NORTHERN IRELAND 0-1 POLAND 12.6.2016

According to Google, in order to get from Guadalajara in Mexico to Nice in France, it takes 15 hours and 55 minutes with a stop-off in Houston. The longest it will take, is 21 hours with stop-offs in Atlanta and Rome.

Someone should have told the Northern Ireland team, it took them 30 years, to the day.

Unsurprisingly, players and fans were determined to make up for lost time. Northern Ireland fans had been in the city for days in advance, befriending their Polish rivals.

The Polish fans were even singing their own version of one of Northern Ireland’s songs. Instead of “the Ulster boys, making all the noise”, it was “Everywhere we go, Lewandowski goal”

With some justification, he was the top scorer in qualification (equaling David Healy’s record from Euro 2008 with two less games played) as well as banging them in for Bayern Munich.

Fans reached the stadium via a free Shuttle Bus from the City Centre, which left you off a 30 minute walk from the stadium.

The scenery around the stadium was fantastic, some stunning views. The problem was, that’s all there was around the stadium. There wasn’t really much else.

So, I headed into the ground as the weather in Nice was what meteorologists call Drinking In Botanic Weather. Unfortunately, vendors in the stadium ran out of stock of overpriced (€4 a bottle) bottled water. You’d think they might have foreseen this.

The match kicked-off and Northern Ireland were nervous. They hadn’t been this nervous for a while.

Poland had most of the possession and chances in the first-half. Michael McGovern was the Northern Ireland player who was getting the most touches of the ball.

When Northern Ireland’s outfield players got the ball, there didn’t seem to be options to get it forward.

It felt like a Polish goal was inevitible, but Northern Ireland managed to hold out to half-time with a 0-0 score. There was no way they would get away with another 45 minutes like this.

Just when you were looking at milestone minutes to get to to aim to keep out the Poles, Poland took the lead early in the second-half when Arek Milik got enough space in the box to set himself up for a shot and fire home. It was as deserved for Poland as it was disappointing for Northern Ireland.

Instead of trying to stay in the game, Northern Ireland were now aiming to get back into the game.

It looked more likely that Poland would make it 2-0.

As the game neared it’s end, Northern Ireland had a go. They had Poland worried, but not hanging on for life.

Conor Washington looked like he was running through, but Poland’s keeper was straight out to deny him.

Steven Davis got free from a low free-kick but lost his footing.

Poland were able to hold out and get a vital win.

Northern Ireland didn’t play awful, but they could have played so much better.

Supporters left the stadium to find the Shuttle Bus back to Nice City Centre. They eventually found it after a 30 minute walk.

Supporters queued up in a line which had no clear marking as to where the start was. Buses just stopped where they like. It was pot luck if it stopped near you. Buses were overcrowded. People were angry. Thankfully, it didn’t spill over.

To make matters worse, there were no amenities for supporters. Nowhere to get a bottle of water or even somewhere to eat. It was an utter farce.

The last time i’d seen scenes like this was trying to get back to Dublin from Slane after seeing Oasis in 2009.

I eventually got onto a bus at 9.30pm, just over 90 minutes after the final whistle. That is nowhere near acceptable.

Allianz Riviera is a brilliant stadium and Nice is a brilliant city, but you have to question the wisdom of making it a host city with such poor infrastructure.

It is interesting to note that Nice is one of two (the other being Lille) Euro 2016 host cities that didn’t host games in France 98, with Nantes and Montpellier missing out this them.

On the basis of this farce, they can feel hard done by at missing out.

Fast forward four days, and the weather had changed to more Northern Ireland Weather by the game Northern Ireland faced Ukraine in Lyon.

Feeling at home, they won 2-0.

It games them a great chance of making the Second Round. They’ll get there if they can beat Germany. They might even get there as a best 3rd Placed team. We’re all mathematicians now.

Poland was a false start, Ukraine was when Northern Ireland really got going.

It just dawned on me that this was the 9th Northern Ireland match outside Northern Ireland that i’d been to (6 away, 3 neutral) and they had yet to win any of them.

I’m considering surrendering my passport until 11th July. If you see me at an airport between now and 10th July, feel free to try and stop me boarding a plane.

Hopefully, by this time next week, the Euro 2016 campaign will be still ongoing.

Photo Album

PARIS/NICE/LONDRES

This was a trip i’d been waiting a long time for. In fact, probably since 2010, when it was announced that France would be hosting Euro 2016. I’d be going regardless even if Northern Ireland didn’t qualify.

I’d never been to France before. In fact, i’d barely been to Mainland Europe. Subconsciously perhaps, i’d been saving my first French trip for this.

To get to France from Northern Ireland, there were only really three options, with direct flights to Bordeaux, Nice and Paris, though a route to Lyon was added earlier this year.

When the schedule of the tournament was announced, Paris was a no-brainer. The first four days of the tournament would see two games in Paris, one in Lens and one in Lille. Lille and Lens are both one hour away from Paris.

Last summer, there was an open draw for neutral tickets. I applied for a game in Lens on 11th June, a game in Lille on 12th June and a game in Paris on 13th June.

I sat eating my lunch one day last summer, when an e-mail came through from UEFA. The Subject Box said my application was Partially Successful. I sat staring at it, trying to make sense of it. Partially Successful?, that means i’ve got a ticket for at least one match. I opened the e-mail to check that was the case.

Monday 13th June 2016, 1800 hours, Stade De France, E3 v E4. I had a ticket for this match. I didn’t know who I would be seeing, but I would be going to a match at Euro 2016.

On the day the flights went on sale, I jumped in and got a bargain. I’d be going out on Thursday 8th and returning back on Tuesday 14th. With no flights from Paris to Belfast on a Tuesday, I booked to return back by London. An evening flight, spend the day in London. Might as well make the most of it.

The day of the draw came, and I had written down what every game would be, and where. I knew where C1 would be playing, I knew where F4 would be playing. My eyes were on E3 and E4.

There were two games I didn’t want. A Saturday night game in Marseille or a Sunday teatime game in Nice.

I had taken a gamble. If Northern Ireland were in Group F, i’d be flying back on the day they play their first game.

Northern Ireland came out in Group C. If it was C2, it was a Sunday night in Lille, and a 50,000 capacity stadium. C3 or C4, and it was the game in Nice, a 6 hour train journey away from Paris.

I couldn’t believe, the one game I didn’t want, and Northern Ireland got it.

My group came out, Group E, and it was Republic Of Ireland, and they were E3, the game I would be going to.

This was like an episode of Give My Head Peace.

It would turn out that Republic Of Ireland would be playing Sweden. I consoled myself with the fact i’d be getting to see Zlatan in the flesh.

I had resigned myself that i’d have to settle for watching Northern Ireland v Poland in a pub in Paris. Only briefly, I decided that I was going to Nice. This was too big to miss. I booked the last hotel room, and began to look at trains.

Nine months after booking the trip, the big day arrived. It felt like it would never come. I was even tempted to do that Facebook cliche of tagging myself as being in The Lagan Bar.

During that nine month period, a Francophile friend had been giving my advice and some key phrases. The one word i’d be hearing and saying most over the weekend would be billet, which means ticket.

My first billet, would be from Charles De Gaulle Airport to Gare Du Nord. Even though it was peak commuter time, we were squashed in on the train, with barely any room to put my luggage. It just seemed logical to me that a train serving the airport should have luggage storage facilities. The French must travel light.

As I got off at Gare Du Nord, I began to follow the directions to my accommodation, to find the Rue it was on. That’s French for street by the way. I had taxi drivers shouting at me to give them my custom, giving me sob stories about how they need work in these tough times, before quoting me €45 for a journey that is no more than ten minutes. They didn’t really grasp the correlation. I decided to walk it.

I found my accommodation, after navigating streets filled with binbags piling up and having to dodge smokers at a rate which is worse than Belfast, an impressive feat considering that Belfast City Centre is a smoke riddled shithole.

I have to say, this wasn’t the best first impression of Paris.

I then decided to have a walk around Paris and my impression got better. I checked out some Street Art on shutters. It was late enough for shops to be closed, but still daylight, a perfect combination.

I had planned to do a Street Art Tour but I wasn’t able to commit to the time (it only left on a Saturday morning, and I wasn’t sure if my Saturday morning would be in Paris or Lens), preferring to stumble upon pieces.

Friday was spent wandering around Paris. I bought myself an all day Metro ticket. I had a brief visit to Parc Des Princes to see what it was like, but it was heavily cordoned off. From there, I headed to the Saint Germain region, having a look around the shops.

A lot of the shops were very high end clothes stores that would attract the likes of France’s suavest men such as Francois Mitchele and Jacques Fullerton.

Friday night was the opening game of Euro 2016, France v Romania. The cheapest ticket for this was three figures. I decided to head to Stade De France to take in the atmosphere and try to pick up a cheap ticket.

The fact that tickets were still on general sale on the day of the game suggested this could be a Buyer’s Market the closer you got to kick-off.

I was planning to wait until 8.45pm (kick-off was at 9pm) before trying and would go no higher than €60. This wasn’t the game I headed out for, it would be no loss to me. I could find a pub and watch it there.

At around 8.30pm, I got approached by a tout (the fact I was milling about was probably a giveaway) who offered me a €195 ticket for €150. I said €60 and we settled on €80. For the extra €20, I was getting in the ground earlier and ensuring I would see all of the game.

Not only did I get to see all of the game, I was even in the ground in time for the opening ceremony. I’m not sure if that was a good or a bad thing, getting to witness David Guetta telling people to make some noise and wave their hands. What a showman.

France won the match 2-1, and everyone went home happy. Especially me, who discovered a shortcut to my accommodation from Gare Du Nord, and some Street Art within the station.

Saturday’s original plan was to go to Lens to try and get a ticket for Albania v Switzerland. Upon seeing that it would cost €70 for a one hour journey, I decided against it. Especially disappointing as SNCF had promised special discount prices for fans travelling to and from Paris.

I then walked around Paris some more, finding myself in an area called Le Republique, as well as stumbling upon some Street Art around the back of Gare Du Nord.

I had planned to watch Slovakia v Wales in the Fanzone at the Eiffel Tower, but I took a wrong turn on the RER and missed it totally. Saturday night was spent watching the first-half of England v Russia and having a bite to eat before heading for an early night.

The reason why I was having a early night, is because I needed to be up early to get a 0720 train to Nice. I thought i’d be the only one on the train, but it was packed, mostly Northern Ireland fans.

I found my hotel in Nice and checked in, relaxing for a bit before heading to the stadium.

The only way to get to the stadium was via a free shuttle bus from the City Centre, which dropped fans off a thirty minute walk from the ground.

The match I was in Nice for, was Northern Ireland v Poland. The stadium was fantastic, as was the scenery around it. The problem was, there was nothing else around the ground.

The match itself was a disappointing 1-0 defeat for Northern Ireland. Afterwards, I headed to get my bus back to the City Centre. What I saw, was utter chaos.

There was a line of people, but no queue. Basically, the bus parked wherever it liked, meaning it was pure luck if you were able to get onto a bus, a bus which was usually filled over capacity.

The match finished just before 8pm, and I didn’t get onto a City Centre bound bus until 9.30pm. There were still a lot of people waiting for a bus when I got mine.

It really ruined my plans for the evening. I’d planned on being in the City Centre by 9pm and watching a bit of the Germany v Ukraine match.

When I booked a hotel room in Nice, the plan was to head back to Paris the next morning. Due to the extortionate prices, I got on an earlier train just after midnight.

Even though I wouldn’t be sleeping in Nice, I still got value out of the room as it allowed me to drop my stuff off, relax, and get showered ahead of my train journey.

From what I saw of Nice, it looks like a city I would love to visit in full one day. There is the potential of some decent sport watching, with OGC Nice in France’s top flight, with Monaco nearby, as well as Toulon in Top 14 Rugby.

I had a look out of curiousity, and unfortunately the flights are seasonal (April to October. I’d prefer to go in February)

Back in Paris, and a wee lie-in on the Monday, it was to the Stade De France to see Republic Of Ireland v Sweden, before getting something to eat, and then beginning to pack up, ahead of an early morning Eurostar to London.

To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed with France. I found Paris to be filthy, the public transport to be incompetent (The time of my train out of Nice was put back by twenty minutes without being told), police and stewards to be power crazed, and taxis to be a rip-off.

I won’t be rushing back, but don’t rule it out maybe one day.

It’s a pity, as there is the potential for a decent Football Weekend in Paris to be had, with PSG and Red Star, as well as Lille, Lens, Amiens, Reims nearby.

So Tuesday, was spent in London, as I flew back from there.

I’ve been to London before, so I knew where I wanted to go to, especially with only a day on my hands.

I headed to Camden, taking in Camden Market and getting some Street Art photos, before heading to Soho, to visit a shop called Vintage Magazine Shop, which is as it says.

I had a look around but found it too expensive for my liking, for someone who considers themselves a hobbyist rather than a collector.

On that note, I can exclusively reveal that there will be a new series of The Magazine Archive in January 2017. Keep an eye out for that.

It’s still a shop worth visiting, but I wouldn’t consider buying anything there. I’ll stick to rummaging for bargains in Empire Exchange whenever i’m in Manchester.

I’d planned to go to Shoreditch, but a monsoon stopped that plan.

With my flight at 8.10pm, I decided to go the the airport early to check-in so I could watch Austria v Hungary (kick-off at 5pm) while getting something to eat.

A strike in France meant that Easyjet wouldn’t allow me to check-in until 6.10pm.

Even though I was no longer in France, they were still managing to ruin my plans. I’ve never seen a more incompetent country.

To add to that, the hotel in Nice that cancelled my booking last December as they had no rooms, meaning I had to book another hotel, charged me for staying there. I’m currently getting that sorted by Booking.com.

There’s an episode of The Simpsons where Homer says “If you don’t like you’re job, you don’t go on strike, you just do it half-assed. That’s the American way”

The French way, seems to be going on strike and doing things half-assed.

I loved going to the matches, but didn’t really enjoy being in France.

I would have loved to have stayed a few extra days though, if only to see Northern Ireland v Ukraine, and James in concert in Paris.

The only concerts on in Paris when I was there were Iron Maiden and Adele, neither who i’m fussy about.

Despite that, i’m looking forward to going to Euro 2020. Hopefully. That tournament will be played all over Europe.

The games that interest me are the ones at Hampden Park and Lansdowne Road.

Hopefully, the Scots and/or Irish will be slightly more organised than the French.

PRIDE, PASSION, BELIEF

You’ve got to feel for David Healy. He’s has not one, but two murals of him in East Belfast painted over. I guess he’ll have to make do with three points every time he visits the East of the city.

There was a mural of his goal against England in 2005 on Montrose Street South.

Following the death of David Ervine, Healy’s mural was painted over, and replaced by one of David Ervine.

To compensate for Healy’s mural being painted over, a new one of his goal against England was painted across the road in Carnforth Street, albeit from a different angle.

To use a football analogy, the mural had seen better days and was heading towards retirement. It had fallen into disrepair. It needed replacing.

If only there was some sort of football event this summer that Northern Ireland were competing in.

In late May, the mural had gone and was replaced by a blank wallspace, with it being teased that it was going to be replaced by something to represent Northern Ireland’s qualification for the European Championship.

By early June, a new mural was progressing, painted by local artist John Stewart.

It was inspired by the iconic images of Gareth McAuley waving a French flag around Windsor Park after Northern Ireland secured qualification with a win over Greece in October 2005, as well as featuring the Eiffel Tower, the IFA crest and the European Championship trophy, and the slogan “Pride. Passion. Belief”

The image took around four days to do, but unfortunately it wasn’t completed in time before I headed to France.

Upon my return from Fance, naturally, I headed out to get some photos of the finished piece.

Hopefully, there’ll be wallspace in Belfast and across Northern Ireland being filled with images of carrying the European Championship trophy around the Stade De France on July 10th.

Need to get a win against Ukraine first.

Photo Album

1986 WORLD CUP : NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICIAL SOUVENIR

In just under 24 hours time, Northern Ireland will be playing their opening match of Euro 2016, against Poland in Nice, exactly 30 years to the day (and it’s Pat Jennings birthday) since their last match in a major finals, against Brazil in the 1986 World Cup in Guadalajara.

When you’ve waited 30 years, what’s another day?

But what were Northern Ireland fans reading as they made their way to Mexico in 1986? It’s possible they were reading the official souvenir, which would have cost them £2.50, just over twice as much as the similar guide for Spain 82.

The cover star is Alan McDonald, towering over the skyline of Mexico City. Despite only playing twice in the qualifiers, McDonald became one of the icons of the campaign, after his post-match interview at Wembley where he politely suggested that anyone who thought the 0-0 draw was a fix was ever so slightly wrong.

As you open the publication, there is an advert for Belfast Telegraph, with Malcolm Brodie promising comprehensive coverage, as well as a preview supplement in the 6th May edition, and a Northern Ireland squad poster in the 10th May edition of Ireland’s Saturday Night.

IFA President Harry Cavan writes the foreward, where he states he is confident that Northern Ireland can reach the Quarter-Finals.

Ivan Little, co-editor alongside Billy Kennedy, just like in 1982, writes a double page spread on the logistics of Northern Ireland’s campaign, with one of the first tasks being for IFA Secretary David Bowen to inform FIFA that Northern Ireland wish to participate in the finals in Mexico.

Bowen also visited an Adidas factory to look at specially adapted kits to cope with the heat in Mexico, as well as ensuring the team had 10,000 bottles of water, and ensuring passports and visas were up to date.

There are full page player profiles throughout, the first being Sammy McIlroy followed by Pat Jennings. Jennings will be playing in Mexico on his 41st birthday, and comments that he spent his 21st birthday playing in Mexico, for Tottenham Hotspur in an end of season tour.

Jennings is back at White Hart Lane keeping himself in shape for Northern Ireland’s matches.

Danny Blanchflower gets a double page spread looking back at his World Cup memories, though he admits not remembering much of the 1930 tournament as he was only 4 years old. Blanchflower comments that Winter Winterbottom as England’s first manager instead of a committee inspired the IFA to do likewise with Peter Doherty, as well as suggesting that the increase of cars parked in streets as had a negative effect on the number of skillful footballers in the UK in recent decades.

There is a full page titled “The Road To Mexico”, listing the results and team line-ups of Northern Ireland’s eight qualifiers.

Jeff Powell of the Daily Mail gets a full page feature where he states that Northern Ireland are still being written off by many despite their success in recent years.

George Dunlop writes about his World Cup experience in Spain, and the daily routine of the squad, which included sports competitions on their day off with Milky Ways and Mars Bars as prizes.

Malcolm Brodie writes about Northern Ireland being happy to be based in Guadalajara, and getting a hotel 10 minutes from the airport and 15 minutes from the City Centre.

Despite not having played an international since 1977, George Best gets a profile. His involvement in this World Cup will be as a pundit for the BBC, having been one for ITV in 1982. There is also a mention of his son Calum, who has just developed an interest in football, but states that if he was to become a footballer, he could be eligible to play for England or USA instead of Northern Ireland.

There is a feature on the fans travelling to Mexico, most without tickets, such as First Shankill Supporters Club, though USA and Canada based supporters clubs are excited by the Mexican adventure, viewing them as virtually home games.

We return to player profiles, with one of Jimmy Nicholl, now Assistant to Michael O’Neill, and Norman Whiteside, who reveals that relatives send him Potato Bread and Soda Bread, which he can’t get in England, in order to make an Ulster Fry.

Whiteside also avoids talking about his love life, amid rumours he is soon to be married.

The summer of 1986 was going to be memorable for Nigel Worthington, as his wife is due to give birth to their first child at the start of July, meaning it could be touch and go for thim to make it home in time if Northern Ireland got to the final.

Worthington recalls how he discovered about his move from Ballymena United to Notts County lying in bed after a nightshift at a local factory, while revealing that he became interested in football after watching his older brother Ernie play for Coleraine.

Billy Bingham gets a double page feature by Billy Kennedy, stating he believes friendlies against France, Denmark and Morocco are perfect preparation for the World Cup.

Ian Stewart’s profile reveals that he wanted to be a popstar, forming a band in his youth, whose name was too rude to be published in this book, and performed a concert at Belvoir Community Centre.

He also reveals that he’s not to fond of playing for former Linfield player Iam McFaul, as he supports Glentoran, and writes jokes for a football magazine, using jokes about Linfield and Glentoran but changing them to Arsenal and Chelsea for an English audience.

John O’Neill states he won’t be leaving Leicester unless Liverpool or Manchester United make a bid for him, but he is hoping to be Brandywell bound to take in a Derry City match, in their first season in the League Of Ireland.

Jimmy Quinn reveals that the winning goal he scored in Romania came when he was wearing a pair of Jim Platt’s boots, having picked up the wrong pair at the Blackburn Rovers training ground before meeting up with the Northern Ireland squad.

Cover star Alan McDonald is profiled, where he declares he meant every word of his post-match interview at Wembley. He comes from a sporting family, with an older and younger brother playing for Crusaders, and another brother Jim (not that one) being a Basketball international.

McDonald took the place of John McClelland during the campaign, and it was revealed that McClelland, from Whitehead, was in the same school as the previously mentioned Jim McDonald.

Like his fellow Ballymena native Nigel Worthington, Steven Penney has a domestic arrangement scheduled this summer, with his wedding taking place two days before the final, which will be an awkward clash if Northern Ireland.

His wife is also from Ballymena, but they didn’t meet until mutual friends suggested they get together to combat loneliness in Brighton with her being a student at the local univeristy, and him playing for Albion.

There is a profile of Paul Doherty, Granada Head Of Sport, who is co-ordinating ITV’s Northern Ireland coverage, just as he did in Spain in 1982. He hitch hiked from West Germany to Sweden to watch Northern Ireland in 1958. He had good reason to, his dad was the manager, Peter Doherty.

His dad, now 72, is still active in football, working as a a Scout for Aston Villa.

Doherty is profiled as part of a feature on the media coverage. ITV will be showing the games against Algeria and Spain live, with Jackie Fullerton doing a live report on UTV’s teatime news.

If the name sounds familiar, that’s because he created Paul Doherty International, who produce commercial sporting DVDs, most notably for Manchester United.

Sadly, Paul Doherty died earlier this year.

BBC will show the final group game against Brazil, with Mike Nesbitt (Yes, the leader of the UUP) commentating on the network. That game will have BBC NI doing build-up from a studio in Belfast instead of the network coverage from London that viewers in England, Scotland and Wales will get.

Nesbitt will also be working as a reporter for BBCNI’s teatime news. Mark Robson will be doing Radio Ulster commentary on the games.

DISCLAIMER – The article says ITV broadcast the opening game of the tournament between Italy and Bulgaria. This advert suggests it was on the BBC. So it was either simulcast, changed after the publication went to press, or the article is wrong.

There is a full page feature on those hoping to make a late claim for a place in the squad, Darrin Coyle, Paul Agnew, Robbie Dennison and Bernard McNally.

Alan Snoddy gets a profile, as he aims to follow in the footsteps of Irish League referee Malcolm Moffett, who refereed Belgium v El Salvador in 1982, while Canada also get a profile, due to Terry Moore of Glentoran playing for them.

It would have been rude not to have a song, and Northern Ireland had two, with the players singing vocals on them, and comes complete with a lyrics sheet. The article suggests the songs were so good, that Duran Duran should step aside.

Northern Ireland’s three group opponents – Algeria, Spain and Brazil get a profile, as do Denmark, who they would face in a warm-up friendly, before ending on adverts for IDB (What Invest NI was known as in the 1980s) and Bushmills.

PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2015-2016

I hope you’ve enjoyed the month by month look at the 2015-2016 season just past. The 2016-2017 is only a matter of days away. Scary, I know.

Before I wrap up the 2015-2016, it’s time for my favourite photos. Hopefully, you’ll agree. Feel free to vote for your favourite.

BRAY

Taken at my very first game, back on 27th June 2015, I like the composition and framing of this.

TAYLOR’S

Taken on my first visit to Taylor’s Avenue, I love how everyone is focused on the player with the ball (I think it’s Guy Bates)



FANS

Taken at Ballinamallard in September. I don’t know why I love this photo, I just do.

ENCOURAGEMENT

I was taking a photo of the corner, but this guy just got up and started to encourage Linfield players, which made the photo for me.

A photo of just the corner kick would actually have been boring.



GREECE

Taken on that famous night against Greece just after Davis first goal, and trying to capture what it meant.

RED SKY

No filtering or magic tricks, that’s what the sky was like when Linfield travelled to Ballymena in December. Just had to get a snap.

CELEBRATIONS

Taken after the Irish Cup tie at Solitude in March, what it means to win at a ground you haven’t won for four years, and to do so in a convincing manner.

TERRACES

Taken at Dalymount Park, terracing that isn’t used anymore, other than to hang flags on. I like the composition of this.

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – MAY

And so to May, the final month of the season.

My football watching for the month began with the Irish Cup Final, as Linfield disappointingly lost 2-0 to Glenavon.

The following weekend, I was inside Old Trafford, getting ready to watch Manchester United v Bournemouth, until a forgetful security guard put paid to that.

That meant that it was three weeks until my next game, Northern Ireland v Belarus.

Two days after that, I took advantage of there being a full League Of Ireland fixture list on a Sunday of a Bank Holiday weekend, by heading on a day trip to Dublin, and taking in Bohs v St Patrick’s Athletic, my final game of the 2015-2016 season.

Linfield v Glenavon

Linfield v Glenavon Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Belarus

Northern Ireland v Belarus Photo Album

Bohs v St Patrick’s Athletic

Bohs v St Patrick’s Athletic Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – MARCH

March began for me at Solitude, seeing Linfield beat Cliftonville 3-0 in the Irish Cup.

The following saw another 3-0 win for Linfield, this time at home to Glentoran.

It was back to Solitude the following week, this time for a league match, Linfield only managing a 2-0 win.

Over the Easter Weekend, I went to see Northern Ireland take on Wales in Cardiff, before heading to see Bristol Rovers v Cambridge United the following day.

Upon my return, it was matches on successive days on Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday – Northern Ireland’s home match against Slovenia, and Linfield’s trip to Warrenpoint.

Cliftonville v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Cliftonville v Linfield

Wales v Northern Ireland

Wales v Northern Ireland Photo Album

Bristol Rovers v Cambridge United

Bristol Rovers v Cambridge United Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Slovenia

Northern Ireland v Slovenia Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

That match against Slovenia saw a pop-up shop appear in the Railway Stand for fans to be sold Northern Ireland merchandise.

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – NOVEMBER

The early weeks of November 2015 were spent at Windsor Park, taking in Linfield’s matches against Crusaders and Cliftonville, as well as Northern Ireland’s match against Latvia

The final two Saturdays of the month were on the road to Mid-Ulster, but no upturn in fortune for Linfield

Sandwiched inbetween those two trips to Mid-Ulster was my first trip of the season to Old Trafford to see United play out a drab and ultimately costly draw against PSV Eindhoven.

It’s a good job I went to that Northern Ireland match, otherwise it would have been a totally awful month of football watching.

Linfield v Crusaders

Northern Ireland v Latvia

Northern Ireland v Latvia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Glenavon v Linfield

Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven

Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven Photo Album

Portadown v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – OCTOBER

October began with a trip to Solitude to see Linfield and Cliftonville draw 3-3, amidst unceratinty over the future of Linfield manager Warren Feeney.

Five days later, I was at Windsor Park to witness Northern Ireland get the win they needed against Greece to send them to Euro 2016.

The party continued for a few days, but the Irish League was back to work, as Linfield faced Glentoran at Windsor Park less than 48 hours later.

By now, Warren Feeney was gone, and it was apt that it was Warren(point) where his successor David Healy took charge of his first game in charge.

The final two games of the month saw Linfield take on Carrick Rangers and Dungannon Swifts.

Cliftonville v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Greece

Northern Ireland v Greece Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – SEPTEMBER

My football watching for September began in sunny Fermanagh, watching Linfield get a 1-0 win away to Ballinamallard, to keep up their 100% start to the season.

Two days later, it was Windsor Park to see if Northern Ireland could get the win they needed to reach Euro 2016. They didn’t get it, but a late 1-1 draw sent the crowd home more than happy.

The following Saturday, I went to Seaview to see Linfield lose their 100% start to the season with a 3-0 defeat.

Thankfully, Linfield were able to return to winning ways over the next two Saturdays, getting wins against Warrenpoint Town and Glenavon at home over the following two Saturdays.

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Hungary

Northern Ireland v Hungary Photo Album

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Linfield v Glenavon