2019 IN PICTURES – DECEMBER (SO FAR …..)

December’s photo adventures had to wait a full seven days, when I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield beat Cliftonville.

A few days later, I headed to Ulster Hall for my final concert of the year, to see Primal Scream.

The following Saturday, I headed to Warrenpoint to see Linfield get a 2-0 win.

That was followed by heading to Windsor Park to see Linfield draw 1-1 with Crusaders.

December so far hasn’t been that busy so far, but there’s still some photo adventures to come in the final week.

It’s unlikely that i’ll be at Seaview tomorrow for the Steel and Sons Cup Final, but i’ll be at The Oval on Boxing Day. As if i’d be anywhere else.

Boxing Day is the start of three busy days, as i’ll be heading to Ulster v Connacht the day after, and then Coleraine v Linfield the day after that.

I hope you’ve enjoyed by look back at my photo adventures in 2019. Of course, there’ll be more photo adventures in 2020.

In terms of concerts, Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, Blossoms and Badly Drawn Boy are already on the horizon.

Travelwise, Manchester and Bray are confirmed. I’m planning to walk up Bray Head. While in Bray, i’ll sneak in a trip to Dublin. I’m hoping to see a Euro 2020 game while i’m there, but i’ll definitely catch some League Of Ireland action.

May is the new date for Hit The North, so i’ll be photographing that, and any other Street Art I spot during the year.

And i’ll be crossing my fingers for some snow to photograph at some point because i’m a big kid.

Linfield v Cliftonville

Primal Scream live at Ulster Hall

Primal Scream live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

2019 IN PICTURES – OCTOBER

October 2019 began with a trip to Seaview to see Linfield take on Crusaders.

A busy month of concerts began a few days later with a trip to Ulster Hall to see The Divine Comedy.

There was even some Street Art spotted during the month, heading to Stephen Street to see a mural of The Joker and Catwoman

The next day, I was on the road to Dungannon to see Linfield beat Dungannon Swifts 4-1.

From there, it was another concert, a first visit to The Telegraph Building, to see Two Door Cinema Club.

The flipping between football and concerts continued as I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Ballymena United. The following midweek saw a football/concert double header, seeing Linfield take on Warrenpoint Town, before seeing OMD at Ulster Hall.

October’s photo adventures ended with a trip to see Linfield take on Coleraine, the month beginning and ending for me with a 1-0 defeat.

Crusaders v Linfield

The Divine Comedy live at Ulster Hall

The Divine Comedy live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Joker and Catwoman Mural

Joker and Catwoman Mural Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Two Door Cinema Club live at The Telegraph Building

Two Door Cinema Club live at The Telegraph Building Photo Album

Linfield v Ballymena United

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

OMD live at Ulster Hall

OMD live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

WARRENPOINT TOWN 0-2 LINFIELD 14.12.2019

At the mid point of a busy December period, Linfield travelled to Warrenpoint, a ground they had won on all their previous visits to face a side they had beaten 7-0 in October.

However, this would be more difficult than those stats suggested, with some of those previous visits having some wobbly moments for Linfield, most notably both their visits in 2014. Add into that the fact that Warrenpoint have improved recently, sending Coleraine and Ballymena home from Milltown without a single point between them.

Kirk Millar’s red card last week presented an opportunity for Jordan Stewart to come into the starting eleven, while Andrew Waterworth came in for Bastien Hery, as Linfield look to rest him ahead of a busy Christmas period.

Just as significant, was the appearance of Mark Haughey and Daniel Kearns on the bench after long injury lay-offs. The sight of Haughey, even though he’s a defender, would have been a worrying sight for Warrenpoint, given his goalscoring record against them.

Even in the opening minute, Warrenpoint looked nervous, not properly dealing with some clearances.

One of those clearances not dealt with fell perfectly for Andrew Waterworth, who made the most of the space, the opportunity to strike at goal, and the fact that Warrenpoint’s keeper was slightly off his line to fire over him to put Linfield 1-0 up with just 48 seconds on the clock.

Remarkably, this wasn’t the first time that Waterworth has scored for Linfield inside the first minute, as this goal felt like injury time compared with the 18 seconds he took to score against Portadown in 2014.

An early goal was essential in a match like this, so that Warrenpoint wouldn’t have something to hold on to.

More Linfield pressure followed, usually Crossfield balls to Chris Casement or Joel Cooper, who were usually able to get in behind Warrenpoint’s defence.

Their crosses were usually dealt with by Warrenpoint somehow, or they were a cross which evaded everyone.

Stephen Fallon looked like he was going to score when a clearance fell to him, but his low shot was deflected wide.

In the last minute of the half, a cross fell to Jimmy Callacher, but he couldn’t bundle the ball in when he really should have scored.

Linfield really needed a second goal. The longer it stayed 1-0, the longer that Warrenpoint will have felt that they could sneak something from the game, all they needed was one chance to fall their way.

The grim reality was, that Linfield only had one shot on target in a half that they totally dominated.

It was obvious that Linfield players were told to step it up at half-time, judging by the increased urgency in the opening minutes of the second-half.

The best moment that pressure brought saw Shayne Lavery stretch for a header a few yards out, but it went over.

Andrew Waterworth and Chris Casement got onto the end of a Joel Cooper cross, but similar to the Callacher chance in the first-half, neither of them could divert the ball in.

Every time Linfield got the ball, the plan was simple, give the ball to Joel Cooper, who glided past Warrenpoint players every time he got it.

Jordan Stewart was next to be frustrated as his free-kick hit the side netting.

The longer it stayed 1-0, the more you feared that Warrenpoint would sneak something late on.

What was surprising, was that there were no substitutions for Linfield. The options were there, with Daniel Kearns and Bastien Hery both available to come on and offer something different in the attacking third.

Eventually, in injury time, the second goal came for Linfield when a long kick upfield from Rohan Ferguson saw Shayne Lavery get in behind Warrenpoint’s defence, the ball falling perfectly for him to finish from a few yards out.

For some reason, Matthew Shevlin came on for Shayne Lavery. A pointless substitution, he only got seconds on the pitch.

It was frustrating that the second goal didn’t come earlier, as Mark Haughey or Daniel Kearns could have been brought on to get some much needed game time.

As fans left Milltown, scores were filtering through from other grounds, and it was all good news for Linfield, with Coleraine drawing with Larne, and Glentoran and Crusaders drawing with each other. Those results meant that Linfield now have an outright lead of two points.

With the table so tight, it was a strange quirk that in a four week period between November 30th and December 28th, the top five all play each other with the exception of Coleraine not playing Crusaders.

Linfield have already played one of those teams, and the next three are against teams in the top five. They are games Linfield really can’t afford to lose, even though they have points and games in their favour.

Now if they could win them, we could kill off four rivals in one productive month and storm through a crowd, just as Cliftonville did in November and December 2012, racking up the wins while those around them were dropping points.

The first of those games is against Crusaders. There is nothing to be afraid of. Too many times in recent years we have been afraid of Crusaders. We proved we’re a better team three times last season, two of them when they were hoping to breathe down our necks in Winter.

Take our chances and don’t let them have speculative long range shots. It’s really that simple.

The games don’t stop after the busy Christmas/New Year period, with the Irish Cup starting on 4th January.

It’s a dream draw for me, a lower league team away from home, and it’s at a ground I’ve never been to. Queen’s University at The Dub. Not a bad way for my first Saturday football match of 2020.

Tickets have been a topic of conversation this week. Belfast Telegraph managed to fill some column inches by reporting the non story that Republic of Ireland will have only 5% (around 900) of tickets for a Euro 2020 Play-Off at Windsor Park.

Earlier that day, Scotland announced tickets prices for their match against Israel, so i’m guessing there was some sort of meeting or a deadline to confirm arrangements.

I presume the IFA have made arrangements with their Slovakian counterparts, just as the FAI have been given arrangements by their Bosnian counterparts.

But I guess neither of those stories are glamourous enough.

The more you talk about Northern Ireland v Republic of Ireland, the more it’s not going to happen.

I’m not sure i’m in the mood to tolerate idiots phoning up Nolan to demand the game be moved to Lansdowne Road because Windsor Park isn’t big enough. Or even better, demand that Northern Ireland builds a 60,000 capacity stadium at 5 days notice.

I’ve got my tickets for Boxing Day and Coleraine. Credit to the club for having evening sales on Wednesday past, it is really convenient for fans hindered by not being able to get out of work to get to Windsor Park.

My point still stands that has been raised in the past, that any match which is ticketed should have tickets on sale four weeks before the game. That should actually be a formal rule.

For some reason, the Steel and Sons Cup Final is all ticket, which is a ridiculous decision which will vastly reduce the gate, as a lot or people, myself included, will probably decide to attend that morning if they are going to the match.

Usually around this time of year, League Of Ireland fixtures are released, so i’ll keep an eye out for them.

Hopefully, a Monday night fixture list when i’m staying in Bray in late June with Bray at home.

Finally, this match, as with every other match in Northern Ireland this weekend, had a minute silence before in memory of Carrick Rangers player Jerry Thompson.

I was out on Tuesday night so I was late to the news. I had originally thought it had happened during a match like Marc Vivien Foe, as Carrick were playing Glenavon, when I saw the news flash up on my ipad.

I don’t know why, but when a footballer or active manager dies, it just takes you aback with a big massive shock, like Justin Edinburgh, Emiliano Sala, Gary Speed or Phil O’Donnell. Though not managing anyone at the time, you can include Tommy Breslin in that list.

Unsurprisingly, Carrick’s match against Cliftonville was postponed. It seems a bit crass to call it a game in hand given the circumstances of the postponement, i’ll refer to it as “Game they have to play” when referring to Cliftonville’s place in the table in relation to the title race.

Such sad news, there’s nothing I can add to what has already been written, said and tweeted about it.

Photo Album

2019 IN PICTURES – JANUARY

2019 began for me with a trip to the seaside on the very first day of the year, to Clandeboye Park to see Linfield take on Ards as they aimed for three points in the title race.

Eleven days later, was my first trip of the year to Windsor Park to see Linfield beat Warrenpoint Town.

That was then followed a week later by a trip to Seaview to see Linfield beat Crusaders.

A month that was mostly spent watching football saw me return to Windsor Park to see Linfield beat Glentoran in a televised game.

The next day, I headed to Manchester. Guess what? It was for a football match, as Manchester United took on Burnley.

While I was there, I got photos of Street Art in Manchester and Salford Quays, while I also snuck in a day trip to Sheffield, where I got more Street Art photos.

While I was in Manchester, it snowed, so I got some photos of that, including snow outside Old Trafford.

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Burnley

Manchester United v Burnley Photo Album

Manchester Snow

Manchester Snow Photo Album

Sheffield Street Art

Sheffield Street Art Photo Album

Salford Quays Street Art

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

LINFIELD 7-0 WARRENPOINT TOWN 22.10.2019

This was a match that Linfield had to wait two months to play, and it turned out to be worth the wait.

The postponement would have been a source of frustration for those who turn up at the match in their Stiff Little Fingers t-shirt before heading to the Aul Boys Punk Bank Holiday Weekender.

Originally scheduled for August, this match was postponed due to Linfield’s involvement in European competition. As a result of their inactivity, Linfield have been playing catch-up since August.

With each win, they’ve gradually got closer to the top. If they could win this, the first of three games in hand, they would get within two points of the top of the table, and still have two games in hand.

Mark Stafford and Kirk Millar made Birthday Goals quite trendy in August, so the postponement was frustrating for Daniel Kearns, whose birthday was two days after the original date.

He continued to miss out through injury, but this match represented a first League start for Ross Larkin.

He looked comfortable when he had the ball. It was hard to analyse his defending because he didn’t have any to do, apart from blocking a cross out for a corner.

Just like on Saturday, Linfield attacked The Kop in the first-half, meaning a quick change of seat. I missed the opening seconds of the game, but got in just in time to see Shayne Lavery causing trouble for Warrenpoint’s defence

The pressure continued, Warrenpoint couldn’t get out of their own half.

Even though Linfield have an excellent record against Warrenpoint (Fourteen wins and two draws from sixteen meetings), some of the previous meetings had been dicey.

It was easy to forget that Warrenpoint had drawn two of their previous three visits to Windsor Park. Linfield’s 4-0 win on Warrenpoint’s last visit had some nervy moments at 0-0 and 1-0.

The key was for Linfield to get an early goal, so that Warrenpoint wouldn’t anything to hold on to or defend. There wasn’t long to wait, just 6 minutes in when Stephen Fallon curled home from the edge of the box.

It looked like there were only two players on the pitch as Shayne Lavery had a personal battle with Beerat Turker, with Warrenpoint’s keeper denying Lavery three times.

Lavery was only going to have a frustrating evening for so long, and he eventually got his goal when he finished from a Joel Cooper cross.

A 2-0 lead was key for Linfield. At 1-0, Warrenpoint would have been determined to stay in the game and maybe nick something late on. There was no way they going to score two. Two touched in Linfield’s half was looking ambitious.

Kirk Millar, Ryan McGivern and Matthew Clarke all had efforts denied before Shayne Lavery made it 3-0 on the stroke of half-time after getting in behind Warrenpoint’s defence, beating the keeper to the ball, and then backheeling the ball into the empty net. As you do.

Even I, naturally cautious, knew that the points were in the bag.

The only question, was what would the winning margin be?

This was the third of four midweek games in October, a month that would see them play eight games. It would be understandable if they were to take things easy in the second-half, just as they did against Dungannon Swifts earlier in the month.

Nope, was the answer. Within a few minutes, Shayne Lavery cut in from the left and fired home to complete his hat-trick, a bit longer than it took to complete against Glenavon earlier in the season.

You knew it was going in as soon as he set himself up to shoot.

His frustration from earlier in the evening was now gone, although he was probably rueing the double hat-trick that got away.

Job done for the night, Lavery and Jamie Mulgrew were able to put their feet up, with Matthew Shevlin and Jordan Stewart coming on for some much needed minutes.

It was then 5-0 when Joel Cooper headed home, and then 6-0 from Cooper again. Now he wanted a hat-trick.

There was still time for some more saves from Beerat Turket, with Matthew Shevlin being the man frustrated.

By this stage, Trai Hume was now brought on as a substitute for Ross Larkin, who had a slight injury.

It was definitely ok to bring Hume on, there would be no objections from the County Antrim FA.

Just before the end, Cooper made it 7-0 to complete his hat-trick. It was the first time i’d ever been to a match where two players scored a hat-trick, and both of them stayed on the pitch after the final whistle for the obligatory photo holding a matchball in one hand holding three fingers with the other.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JANUARY

Fifteen hours into 2019, and it was a short trip to the Seaside to see Linfield beat Ards.

More wins came in the month, with Warrenpoint Town, Crusaders and Glentoran all taken care of.

The month ended with a trip to Old Trafford. Unfortunately, the one United match I went to didn’t result in a win, but a draw against Burnley, though I did manage to get some photos of Old Trafford in the snow the next morning.

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Manchester United v Burnley

Manchester United v Burnley Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : NOVEMBER

November 2018’s football watching began with a trip to Windsor Park with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield scrape a late draw at home to Warrenpoint Town.

It didn’t get much better the following Saturday, as I headed back to Windsor Park to see Linfield lose to Coleraine.

The weekend after, was a double header, the first of which was a first trip to The Brandywell, to see Linfield take on Institute. The next day, I headed to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Austria in the UEFA Nations League.

The following weekend, it was yet another trip to Windsor Park, but finally a home win, as an Andrew Waterworth hat-trick saw off Cliftonville.

My football watching for the month ended with a midweek trip to Old Trafford to see Manchester United take on BSC Young Boys in the European Cup, my first visit to Old Trafford of the season.

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Linfield v Coleraine

Institute v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Austria

Northern Ireland v Austria Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : SEPTEMBER

I didn’t have to wait long for some football action in September, with Linfield taking on Ards on the first day of the month. I would have to wait a while for a first goal of the month, as that match finished 0-0.

The goals flew in during my next match, as Linfield beat Warrenpoint 5-0, before taking in Northern Ireland’s first ever UEFA Nations League match, a 2-1 home defeat to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The month ended taking in three further Linfield matches, home wins against Dungannon Swifts and Ballymena United, as well as a draw at Coleraine.

Linfield v Ards

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Bosnia-Herzegovina

Northern Ireland v Bosnia-Herzegovina Photo Album

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Coleraine v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

LINFIELD 4-0 WARRENPOINT TOWN 12.1.2019

Linfield left the pitch after their first League game of 2019 with a one point lead at the top of the table. By the time they kicked off their second game, they were ahead only on goal difference after Crusaders win over Newry City on Friday night.

A home game against Warrenpoint gave Linfield a chance to go clear at the top, but it wasn’t going to be easy, as Warrenpoint had the longest unbeaten run at Windsor Park of any side in the League, stretching back to September 2015, albeit two drawn games.

It was a Warrenpoint side coming off the back of a win at Mourneview Park on New Year’s Day. Having left Mourneview Park unbeaten twice this season, they were wanting to do the same at Windsor Park, having drawn 1-1 there in November.

If people thought Warrenpoint were going to park the bus, they got a shock in the opening minute as they went straight on the attack, firing in a cross which caused enough concern in the Linfield defence.

The opening minutes of the game saw Warrenpoint holding the ball but there was no danger to Linfield as it was all in their own half and not going forward.

Unable to create an opening in open play, Linfield were further frustrated by being unable to take advantage of any set pieces.

Most attacks were falling just short, the final pass usually being too hard or too soft.

There was a mild panic for Linfield when a cross from Ciaran O’Connor looked like it was going to loop in. Having fallen 1-0 down directly from a corner to Warrenpoint last season, it looked Linfield were going to concede another freak goal to Warrenpoint.

Just before half-time, Linfield went 1-0 up with their first attempt on target, when Joel Cooper was played into space by Jordan Stewart, who finished the eventual cross. He had so much of the goal to aim at, he couldn’t miss.

It changed the dynamic of the half-time team talk.

Linfield weren’t great, but they had a lead. Now they had to go out and finish the game off rather than going out to win it.

While the score was only 1-0, Warrenpoint weren’t out of it, and Linfield would know about this in the early minutes of the second-half with Roy Carroll being forced into a save, while Philip Donnelly got in behind Linfield’s defence but fired just wide of the post.

Niall Quinn had a shot blocked when he looked certain to make it 2-0, but the opportunity to get that decisive lead came when a Jordan Stewart shot was blocked by a handball.

From where I was, I was screaming for him to pass it to Andrew Waterworth, but watching back on the TV replay, it looked like his shot was going to go in.

Stewart made no mistake from the penalty spot to make it 2-0, and surely secure the points for Linfield.

Joel Cooper was given a rest, making way for Daniel Kearns, before Andrew Waterworth made it 3-0, removing any lingering doubt as to where the points were going.

There was still time for one more goal, as Stephen Fallon headed the ball behind Warrenpoint’s defence, with Jordan Stewart pouncing to get a hat-trick, his second for Linfield, after getting one in a 4-0 win against Ballinamallard last season.

The 4-0 lead was a perfect time to blood Lorcan Forde into the game, with him and Michael O’Connor both coming on for the final minutes.

O’Connor might have only had a brief cameo, but it was still a bruising afternoon for him, as Warrenpoint lost their discipline, with Matty Lynch being sent-off for two fouls on him.

Elsewhere, Ballymena United surprisingly drew 2-2 with Dungannon Swifts, meaning that Linfield went three points clear at the top of the table.

Unfortunately, laptop problems meant I wouldn’t be previewing the upcoming trip to Crusaders as I didn’t get this blog finished before that game.

It was a big game for Linfield and it lived up to the hype.

You can read about it in the following post.

Photo Album

2018 IN PICTURES – NOVEMBER

November 2018 began for me with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield scrape a late draw at home to Warrenpoint Town.

From Warrenpoint to Waterford, as the following week I spent a few days in Waterford seeing Waterford Walls, with a brief stop-off in Dublin.

The day after my return to Belfast, it was back to Windsor Park to see Linfield lose to Coleraine.

The following weekend, a new ground for me to visit for the first time, as I headed to The Brandywell to see Linfield take on Institute.

The day after, it was a return to Windsor Park, and another bad home result, as Northern Ireland lost to Austria in the UEFA Nations League.

On the following weekend, I headed to The Limelight to see Cast in concert.

That was then followed by a good home result at Windsor Park, as Linfield beat Cliftonville 4-2.

I then headed to Manchester for a few days, to see United take on BSC Young Boys and get some Street Art photos.

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Dublin Street Art

Dublin Street Art Photo Album

Waterford Walls

Waterford Walls Photo Album

Linfield v Coleraine

Institute v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Austria

Northern Ireland v Austria Photo Album

Cast live at The Limelight

Cast live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys Photo Album

Salford Quays Street Art

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album