ULSTER 21-13 CONNACHT 4.5.2019

Well, this was a nice bonus.

Resigned to an empty Saturday, I found out on Friday evening that I won tickets to Ulster v Connacht, so it was off to Ravenhill I headed on Saturday teatime.

Regardless of the result, this would be Ulster’s last home match of the season, a Quarter-Final of the Pro 14, with Glasgow the destination Ulster were aiming for, in more than one way.

I had previously seen Ulster take on Connacht, in December 2016. The weather was a bit different, dry, decent evening light and a gentle breeze – a lot different from the aftermath of Storm Barbara in 2016.

There was a decent sized Connacht support, or maybe it seemed more visible decked in their green replica shirts amongst the white of Ulster.

Despite the fact that it was knock-out Rugby, and that Ulster were three wins away from the title, there was a surprising amount of empty seats in the ground. Not a lot, but there were pockets of empty seats that were clearly visible.

The seats I had were fantastic, in the stand with a clear view, right on the halfway line.

It was Ulster who got the first score on the board with a penalty from John Cooney, before Nick Timoney got over for a try to make it 8-0 to Ulster. It looked like they were going to run away with it. Unfortunately Cooney missed the conversion, meaning Ulster didn’t have a double point lead.

The two sides exchanged penalties to give Ulster a half-time lead of 11-3. Not exactly job done, but you’d take it.

Jack Carty missed a penalty for Connacht in the opening minutes after somebody in the crowd shouted “CHICKEN!!” as he was taking it. I guess you could say he really clucked up that opportunity.

As a side note, the whole being quiet at penalties unwritten rule in Rugby in just the weirdest thing ever. Maybe it’s because I spent so much time watching football.

Could you imagine Joe Gormley or Curtis Allen taking a penalty in front of The Kop, and someone says “Lads, can we just be quiet for a minute? It’s a bit rude and disrespectful to the penalty taker”

Bundee Aki then saw his try converted by Jack Carty to make it 11-10. That miss earlier by Carty was now costly. The game was now in the balance.

The sides once again exchanged penalties as Ulster’s four point lead was once again reduced to one.

As each minute ticked down, it was beginning to feel like the last time I won tickets to an Ulster match, against Edinburgh in February 2018.

That match was in the balance, and Ulster couldn’t get the ball in the final minutes, as Edinburgh waited for their moment to get a clear shot at a drop goal, which they did, to win the game right at the end.

There would be no repeat, as Marcell Coetzee ran through late on for a try to make it 19-13. Connacht now needed to score 7 points in 2 minutes.

A conversion made it 21-13. They now needed 9 points in 2 minutes. They didn’t get it as Ulster got the win, and fans could now make plans for the Semi-Final.

That will be away to Glasgow in two weeks time, with the Final taking place in the city a week later.

The venue for the final, isn’t a Rugby ground, but Celtic Park.

I would say that it isn’t usual for a match at Celtic Park to see the ball in the air for a long time and punch-ups all over the pitch, but that is what usually happens when Celtic play Rangers.

Neil Lennon and Brendan Rodgers recent successes at Celtic mean that they are used to seeing Ulstermen celebrating at Celtic Park.

Hopefully, in three weeks, there will be some more celebrating, but in the oval ball.

Photo Album

Ulster v Connacht 2016

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2018 IN PICTURES – OCTOBER

I had to wait until the 8th of the month for a photo adventure, heading to The Oval to see Linfield take on Glentoran.

That was then followed up by a trip to Windsor Park the following Saturday to see Linfield take on Newry City.

Another weekend, another football match, as I then headed to the Seaside to see Linfield take on Ards.

The following weekend, began with Rugby, as I headed to Ravenhill to see Ulster take on Dragons.

It was back to football the following day as I headed to Stangmore Park to see Linfield take on Dungannon Swifts.

The month ended with a trip to The Odyssey to see U2 in concert.

Glentoran v Linfield

Linfield v Newry City

Ards v Linfield

Ulster v Dragons

Ulster v Dragons Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

U2 live at The Odyssey

U2 live at The Odyssey Photo Album

2018 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

February 2018 began with a trip to The Limelight, a first proper concert of the year, to see Shed Seven supported by John Power.

That was followed the following midweek by a trip to Warrenpoint to see Linfield take on Warrenpoint Town.

The following Saturday, was Linfield’s 0-0 draw with Dungannon Swifts.

The following week was very busy, with Paul Weller at Ulster Hall followed by Ulster v Edinburgh and then Cliftonville v Linfield.

The weekend after that was a trip to the seaside, to see Linfield take on Ards.

That was then followed by a midweek trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield lose to Glenavon.

Around that time, it was getting cold. So cold, there was the possibility of snow. That didn’t come until March 1st, so you’ll have to wait until next month’s round-up to see that.

John Power live at The Limelight

John Power live at The Limelight Photo Album

Shed Seven live at The Limelight

Shed Seven live at The Limelight Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Paul Weller live at Ulster Hall

Paul Weller live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Ulster v Edinburgh

Ulster v Edinburgh Photo Album

Cliftonville v Linfield

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

ULSTER 36-18 DRAGONS 26.10.2018

I should have been seeing Simon Day performing his characters but that was cancelled, so I now had a free Friday night.

That said, the cancellation was last month, so it wasn’t a dramatic change of plan, but with Ulster at home, I decided to make this my one Ulster match of the season.

I usually do one Ulster match a season usually a European game. However, the two pre-Christmas European home matches are inconveniently scheduled, both clashing with Linfield matches.

The home match against Munster on Friday 21st December was very tempting, but I want to keep that date free in case Linfield’s match against Glenavon is brought forward to the Friday night for TV coverage.

I popped down and purchased a ticket from the Ticket Office outside, which was unusually disorganised for me. Tickets were available on the day and it wasn’t as big a crowd as recent years.

Not only was I able to pick up a ticket on the day, it was very spacious in the Terrace where I was, as well as being able to see lots of empty seats in the other stand behind the goal and in the main stand.

Ulster’s season has been stop-start so far, wins usually followed by defeats, and the defeats were usually memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Ulster got off to a flying start and were 10-0 up (one of each, a try, a conversion and a penalty) after 12 minutes and looked like they were going to run away with it.

Dragons tried to launch a fightback by getting three points before a David Shanahan try (which was converted) made it 17-3 and gave Ulster some breathing space.

Any hopes Ulster had of an easy evening were put on hold when Dragons put ten points on the board to make it 17-13.

The dynamic changed in the last minute of the half when a Michael Lowry try, again converted, made it 24-13, giving Ulster some breathing space and changed the mood of the crowd at half-time.

I was stood behind the goal that Ulster were attacking, so in the second-half, I was hoping that I wouldn’t be seeing any action close up.

Both teams notched a converted try each to leave it 29-18 to Ulster with ten minutes to go, the game still not won, but no reason for Ulster to be nervous. Unless they conceded, that is.

It was Ulster who got the next try, which was concerted, to make it 36-18, exactly twice the opposition score, and with one minute to go, that was the game for Ulster.

A good evening’s entertainment and a good win for Ulster. Not a bad choice for my one game of the season.

Photo Album

ULSTER 16-17 EDINBURGH 16.2.2018

This was a nice wee freebie for me, I won a competition online to win free tickets for this game. I usually only go to one game a season, usually in Europe, so this was a nice bonus for me having been to the match against Wasps in October.

This was the second successive home game for Ulster, having scored a routine 59-10 win over Southern Kings last week. Edinburgh also won last weekend, but it was a lot harder, securing a Bonus Point 29-24 win over Leinster in the last minute.

Little did we know it would be a warning.

My tickets were in the Grandstand. It was my first time in there since it was rebuilt. I’d always said to myself that i’d want to see what it was like there for a change.

I was seated towards The Aquinas End and I had a slightly obstructed view when the ball was at the other end of the field. If I was to go seated at Ravenhill again, i’d like to try behind one of the goals. Hey, the tickets were free, I shouldn’t be complaining.

Ulster made a positive start to the game and had Edinburgh pinned into their own half in the opening minutes. It was no surprise when Ulster took the lead through a John Cooney try, which was then converted to give Ulster a 7-0 lead.

You know when you’re watching a football match, and the home team scores in the opening minutes and you expect them to storm to victory but they don’t?

Yep, this was the Rugby equivalent.

Ulster couldn’t build on it, and never really looked like adding to their try count. It was very dull for long periods.

Edinburgh were the better team, and it was no surprise when Edinburgh got a try from Jason Harries, which was converted to make it 7-7, which stayed the score at half-time.

Early in the second-half, Ulster went 10-7 up through a John Cooney penalty. So early in fact, that I missed it as I was making my way back to my seat.

Another Cooney penalty made it 13-7, and it looked like Ulster now had the foundation for victory.

With only a six point lead, Ulster knew that a converted try would put Edinburgh into the lead.

Their fears were confirmed when a Lewis Carmichael try was converted to put Edinburgh 14-13 in front.

Soon after, Ulster were back in front, Cooney again, another penalty. 16-14. There was no margin for error now.

Ulster couldn’t get any further scores that could give them more breathing space. Even a drop goal or a penalty would have meant Edinburgh would need a converted try to win the game.

Unable to kill off Edinburgh, Ulster were now hanging on. The aim now was to hold on to the ball until the clock hit 80 minutes.

The crowd at Ravenhill had been quiet and subdued for most of the game. In the final minutes, they burst into life, trying to cheer their side to see them through the final minutes.

Edinburgh were able to get upfield for one last attack.

Ulster just couldn’t get the ball away, they just couldn’t get the ball to kick it out of play.

As Edinburgh, were attacking The Aquinas End, I had a perfect view of it all. You could see what was going to happen.

Edinburgh were able to get possession in a shooting position, as Duncan Weir was able to hit a drop goal to win the game 17-16 in injury time.

That was it, game over. Ravenhill fell silent.

Photo Album

2017 IN PICTURES – OCTOBER

In the first week of October 2017, I headed to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Germany in a World Cup Qualifier.

That was sandwiched inbetween me going out around Belfast to check out Street Art which was painted as part of Hit The North, these pieces were still works in progress when I went to photograph them in September

The following day, I went to my one Rugby match a year, as Ulster beat Wasps in the European Cup.

It was back to football the following day, seeing Linfield take on Coleraine.

There was a glut of concerts towards the end of the month, going to see Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, OMD and Liam Gallagher, with Linfield’s matches against Ards and Crusaders sandwiched inbetween.

Northern Ireland v Germany

Northern Ireland v Germany Photo Album

Hit The North Mop-Up

Hit The North Mop-Up Photo Album

Ulster v Wasps

Ulster v Wasps Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott live at The Limelight

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Crusaders

OMD live at Mandela Hall

OMD live at Mandela Hall Photo Album

Linfield v Ards

Liam Gallagher live at The Odyssey

Liam Gallagher live at The Odyssey Photo Album

ULSTER 19-9 WASPS 13.10.2017

On Friday night, it was time for my annual one Rugby match a year, as I headed to Ravenhill to see Ulster take on Wasps.

I usually do one European group match a year, and this was the one that was most convenient for me. Last year, I didn’t actually go to any group matches as they were all on Saturday afternoons. Sorry, but football takes priority.

It was Friday 13th, and Belfast was treated to rain. That wasn’t bad luck, that was just usual Belfast weather.

There wasn’t quite the buzz (sorry) as Wasps flew into to town, with pockets of empty seats around the ground. It was a tough game for Ulster, but not Mission Impossible (again, sorry) despite the presence of Tom Cruse in the opposition line-up, as they aimed to be the Top Gun in the group.

The two sides had previously met in recent months, with Wasps winning a Pre-Season Friendly at Ravenhill in August.

Wasps took an early lead before Ulster responded as both sides exchange penalties, although there was a missed Ulster penalty sandwiched inbetween. Wasteful kicking by Ulster would be a theme throughout the game.

There wasn’t much excitement in the rest of the first-half. However, as it looked like both teams were going in at half-time level, Wasps got a penalty to make it 6-3.

An early penalty from Wasps looked set to take the game away from Ulster as their lead increase to 9-3, that was until a double burst of tries from Jacob Stockdale and Stuart McCloskey turned the game around and put Ulster in front for the first time.

However, the conversion was missed for both tries, meaning Ulster had a 13-9 lead when it could have been 17-9. Wasps were still in touch.

If Ulster fans were worried that those lost points would turn out to be costly, they shouldn’t have been, as Christian Lealiifano converted two penalties to give Ulster a 19-9 lead.

Wasps had one big attack which caused panic amongst the Ravenhill crowd, as they feared a try, but Ulster were able to defend it and ensure Wasps wouldn;t be adding any more points to the scoreboard.

As the minutes ticked away, it was becoming more obvious that this was going to be Ulster’s night, as the dream of glory in Bilbao next May remains intact.

Photo Album

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

ULSTER 23-7 CONNACHT 23.12.2016

Last night, I headed to Ravenhill for my annual Rugby match, as Ulster took on Connacht.

I usually make it a European game, but the scheduling has conspired against me. The home match against Exeter was on a Saturday night, but it was also the same day as one of Linfield’s longer away games. It was doable, but there was too much that could have went wrong, and it would have meant a Burger Van Dinner.

The home match against Clermont a few weeks ago was on a Saturday lunchtime. Sorry lads, but Linfield take priority, especially when there is an away trip to Bangor that day.

The game against Bordaux next month looks set to be a dead rubber. That too has been moved to a Saturday lunchtime. I’ll be at Linfield v Ballymena.

It’s almost as if they want to keep me away from Ravenhill. Is it because Ulster have lost the last two times i’ve been to Ravenhill?

My last visit, was an agonising one point defeat to Scarlets in February. For that match, I got a free ticket as part of promotion for Random Acts Of Kindness Day. That falls on February 17th, the day before Ulster are at home to Glasgow, a Saturday when Linfield don’t play. Just dropping a hint there. I love getting free stuff.

So, I decided to pick a league match, and a Friday night game against the defending champions when I am on my Christmas Holidays looked like a good option.

For this match, I was in the Family Terrace, my first time in there. It wasn’t too crowded and I wasn’t having to constantly let people in and out, which was a nice bonus.

The game was publicised as being sold out, but I could see a lot of empty seats from where I was.

Not a lot happened in the early stages of the game. That was, until Paddy Jackson converted a penalty on 19 minutes to put Ulster 3-0 up.

On 27 minutes, Ulster’s first real moment of quality in attack saw Stuart McCloskey have a clear run to get a try at the corner. During the whole move, it was just a matter of who was going to score. The resulting conversion from Paddy Jackson gave Ulster a 10-0 lead.

Connacht were offering nothing going forward, and when they did, there was an Ulster wall blocking their way. Another penalty from Paddy Jackson gave Ulster a 13-0 lead. It was anything but unlucky for Connacht.

On 53 minutes, a Clive Ross try converted by Jackson made it 20-0 to Ulster. As Connacht hadn’t looked like scoring all game, a dramatic comeback looked unlikely, it was almost game won for Ulster.

There would be no clean sheet as a Jack Carty converted try made it 20-7. 13 points was still a lot to climb back, but Ulster still had to keep their senses and stop Connacht from getting back into the game.

Any hopes of a comeback were soon dashed when another Jackson penalty made it 23-7.

Ulster were comfortable winners. So comfortable, a lot of people left early knowing the points were secured, leading to a slightly subdued atmosphere at full time.

Ulster are now in 5th, as they aim to get into the Play-Offs, the final in 2017 will be at Lansdowne Road.

Undecided wether to go to this. The game is on the last Saturday in May. That is Football Programme Fair day, and the FA Cup Final.

I went in 2015 and got my tickets once United’s fate that season was confirmed in March. With a likely teatime kick-off, it’s possible to do both the fair and the match. I’ll wait and see.

Meanwhile, Newcastle has been shortlisted as a host city for the 2018 European Champions Cup Final. This would be very tempting for a number of reasons. I haven’t been to Newcastle since 1994 so a return visit is overdue, I could get to visit The Back Page, and then make it a double header on the Sunday by seeing Sunderland or Middlesbrough if they are both still in the Premier League and one of them is at home.

Photo Album

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ULSTER 27-16 MONTPELLIER 10.1.2014

The first Heineken Cup action of 2014, as Ulster looked to secure a win that would help their chances of getting to the knockout stages of the competition for the 4th successive season.

Montpellier started off the better team, and quietened the crowd, going into an early 3-0 lead.

Ulster struggled and struggled, but looked devoid of inspiration. Eventually, a try came out of nowhere, and the mood lifted. Another one came soon after, and it looked like Ulster were going to run away with it.

Montpellier, however, stuck at it, and always managed to get themselves to within a converted try of Ulster not long after Ulster looked to be putting some distance between the teams.

Ulster never looked like losing, but they had to dig in more than they wanted to, meaning qualification will come down to next Saturday’s game at Leicester.

Hopefully, Ulster can do the business, and do enough to get a home Quarter-Final. The continuing redevelopment of Ravenhill is going at an impressive pace.

Was behind the goal at Memorial End. To be honest, I think i’ll try to avoid that (only tickets for that end were available) in future, as it was an organisational shambles.

Too many people in there, and best of all, stewards telling people to move to let more people in, then telling off the same person for standing in the aisle because they’ve moved to let someone in beside them. Bit of a pain in the arse when you’re trying to watch the game and constantly having to move and having your view blocked by people moving. Think i’ll avoid that in future.

Anyway, onwards and upwards, here’s to (hopefully) a home Quarter-Final in the warmer months.

Photo Album