has been gradually getting game time as he continues his recovery after two years on injury misery. If he can recover his form of 2014-2015, it will be like a new signing, and what a signing.

Elsewhere, the game away to Crusaders has been put back from 2nd September to 6th September due to the Scottish Challenge Cup. It’s good that the club have been proactive in getting a new date as soon as possible.

We’ll be away in that round. Hopefully, not too far to travel and a Saturday game, or else there will be some squad rotation in the Irn Bru Cup.

The fallout from the Celtic tie came through with Linfield getting a relatively small fine and having to close a section of the South Stand for the next European home game. It’s fair to say, it could have been a lot worse.

Meanwhile, Celtic fans got their club into trouble for flying banners proclaiming “Brendan’s undefeated army” in a competition they lost five times in last season, as well as “Paying tribute” to road signs in County Armagh.

Interestingly, it took a while for this to be a story. The match was on the Wednesday night, but it didn’t become a story in some publications until Friday or Saturday. It’s almost as if they were shamed into doing so once they realised it wasn’t going to go away.

It seems that some journalists can embarrass themselves by being silent just as much as they did when they were vocal in the build-up to the tie.

I saw pictures of the banners on social media while the game was going on. There’s no way they couldn’t have been aware of what was happening.

It is worth noting that The Scotsman covered the banners as part of their report of the match on the Thursday. After a relatively small fine, Celtic will be breathing just as big a sigh as Linfield after their UEFA punishment.

And talking of press coverage, Linfield have indicated that they have received a letter from the Daily Record for printing lies (sorry, a “memory lapse”) told by Joe Miller and appear to be satisfied with it.

I am aware that the apology was made privately on a business to business basis, however, the claims were not. The lack of a public statement to this effect by the Daily Record in either their print or online editions does not resolve this matter satisfactorily for a lot of Linfield fans.

In the 30th July edition of Sunday Life, they doorstepped a supporter who had been banned for something that happened at the Celtic away game.

I don’t know the guy and I don’t know what he did, but there is no merit in this. Something happened and he has been punished by Linfield, and the law of the land. There is no life left in this story. He did something, and he has been punished for it. That should be the matter closed, especially as it looks as if he isn’t going to appeal against either punishment.

There is no issue with his punishments being reported, but doorstepping him at his job? Really?

The fact a lot of comments, when the story appeared online, began with “I support xxxxx, but …..” tells you all you need to know.

Attention was directed towards the start of a new League season begins with Carrick Rangers visiting Windsor Park where Linfield would line up with at least five changes from last season’s Irish Cup Final due to injuries (Callacher, Clarke, Waterworth) and suspensions (Lowry, Burns)

The four new signings over the summer have added quality to Linfield’s squad, which we expect to see the benefits of it over the course of a season.

We didn’t expect it to come in the first League match of the season.

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MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : IRISH SOCCER MAGAZINE – FEBRUARY 1996

The Jack Charlton era has just ended, but it is Paul Campbell of St Patrick’s Athletic and Jason Sherlock of UCD who are the cover stars of this edition of Irish Soccer Magazine.

The editorial focuses on Cork City, who are facing financial problems, and are following in the footsteps of previous clubs in the city in this regard.

Charlton’s time in charged is reviewed, with his legacy being described as winning the Irish footballing public over to their national team. They also look at contenders to replace him, withKenny Dalglish, Joe Kinnear, Mick McCarthy, Ronnie Whelan and Dave Bassett all in the frame.

Whoever the new manager is, their first competitive game will be a World Cup Qualifier in Leichtenstein, after the draw for France 98, with the focus being on Macedonia as a potential dark horse in the group.

Charlton’s departure came at the end of a year when Republic of Ireland slipped from 6th to 19th in the UEFA Rankings, not as dramatic as Sweden, who fell from joint 1st to 24th.

Despite the fact that Republic of Ireland didn’t qualify, there is a fixture list for Euro 96 in their foreign news section, which claims that Manchester United are interesting in signing South African defender Mark Fish.

One team who might not be at France 98 is Nigeria, who have been threatened with expulsion after withdrawing from the recent African Nations Cup in South Africa.

There is a feature on new Finn Harps manager Charlie McGeever, who has just replaced Patsy McGowan, while Buckley Park, home of Kilkenny City is the subject of the monthly ground profile.

Jimmy Conway, a former Republic Of Ireland international, is now living in the USA. He talks to Irish Soccer Magazine about life in the States, revealing that they expect to win the 2002 World Cup.

The coverage of Charlton isn’t all fawning, with one writer stating that his reign did not boost the domestic game at all during his decade in charge.

There is an interview with the head of General Motors, Arnold O’Byrne, who reveals that their sponsorship of the Republic of Ireland team is as much to do with his love of football, as it is a business decision.

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : IRISH SOCCER MAGAZINE – OCTOBER 1998

Paul Doolin of Bohemians and Denis Irwin are the cover stars of Irish Soccer Magazine, which you could have purchased for IR£1.50 at Tuthills. Sorry, I couldn’t get the sticker off.

The editorial focuses on Pat Dolan’s disillusionment with the League Of Ireland and his threat to quit, hoping that he doesn’t.

There is a preview of Republic Of Ireland’s forthcoming Euro 2000 away to Yugoslavia, stating that a draw would be a more than acceptable result.

That match would be postponed because of unrest in The Balkans, eventually being played in November 1998.

In foreign news, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal are said to be involved in the creation of a European Super League.

There is a feature on TV coverage of football in Republic Of Ireland, as a new commercial broadcaster, TV3, is launched, and this is welcomed, as it means competition for RTE will mean they have to raise their game.

As well as looking forward to Yugoslavia, there is a look back at Republic Of Ireland’s opening Euro 2000 Qualifier, a 2-0 win over World Cup Semi-Finalists Croatia.

Eamonn Gibson has a column on British football, where he writes that the Bosman Rule and foreign import at other clubs have caused Manchester United to stand still. There is also a feature on the possibility of Wimbledon relocating to Dublin, after a recent poll claimed Dubliners were in favour of it.

There is a preview of domestic games in October, the highlight being the clash between St Patrick’s Athletic and Cork City at the end of the month.

There is also a preview of the games in September, a month that saw Brian Kerr awarded Manager Of The Month.

Cork City were recently in European action, and their defeat in the European Cup Winners Cup to CSKA Kiev gets a page of coverage.

In Dublin, St Patrick’s Athletic have announced plans to leave Richmond Park to build a new stadium at nearby St Michael’s Flats within the next five years, while the FAI have announced plans for a 40,000 all seater stadium, as well as redevelopment for Tolka Park and Dalymount Park.

The new commercial broadcaster TV3 gets a feature, focusing on their proposed football coverage, having bought the rights to Republic Of Ireland’s away Euro 2000 Qualifiers.

LINFIELD 0-2 CELTIC 14.7.2017

It had been a long wait, but Linfield and Celtic belatedly got to play their 2nd Round European Cup tie, a few days after the designated matchday.

In recent years, Linfield have played UEFA Cup games on a Tuesday and a Wednesday, so a European Cup tie on a Friday shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise. Linfield just play European football whenever we feel like it. Monday lunchtime next season?

With the match taking place on a Friday, it meant both teams went into the match still digesting the draw for the next round, which offered Linfield and Celtic the incentive of a tie against Dundalk or Rosenborg, with the home leg first.

Linfield and Celtic have both faced Dundalk and Rosenborg in the past in Europe, so whatever the result of both ties, there was going to be a reunion for the winner in the next round.

Linfield went into this game hoping to end a rotten run of results against Scottish teams, after friendly defeats against Rangers (numerous), Kilmarnock (2011), Cowedenbeath (2014), Hearts (2017) and a Scottish Challenge Cup defeat to Queen Of The South last year. The last win I can think of was a 1-0 friendly win over Hearts in 2003.

The last time I saw a Scottish team play in Europe, they lost 5-0, so I was hoping that would be an omen.

Fans arriving at Windsor Park hoping to see a shock certainly got one, but not on the pitch, as they arrived to the sight of a couple of hundred Celtic fans in The Kop, who had bought tickets for the North Stand but were granted amnesty and allocated a section of The Kop.

The game began with Celtic having a lot of possession and pressure, unsurprsingly. It looked like it was going to be a long afternoon/teatime/evening for Linfield’s players. I’m not sure what the correct terminology is for a 5pm kick-off.

It looked like being a long 90 minutes for those on Linfield’s left, as Jame Forrest was getting a lot of joy and space down Celtic’s right. Unsurprisingly, Celtic were looking to make the most of this.

Scott Brown was lucky to get away with a talking to after making a scissor tackle after he lost possession. Brown strikes me as the kid at school who picks on kids three years younger than him but runs crying to the Teacher is someone a year older tells him to cut it out. If he was as good as he thinks he is, he would have signed for a mediocre English team like Aston Villa, Southampton or West Brom five years ago.

On 17 minutes, Celtic took the lead when a Scott Sinclair header was deflected in. It was at the end I was sat and it looked like an own goal to me, though most media outlets are giving it to Sinclair, although Sky Sports have credited it as a Mark Haughey own goal.

It didn’t matter, Celtic were in front.

After the goal, we finally got to see Linfield as an attacking force, with Mark Stafford having an effort saved and a Paul Smyth run being halted by a cynical Scott Brown foul. Europe or Domestic, it seems that Paul Smyth is the target of cynical fouls.

Linfield’s hopes of getting an equaliser took a blow when Tom Rogic scored after running onto a low drilled corner. It was, if you will, the “Tottenham Mid 90s” corner goal.

Ironically, David Healy once scored a goal like that at Windsor Park, albeit in front of The Kop, set up by recently departed Linfield player Sammy Clingan.

Another irony, was that Linfield were on the end of a quick goal blitz, having done the same to Glenavon, Coleraine (x2) and Cliftonville in the last four games of last season.

Despite Celtic’s dominance, they didn’t have Linfield on the ropes at 0-0, it was frustrating to fall behind to two bad goals.

The first goal was unlucky, the second goal showed why you have to be switched on at all times at this level.

While there might be a dispute about wether he scored Celtic’s first goal, Scott Sinclair was denied twice by Roy Carroll towards the end of the first-half as he went about making sure he could be credited with a goal beyond dispute.

The first save came when he was played in behind Linfield’s defence. He really should have scored.

Leigh Griffiths had a goal disallowed in the early minutes of the second-half, as Linfield won some set pieces, hoping to make one count and get back into the game.

The was one moment at a Linfield set piece that summed up the difference at this level. A set piece was headed clear and was going back to Jamie Mulgrew. As he waited for the ball to come to him, a Celtic player sniffed the danger and got to the ball first. In the Irish League, Mulgrew strikes the ball into the back of the net when it goes to him.

The closest Linfield came to scoring was when a rogue backheader from a Celtic defender concerned Craig Gordon enough into making a diving save, while a low cross into Celtic’s box caused concern for Celtic, with tow Linfield attackers agonisingly unable to get to the ball to put it in.

You got the feeling however, that if Linfield had pulled a goal back, Celtic would at worst have held on for a 2-1 win, or got a 3rd goal to restore the two goal lead.

Once it went to 2-0, it was a case of job done for Celtic

That, and the fact that Roy Carroll was on form.

In the last quarter of the game, the referee went a bit card happy, including a long overdue yellow card for Scott Brown.

One of those yellow cards came for Leigh Griffiths for timewasting as he was evading bottles being thrown at him as he took a corner.

It was all at the corner where South Stand and Kop meet. I just fucking despair, I really do. There’s not much I can add to what has already been said. I just wish people like that would just fuck off, as they give people who are no better than us the opportunity to stick the boot in.

That includes certain media outlets acting with a sense of moral superiority that they forfeited with their antics in the aftermath of the draw.

I’m not going to go into some “Superfan” rant, we all support our team in different ways. The way they were “Supporting” the team yesterday is not the way to do it.

I won’t be defending them. Whatever punishment they get from Linfield and the law of them land, it won’t be enough. Fuck em.

You can guarantee they won’t be there when Linfield are playing their next home European match at Mourneview Park. If we’re lucky.

However, such behaviour is not a Linfield problem, or even a football problem, it’s an overall societal problem. If any politician even tries to lecture us, they’re your hooligans and much as they are ours.

I also noted that an MLA from Delivering Unity Promptly bought a ticket for the Linfield end and tried to enter the ground via the Boucher Road. A perfect metaphor for Northern Ireland politicians trying to get involved in football.

There are a few things that should be noted and not overlooked. It was a small percentage of the crowd. They were booed by their own when the incidents happened. The reaction on Social Media from Linfield fans, has been total condemnation. Nobody is supporting them, and rightly so.

A word, on Eventsec. I went to the game straight from work. I took a backpack to work (to hold scarf, ticket and some food) and wasn’t even searched going in. So clearly, it wouldn’t have taken a lot of effort to smuggle a bottle in.

Unfortunately, i’m not going to the second leg in Glasgow on Wednesday. Hopefully, the Scottish Challenge Cup draw will give us a kind away game to make up for that.

If you are going, enjoy yourself. My advice would be to check out the Street Art and visit Missing, a record store beside Central Station.

If you’re heading over on Tuesday and are groundhopping minded, all I can say is Merry Christmas, as there is a full fixture list in the Scottish League Cup Group Stages.

There’s no game in Glasgow, but Albion Rovers, Dumbarton, Kilmarnock, Morton and St Mirren are all under an hour away from Glasgow.

I’ll be in Edinburgh in a few weeks, so at least i’ll be getting some taste of Scottish football, most likely Edinburgh City, who have Craig Beattie playing for them, a tenuous link to both Celtic and Linfield.

I’m over for the Fringe Festival, which has some football offerings. I’m doing my “To See List” and hope to see a stage version of The Damned United, while i’m going to have Don’t Cry For Me Kenny Dalglish on my Back-Up List.

Linfield’s inevitible exit means they won’t be postponing recently announced friendlies away to Newry (27th July) and Dundela (1st August).

Haven’t been to Newry since 2010, but undecided if i’m going to that as I head to Dublin the following morning for an overnight stay.

I was supposed to be doing a day trip to Dublin yesterday, but decided i’d be better off going to Linfield v Celtic. So, i’m going to go to Dublin in two weeks time instead.

The plan for Dublin is Street Art and catch a football match. If I was in Dublin last night, I would have went to see Shelbourne v Wexford. Wexford won 2-1 if you care.

When i’m in Dublin in two weeks, i’m hoping to catch UCD v Cabinteely.

Then i’ll be back in Dublin (briefly) the following midweek for Manchester United v Sampdoria, with Dundela v Linfield sandwiched inbetween.

It could have been Dundalk rather than Dundela. Could be worse, could have blown a 3-0 lead in the UEFA Cup against a team from Latvia.

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MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : NI FOOTBALL – WINTER 2008

David Healy is the cover star as he gives an interview to NI Football during the Winter of 2008.

In news, Martin Donnelly of Crusaders wins Player Of The Month, Roy Coyle celebrated his retirement at a dinner attended by Howard Kendall, and Brendan Rodgers has just been appointed manager of Watford.

Elsewhere in news, David Healy has just launched his own DVD.

Keith Gillespie gets interviewed having just joined Charlton Athletic on loan from Sheffield United.

Also getting a profile is Jonny Evans, having just broken into the Manchester Untied team in the early months of 2008-2009.

Glentoran had just reached the final of the Setanta Cup, losing narrowly to Cork City, 2-1, and this match gets a full page review.

David Healy gets a double page interview, revealing that Jonny Evans could be Norther Ireland’s key player during World Cup Qualification.

Healy’s strike partner at international Kyle Lafferty gets profiled, after enduring a difficult opening months to his career at Rangers.

Another player getting profiled at a new club is George McCartney, although he is in his second spell at Sunderland.

Steven Robinson has just announced his retirement aged 33, and is profile after taking a job with the IFA coaching underage teams.

There is a profile of another 33 year old making his mark in coaching, recently appointed Coleraine manager David Platt.

There is a full page profile of Linfield player Paul Munster, who has returned to Northern Ireland after spending time playing in Sweden, Czech Republic and Canada.

There is a double page profile on the comparisons between set-ups in the Irish League and League Of Ireland.

At Junior Level, there are club profiles of Killymoon Rangers, Lurgan Celtic and Newington.

Staying in North Belfast, there is a feature on Cliftonville, who have just won the County Antrim Shield.

 

LINFIELD 1-4 HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN 8.7.2017

2017 has been a year for Scottish visitors coming to Windsor Park, with Ice Hockey and Rugby fans having already taking in some football this year while following their respective teams in Belfast, as Linfield welcomed the first of two Scottish visitors to Windsor Park this week.

With Hearts visiting Windsor Park today, it gave Celtic scouts the opportunity to look at two upcoming opponents, with Hearts set to visit Celtic on the opening day of the season in a few weeks time.

Tartan visitors to Windsor Park won’t end on Friday, with Linfield set to be given a home tie when they enter the Scottish Challenge Cup in September.

I don’t usually bother with home friendlies, but three Northern Ireland players in the Hearts side made this match a bit more appealing, as fans at Windsor Park were treated to the sight of Kyle Lafferty in club action, a rare sight over the past three years.

For Hearts, it was the second game in a short tour of Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland, having lost 1-0 to St Patrick’s Athletic on Wednesday.

If you were a Hearts fan travelling over for the two games, the trip presented some great groundhopping opportunities.

You could have flown into Dublin on Wednesday, gone to your side’s match against St PAtrick’s Athletic, and then stayed in Dublin, taking in Shamrock Rovers v Stjarnan on Thursday, and then gone to either Cabinteely or UCD’s home match on Friday, before travelling up to Belfast for this one.

I did hear one Hearts fan on my way in saying he was at a Second Division game (I couldn’t work out which game he went to) but he did describe it as “Absolute fucking murder”

There wasn’t a dramatic change to Linfield’s team but there were starting opportunities for Andrew Mitchell, Jordan Stewart, Robert Garrett and Kirk Millar, as Linfield prepared for the game against Celtic in a 4-5-1 (4-3-3 when attacking) formation.

The absence of Jimmy Callacher, rested in the two games against La Fiorita due to injury concerns, suggests that he is still a doubt for the Celtic game.

Hearts made a good start to the game, with Kyle Lafferty missing a glorious opportunity after an attack started by a misplaced Robert Garrett pass, when his shot hit the sidenetting when he should have scored. The Windsor Park crowd weren’t as sympathetic as they would have been if he was wearing the green of Northern Ireland.

Jamie Walker had a shot go wide during this early spell of pressure.

It was Linfield who took the lead when a poor defensive header was seized on by Jamie Mulgrew, who fired home from the edge of the box.

On 26 minutes, Hearts equalised when a shot from outside the box from Harry Cochrane beat Roy Carroll.

As half-time approached, a header from Jamie Walker put Hearts 2-1 up, a lead they took into the break.

Linfield made a good start to the second-half, having a lot of pressure on Hearts goal, getting a lot of joy down their right and forcing Hearts defenders into blocks and clearances.

Linfield almost equalised by accident when a Paul Smyth cross almost went straight in, with Hearts keeper being forced into an acrobatic save at the expense of a corner.

Against the run of play, Esmael Goncalves was able to hold off his man and get enough space to make it 3-1 and secure the win for Hearts.

By this stage, Linfield had utilised their bench, giving much needed game time to players who didn’t play against La Fiorita.

Most pleasing was the appearance of Paul Smyth, who went off injured in San Marino.

A free-kick hit the wall but fell perfectly for Cole Stockton to finish from close range to give Hearts a flattering 4-1 lead.

Regular readers will know I go to Edinburgh every August and try to take in as many games as possible.

I won’t be at Tynecastle with Hearts playing their opening games away from home due to a new Main Stand being built.

The old Main Stand was the only stand at Tynecastle I haven’t been in. Hopefully, when I do go to Tynecastle again, i’ll take in a match in the new stand.

The matches while i’m there are Hibs v Partick and Edinburgh City v Montrose.

I was hoping Sky or BT would help me out and enable me to see two matches, but i’ve got a choice to make. At the moment, i’m leaning towards Edinburgh City as it will give me a new ground to visit.

The rearrangement of the Linfield v Celtic match meant I had to cancel my day trip to Dublin. Thankfully, my hotel has accommodated me changing to 28th July.

I’ll be doing the usual Street Art and Football combo, and the match i’m planning to go to is UCD v Cabinteely, meaning that the only Dublin ground I haven’t been to is Cabinteely’s.

And now, to Celtic.

Linfield were competitive today and held their own, despite the score.

Being competitive against Hearts and being competitive against Celtic are two totally different things.

It will be a challenge, and we’ll have to rise it.

However, Linfield had to rise to a challenge just to be in this season’s European Cup.

Photo Album

Hearts v Aberdeen 2011

Hearts v Tottenham Hotspur 2011

Hibs v Hearts 2012

Hearts v Hibs 2014

Hearts v Partick Thistle 2015

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : NI FOOTBALL – AUTUMN 2008

It’s a new era for Irish League football, as the top flight is reduced from 16 clubs to 12, with Michael Gault and David Rainey being the cover stars.

Northern Ireland have just started their campaign to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, and there is a full page review of their opening games against Slovakia and Czech Republic, where they only got one point from those two games.

Prior to that, Northern Ireland travelled to Scotland, and this game also got reviewed, as well as supporters experience of the trip.

Aaron Hughes gets interviewed, telling NI Football that he enjoys living in London now that he plays for Fulham, having been an Aston Villa player the last time he spoke to them.

From one Northern Ireland player who used to wear claret and blue to one who does, there is an interview with Burnley striker Martin Paterson.

Iain Dowie also reviews those opening two World Cup Qualifiers, stating that Northern Ireland really missed Kyle Lafferty in those two games.

Irish League sides in Europe during the summer of 2008 also gets reviewed and analysed.

There was a story which was a load of balls. The IFA agreed a deal with Umbro to supply matchballs. In competitions, you could win a pair of Umbro boots endorsed by Peter Thompson.

Roy Walker gets a double page interview, having just been appointed as Ballymena United manager, a year after a two day stint as Glentoran manager.

Relegated on a technicality, there is a full page feature on Portadown, as they aim to return to the top flight at the first time of asking.

There is also a double page feature on Northern Ireland’s underage sides, as they prepare for a busy run of fixtures.

Tim Mouncey is interviewed, spilling the beans on his team-mates, revealing that Andy Hunter is the grumpiest player at Portadown.

Warren Feeney gets interviewed having signed for Dundee United, and his ambitious to win trophies at Tannadice.

There is also a full page feature on newly promoted Bangor, who have just made Irish League history by playing in the first game to be played on a Sunday, against Glentoran at The Oval.

There are also interviews with Peter Thompson (Stockport County) and Steven Davis (Rangers, loan move made permanent) as they begin the season at new clubs.