PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : DECEMBER

December 2016 began for me with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Carrick Rangers and record a routine 3-0 win.

The following weekend, was a trip to Clandeboye Park, Linfield’s first competitive game there since February 2009, a routine 2-0 win over Ards.

The games got harder and more dramatic, with a late win over Ballymena United coming the following weekend, ruining David Jeffrey’s first return to Windsor Park.

With Christmas Day falling on a Sunday in 2016, it meant that the Steel and Sons Cup Final was held on Christmas Eve, which I attended. Even more of a bonus was the fact that Linfield Swifts were in it, beating Dundela 3-1 to win the trophy for the first time since 1997.

Two days later came the highlight of the Christmas footballing calendar, Boxing Day. It was a bit crap in comparison to the previous four years.

The month, and the year, ended on a high, with Linfield going to Seaview and getting a vital win in the title race.

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Dundela v Linfield Swifts

Dundela v Linfield Swifts Photo Album

Linfield v Glentoran

Crusaders v Linfield

2016 IN PICTURES – DECEMBER (SO FAR …..)

December began for me with a trip to The Limelight, a venue I would be spending a bit of time at this month, to see Primal Scream in concert.

Two Days later, I was headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield get a routine win over Carrick Rangers.

I then headed out into Belfast to get some photos of a mural of Jack Nicholson

That night, I headed back to The Limelight to see Ocean Colour Scene in concert.

The following weekend, I was Bangor bound to see Linfield take on Ards, and then back to The Limelight (I know, becoming a regular) to see Cast in concert.

The morning after that, I was out on my bike to get some Street Art photos, in Great Victoria Street and a mural of Prince in Botanic.

On the middle Saturday in December, I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield record a late win over Ballymena United.

The weekend before Christmas saw me being busy, taking in Ulster v Connacht for my annual Rugby match, and then the following morning heading to Seaview to see Linfield Swifts win the Steel and Sons Cup.

There’s still a bit of the month left. Two big Linfield matches, against Glentoran and Crusaders. I’m also hoping to get a chance to head to Lisburn to get some Street Art photos.

And then, that will be me for 2016. Don’t worry, there’ll be Camera Adverntures in 2017.

Primal Scream live at The Limelight

Primal Scream live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Jack

Ocean Colour Scene live at The Limelight

Ocean Colour Scene live at The Limelight Photo Album

Ards v Linfield

Cast live at The Limelight

Cast live at The Limelight Photo Album

Great Victoria Street Art

Great Victoria Street Art Photo Album

Prince Mural

Prince Mural Photo Album

Linfield v Ballymena United

Ulster v Connacht

Ulster v Connacht Photo Album

Dundela v Linfield Swifts

Dundela v Linfield Swifts Photo Album

DUNDELA 1-3 LINFIELD SWIFTS 24.12.2016

With Christmas Day falling on a Sunday this year, it meant that the Steel and Sons Cup Final would be played on Christmas Eve this year. Very convenient for me. I’d always been planning to go this year, the fact that Linfield Swifts would be competing this year was a nice bonus.

The opponents would be Dundela, who they beat the last time they won the trophy. Most of Linfield’s team today weren’t born then. It wasn’t that long ago, 1997, it’s just that most of Linfield’s team today were so young.

There wouldn’t have been many that casual observers wouldn’t have recognised, apart from Reece Glendinning, who had the most first-team experience of the Linfield side, a relative veteran at the age of 21, with Stephen Fallon the second most experienced player.

Eamon Scanell and Ryan Strain have both played first-team games for Linfield, as had substitute Jake Moore. You could count them combined on one hand though.

Cameron Stewart was recently an unused substitute for the first-team against Ards.

The main focus would have been on Jonny Frazer, who has also made first-team appearances, and was the hat-trick hero in the Semi-Final win over Crumlin Star.

The reason for Linfield’s team being so young was due to the restrictions on Steel and Sons Cup participation, as players with International caps (Carson, Carroll, Clingan) and League/Cup winners medals (Mulgrew, Callacher, Ward, Waterworth) being unable to play.

And then there’s the fact that the first-time have a slightly big game on Monday.

Linfield’s first-team beat Dundela 3-1 in a friendly in July, not that that game would have a bearing on today’s game.

Dundela had a few familiar faces, with Youtube Star Matty Burrows taking time out from hanging out with Chris Crocker and Zoella, and Matthew Ferguson, son of Linfield’s Academy Director Glenn Ferguson, making it a mixed Christmas for the Ferguson family, regardless of the result.

There wasn’t a lot of opportunities in the early minutes of the game. Cameron Stewart was the focus of Linfield’s attacks, making his presence known to Dundela’s defence.

Dundela’s tackling seemed to be a tribute to the game being held at Seaview but Linfield’s youngsters held firm.

Stewart had Linfield’s best chance when he got in behind Dundela’s defence but fired straight at the keeper.

Eamon Scannell had a long-range shot saved as Linfield began to build pressure on Dundela. They got the goal they deserved when a free-kick fell to Reece Glendinning to fire home from close range. His dad walked past me before the game. He’ll have another Cup Final for his other footballing son in a few months time as well.

Within a minute, Cameron Stewart got the goal he deserved when he scored from close range after his initial shot was saved to put Linfield 2-0 up.

A couple of minutes later, Scannell hit the bar from a free-kick which had resulted from some nervous Dundela defending. It looked like Linfield were going to run away with this.

If anybody knows that a 2-0 lead at half-time isn’t enough, it’s Linfield Swifts, having had to overcome a 2-0 deficit against Crumlin Star in their Semi-Final.

Making two substitutions at half-time, Dundela came out strong at the start of the second-half, hitting the bar, before one of those subs, Jamie Jackson reduced the deficit.

Dundela had possession but didn’t do much with it, Linfield Swifts didn’t look like conceding, before gradually getting back on top again.

Cameron Stewart thought he had made it 3-1, but his goalbound effort was blocked by a defender who got in the way.

There wasn’t long to wait for the clincher, as Adam McCallum made it 3-1 on 71 minutes, heading home from a corner.

Linfield looked more likely to get the next goal as the game neared it’s end, Stewart and Frazer going close.

Dundela knew they were beaten, as Linfield saw out the game to win 3-1 and collect the trophy.

If you believe in omens, the last time Linfield won the Steel and Sons Cup (against Dundela), they beat Crusaders in the County Antrim Shield Final.

In 2017, Christmas will be on a Monday. The last time that happened, in 2006, the Steel and Sons Cup Final was on Saturday 23rd December due to there being no top flight games that day.

A repeat in 2017 would be very convenient.

A few days ago, I blogged about my football watching wishes for 2017. I had a sudden flash of inspiration about something I forgot to include. Hear me out and don’t laugh, i’m being serious with this.

Both France and Italy take their version of the Charity Shield outside their respective countries. France’s version, Trophée des Champions, was held in Austria in front of a crowd of just over 10,000, while Italy’s version, Supercoppa Italiana was played in 12,000 capacity stadium in Qatar.

Must be worth somebody raising an enquiry about Windsor Park hosting one of these some year.

The first of two visits to Seaview this festive period has brought a Linfield win. Hopefully, there’ll be another to end the year next Saturday.

As it’s my last football blog before Christmas, may I take the opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas. Except if you support Glentoran, have an awful one, and an even more awfuler (if that is a word) Boxing Day, a Christmas so awful, it lasts until 7th January.

Linfield’s youth have ended the year with a trophy, time for the seniors to step up and bring a few home in 2017.

Photo Album

2014 Steel and Sons Cup Final