PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2016-2017

So, the 2016-2017 season is over for me. I hope you’ve enjoyed my photographic look back at the season just gone.

I’ve selected some of my favourites, so feel free to vote for the one you like the best.

POLSKA

Taken back in June 2016 at Northern Ireland v Poland, I like the composition, how everyone is fixated on the action at the other end of the pitch, and the colour co-ordination of both sets of fans.



WILGAR

Taken at a pre-season game between Linfield and Dundela, it captures the joys of going to football matches in pre-season, sunshine and relaxation ahead of the hard slog ahead.



SEAVIEW

I like the framing of this, as the crowd is in position, awaiting kick-off in a big match.



CELEBRATION

Linfield fans celebrating Jimmy Callacher’s winner against Glentoran in October. I just like this for some reason other than the obvious.

PALMERSTON

There’s just something about the architecture of old football grounds that does it for me. This is out of use turnstiles at Palmerston Park, home of Queen of the South.

APPEAL

Linfield fans appeal in unison, all making the same hand gestures, for a goal to be allowed. The goal was disallowed for a foul.



ELF

Taken at the Steel and Sons Cup Final. Some people like getting dressed up for Christmas.

GAYNOR

I like the composition of this, from Ross Gaynor’s posture, to substitutes chatting to each other while the game goes on.

UNITED

I like the composition of this, all eyes fixated on the penalty area and the incoming corner.

SPOT THE BALL

I like the composition of this shot, it looks like a Spot The Ball image, except that the ball is in the shot, with two players getting ready for an aerial tussle.



COLERAINE

I love the framing and seeing players in the background running to join the celebrations.

WATERWORTH

Celebrations after Andrew Waterworth’s second goal against Cliftonville, capturing the joy of the event and the achievement just about to happen.

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : MARCH

March’s football watching began for me at Seaview, watching Linfield put Crusaders out of the Irish Cup.

There was a bit of a wait until my next match of the month as Linfield’s home match against Cliftonville was put back to the Monday night for live TV coverage.

I was back at Windsor Park the following Saturday, as Ards were the visitors.

The month ended with two games in the one weekend – Linfield’s long trip to Ballinamallard, and Norway’s even longer trip to Northern Ireland for a World Cup Qualifier.

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Cliftonville

Linfield v Ards

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Norway

Northern Ireland v Norway Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : FEBRUARY

February’s football watching began for me at Old Trafford on the first day of the month, to see Manchester United held to a 0-0 draw by Hull City.

Three days later came the first in a trilogy of road trips, first to Drumahoe to see Linfield take on Institute, then to Ballymena to see Linfield win the County Antrim Shield, and then to Carrick to see Linfield take on Carrick Rangers.

That was then followed by a visit to Windsor Park to see Linfield held to a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Portadown.

The following day, I was Seaview bound to see Ballymena United take on Carrick Rangers in the NIFL Cup Final.

The football watching for the month ended with a trip to The Oval to see Linfield get a 1-0 win against Glentoran.

Manchester United v Hull City

Manchester United v Hull City Photo Album

Institute v Linfield

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Portadown

NIFL Cup Final

NIFL Cup Final Photo Album

Glentoran v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : AUGUST

On the first weekend of August, I headed to Ballinamallard for Linfield’s opening league match of the 2016-2017 season.

It was a flurry of Linfield matches in August, seeing them in action against Coleraine, Crusaders, Glenavon and Dungannon Swifts before the month was over.

Balinamallard United v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

CRUSADERS 0-2 LINFIELD 4.3.2017

Today at Seaview was not make or break for Linfield’s season. Defeat, though disappointing, wouldn’t have signalled the end of 2016-2017 as a competitive matter. However, a 2-0 win for Linfield means that, if they do the business in their three remaining League matches in March, April has the potential to be a very interesting month for Linfield.

Crusaders went into this game hoping for fifth time lucky, on two counts. They were hoping for a first win of the season against Linfield at the fifth attempt. If they did that, they would be hoping to reach the Irish Cup Final for the first time since 2012, after four successive Semi-Final defeats.

An Irish Cup Quarter-Final in North Belfast wasn’t a new experience for Linfield, having won 3-0 at Solitude on this weekend last year. Linfield went into that game looking to get a win against a team they had struggled againts in recent years and hadn’t beaten in a while. This year, they were facing a team they knew how to beat, winning three and drawing two of the last six games against Crusaders.

Linfield were boosted by the returns of Roy Carroll and Mark Haughey for this match, coming in for Alex Moore and Reece Glendenning, the only changes from last week’s win at The Oval.

The pre-match arrangements were farcical, as I looked for the turnstile on my ticket, a Police Officer told me what turnstile to go to, and when I got to that turnstile, I got told to go elsewhere. The very same thing happened when I attended the League Cup Final at Seaview two weeks ago.

It turned out that the turnstile I had to go to was a Fire Exit being used to let people in. Seriously, if you’re going to direct people to certain entrances on their ticket, at least have it signposted where it is.

And as a bonus, they put up segregation between Linfield supporters in the Shore Road Stand and the St Vincent Road Stand. One of the advantages of Seaview is being able to freely move position during the game. Can’t even do that now. For future reference, i’ll just make sure I have a ticket for the St Vincent Road Stand.

There weren’t many chances for Linfield, Mainly due to the fact that any time they did try to go on the attack, it was usually stopped by a Crusaders foul. The early minutes were dominated by Crusaders fouls, their players safe in the knowledge that referee’s cards would remain in his pocket due to it being “too early” to issue a yellow card.

Crusaders fired a lot of crosses into Linfield’s box which was mostly defended, barring a few shaky moments, resulting in a few needless corners and throws conceded.

Linfield’s first real quality attacking moment saw Andrew Waterworth get enough space to tee up an onrushing Steven Lowry, whose shot was saved by Sean O’Neill’s feet, with Paul Smyth firing over the rebound.

Crusaders best chance came when a Rodney Brown header was easily saved by Roy Carroll, while Linfield ended the half with Paul Smyth firing wide, Jimmy Callacher having an effort cleared off the goal-line (it was hitting the post anyway) and Steven Lowry heading over.

It was 0-0 at half-time, just as it was at Solitude last year in the Quarter-Final against Cliftonville. The big difference was the weather, with hail and rain falling from the sky for most of the first-half.

Gavin Whyte had Crusaders best chance in the early minutes of the second-half, but his near post effort was tipped wide by Roy Carroll, while Linfield belatedly got into the second-half, with Niall Quinn heading agonisingly wide.

As each minute passed at 0-0, it was clear that the first goal was going to be key. Jordan Owens had the ball in the net for Crusaders, heading home from a corner. The goal was rightly disallowed for a foul by David Cushley blocking off Roy Carroll.

Paul Smyth was the danger man for Linfield, whipping in a cross into the six yard box which agonisingly missed everyone. The next time he got free, would be the moment Linfield got the breakthrough.

Smyth got the ball on the right hand side and ran towards goal, making his way into the penalty area. As the crowd waited to see if he was going to pass or shoot, Billy Joe Burns attempted a last gasp tackle and brought him down, the referee pointing to the spot. It was such a clear penalty, even the Crusaders players didn’t complain, and they’ll complain about anything.

Crusaders had been the beneficiaries of penalty misses by the opposition this season. The County Antrim Shield Final wasn’t one of those games, as Steven Lowry put Linfield 3-1 up with a spot kick in that game.

Lowry went to the same side today, O’Neill guessed he might and went that way. It didn’t matter, the power beat him, and Linfield were 1-0 up. Three from three from the spot from Lowry in recent weeks.

Aaron Burns for Cameron Stewart was a substitution that was always going to happen in the second-half. It came a bit later than people would have expected, David Healy having an eye on the fact that this game might need 120 minutes rather than 90.

Despite an aerial bombardment, Linfield were relatively comfortable at 1-0 up. Like in the League game on New Year’s Eve and the County Antrim Shield Final, as long as Linfield did nothing stupid, they would see the game out.

Paul Smyth went off inured and was replaced by Sean Ward. The obvious replacement would have been Kirk Millar. One criticism I have of David Healy is that he is easily tempted to go defensive sometimes. If Crusaders did force extra-time, we would have no attacking threat (no offence to Sean Ward) in right midfield in the extra half hour.

In truth, Linfield were never in danger, and made sure of it as injury time approached as Jamie Mulgew charged forward. It looked like he was playing to win a corner, but got the the byline, got past a defender, and crossed to Niall Quinn to head home from close range to make it 2-0.

As soon as the ball went in, the home stands at Seaview emptied. Linfield supporters who had bought tickets for the Crusaders end were easy to spot. They were the ones still in their seat.

For the second successive season, Linfield had won an Irish Cup Quarter-Final in North Belfast. We even got a repeat of the sunshine that Linfield fans celebrated in at Solitude last year.

Unlike last season, we didn’t get a couple of comedy red cards in the final minutes. That would have been greedy. We did get Jordan Forsythe going in hard on Jamie Mulgrew on the touchline, a tackle that was born of frustration. Mulgrew just got up and laughed at him. It was the perfect response.

The other ten teams in the League might be scared of Crusaders. Linfield, certainly aren’t.

Naturally, attention turned to the Semi-Final draw, and Linfield were paired with Dungannon Swifts at Mourneview Park. Very happy with that choice of venue.

The other Semi-Final is between Coleraine and Glenavon. I’m glad that Coleraine won today as it continues their unbeaten run. They host Crusaders at the end of the month. That game can’t come soon enough as far as Linfield are concerned.

However, Linfield need to help themselves, starting with the home match against Cliftonville next Monday night. That game will be broadcast live on Sky Sports by the way.

Photo Album

BALLYMENA UNITED 2-0 CARRICK RANGERS 18.2.2017

When Cliftonville exited the League Cup at the Quarter-Final stage in November, it was guaranteed that the League Cup would be leaving North Belfast after residing at Solitude since 2013. When it was announced that Seaview would be the venue for this year’s final, the trophy would be metaphorically and literally leaving North Belfast.

It wouldn’t be leaving too far, a short journey up the motorway to Ballymena or Carrickfergus.

Carrick were hoping that my presence would inspire them. I’ve been something of a good luck charm for them in recent years, being there when they won the Steel and Sons Cup Final, at Seaview funnily enough, in 2014, and for their penultimate game of the season in 2015 against the PSNI, a vital win which set them up for promotion if they won their final game, which they did.

The early minutes saw Ballymena pressure but nothing come of it. Despite that, there was still no opportunity for Carrick to relax. They didn’t help themselves, creating pressure for themselves when a clearance hit one of their own defenders and put them back under pressure. Later on, Brian Neeson punched a corner away, hitting one of his defenders. Fortunately for Carrick, the ball bounced out for another corner.

Allan Jenkins had Ballymena’s first attempt at goal when his header went over. It was Carrick who had the first real chance of the game when TJ Murray fired over from inside the penalty area when unmarked. It wasn’t a clear goalscoring opportunity but he should have done so much better, keep it low and at least make the keeper make a save.

Ross Glendenning was eventually forced into a save from a long range shot from Carrick’s other Murray, Martin. It was one of those saves usually referred to as a “Photographer’s save”. He did get lucky that there were no Carrick players close enough to capitalise on his parry, as he picked up the rebound.

Ballymena’s first real attempt on goal came when Johnny McMurray’s long range shot had to be tipped over by Brian Neeson. McMurray’s next attempt at goal was a snapshot that went just wide.

It looked like being a frustrating evening for Ballymena, until Willie Faulkner ran at Carrick’s defence to create space to get a cross in, which was finished by Allan Jenkins to put Ballymena 1-0 up. For the second successive Saturday, Carrick found themselves going in at half-time to a goal in the final minute of the half.

Carrick, who were set up to win 1-0, now had to win this 2-1.

Carrick actually made a good start to the second-hal, knocking Ballymena off their stride. Despite that, it never looked like an equaliser was inevitible.

There was more frustration for Ballymena when McMurray, Kane and Jenkins all missed chances to score. A 2-0 lead, no matter how long was left would have been enough to secure the trophy. Jenkins miss was the worst of the lot, firing over from close range when, like TJ Murray in the first-half, all he had to do was keep it low and get it on target.

It looked like Ballymena were going to be made to pay for it when a header from a free-kick fell to Adam Salley. He got enough to header it over the onrushing Ross Glendenning, but not enough for the ball to loop in. That was Carrick’s big moment. It never looked like Carrick were going to get another chance like that.

It was another set piece which provided Carrick’s next chance, a low shot from a free-kick teed to Nathan McConnell was saved by Ross Glendinning when it looked like it was going to sneak in.

Unsurprisingly, as the team trailing 1-0, Carrick had a lot of the ball in the final minutes of the game, but Ballymena always looked like holding firm, despite their unusually high amount of goals conceded this season for a team in the top half.

The biggest moment of worry for Ballymena came when TJ Murray went down in the box. I was not far from the incident and didn’t think it was a penalty at the time. Looking back at the incident, i’ve seen them given. If you’re Carrick, you’ll scream for it, if you’re Ballymena, you’d be fuming if it was given against you. It’s a decision that would be easier for the referee to give if the ball was in the middle of the park.

The Ballymena defender did just enough to get his body in the road to stop Murray getting through.

As the game approached injury time, Ballymena got a second on the counter attack when Conor McCloskey was played through and smashed it home from a wide position. It was a goal that deserved to have Alan Partridge commentary.

Carrick’s players were fuming as the game wasn’t stopped in the build-up for TJ Murray to get treatment for an injury sustained in the tackle which won the ball for Ballymena to counter.

For the second successive Saturday, Carrick lost 2-0 as a result of goals in the final minute of each half.

Interesting day in the Glendenning household, with Ross winners medal being trumped by Reece’s hat-trick for Linfield Swifts earlier in the day.

Ballymena fans celebrated their first major trophy since 1989, and now both teams turn their attentions to the rest of the season. Ballymena fans dreaming of Europe either via winning the UEFA Cup Play-Off Final or the Irish Cup. Carrick aren’t dreaming of Europe, but rather Linfield, Glentoran, Ballymena and all the other top flight clubs they will be hoping to visit for League games next season.

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

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

2016 IN PICTURES – AUGUST

August began for me with a trip to Fermanagh to see Linfield take on Ballinamallard United in the opening game of the Irish League season.

The following day, I ventured to Cupar Way to check out the Peace Wall in Belfast, something I do every six months to have a look at the Street Art.

After that, came a triple whammy if Irish League matches, taking in Linfield’s games against Coleraine, Crusaders and Glenavon.

That was then followed by a triple whammy of concerts – Madness and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at Belsonic, then Red Hot Chili Peppers at Vital.

The month ended with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Dungannon Swifts.

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Belfast Peace Wall

Belfast Peace Wall Photo Album

Linfield v Coleraine

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

Madness live at Titanic Belfast

Madness live at Titanic Belfast Photo Album

Catfish and the Bottlemen Photo Album

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds live at Titanic Belfast

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds live at Titanic Belfast Photo Album

Red Hot Chili Peppers live at Boucher Road Playing Fields

Red Hot Chili Peppers live at Boucher Road Playing Fields Photo Album

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

2016 IN PICTURES – APRIL

April 2016 began for me at The Odyssey to see Muse in concert.

The following Saturday, I headed for Seaview to see Linfield lose to Crusaders, a match that killed off their title hopes.

Another concert soon followed, this time it was to see Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott at Ulster Hall.

Back to football, and a double whammy of convincing Linfield wins, over Coleraine and Glentoran.

The match against Coleraine allowed me to check out the facilities in the South Stand for the first time since it was officially opened.

Towards the end of the month, Prince died, and Belfast wasn’t slow in paying tribute, a mural appearing within a day of his death.

I then headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Cliftonville.

Around that time, I purchased a new camera as my camera was broken beyond repair. I was still getting used to it, so that’s why some photos towards the end of the month are a bit different.

Muse live at The Odyssey

Muse live at The Odyssey Photo Album

Crusaders v Linfield

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott live at Ulster Hall

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Linfield v Coleraine

Glentoran v Linfield

Purple Rain

Purple Rain Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville