2018 IN PICTURES – JULY

My first photo adventure of July came on the weekend of the Quarter-Finals of the World Cup.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t in Russia, it was closer to home, at Wilgar Park as Linfield began their pre-season preparations.

The following weekend, I headed to Dublin over the July Holiday, got some Street Art Photos, and went to see Shelbourne take on Drogheda United.

The month ended with two more pre-season friendlies for Linfield, away to Knockbreda and PSNI.

Dundela v Linfield

Dublin Street Art

Dublin Street Art Photo Album

Shelbourne v Drogheda United

Shelbourne v Drogheda United Photo Album

Knockbreda v Linfield

PSNI v Linfield

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DUNDELA 1-4 LINFIELD 7.7.2018

Hasn’t the World Cup been brilliant? In truth, World Cups are like dogs, they’re all brilliant. Some are just better than others.

So, Saturday had arrived, and the big game was here.

All that failure and disappointment since their last title, but their fans were believing this was their year.

While some of you were watching England v Sweden, I was on my way home Wilgar Park, as Linfield began their pre-season preparations.

All the focus is on the opening day of the League season and an away match against Glenavon. Unfortunately, there will be no focus on European football due to the fact that the Irish League decides that UEFA Cup places are to be decided by a lottery rather than merit. Just watch the co-efficient slide.

In order to avoid clashing with the England match, this match was moved to lunchtime. Off the top of my head, I think that was Linfield’s first Saturday lunchtime game since Warrenpoint in 2014.

Since Linfield visited Wilgar Park last summer, the ground has had a bit of work done, with the terracing at one side gone and replaced by a flat standing area.

Everyone has their own wishes when it comes to pre-season friendlies. Some hope to have high profile opposition. Personally, I prefer away trips to smaller grounds, and/or grounds never visited or haven’t been to for a while.

When this year’s pre-season schedule was announced, there were two games that stood out for me – Dundela and PSNI.

I’ll be in Dublin next weekend (more on that later) so won’t be at Bangor. Even if I wasn’t, we’ll be going there twice in the League in 2018/2019. We’ve recently been to Carrick, so i’ll be giving that a miss. If you’re superstitious, you may want me to go. I’ve been to Carrick three times and the matches have ended 3-0, 2-0 and 1-0. Logically, my next visit will be a 0-0 draw. Might as well have it come in a friendly.

Ballyclare would be pushing it fine on a working day.

Since that original list was announced, a new game was added, a home friendly against Waterford.

Not going to lie, if that was an away game, i’d be all over it, giving me a chance to take in Waterford Walls. Trust me, i’ll eventually get my arse into gear and arrange a trip.

There’s no reason why that game can’t be moved to Midgley Park, especially as there’s no women’s game that night. If you think that is a silly suggestion, we have recently played friendlies against Sligo Rovers at Clandeboye Park and The Dub.

Hopefully, they’ll return the favour and give us a visit to Sligo Showgrounds some year.

I was hoping we could sneak in a trip to Scotland, but it was not to be this year. Not going to lie, I was totally jealous that Glenavon got that trip.

I guess my hopes of away games against Knockbreda and Moyola Park will have to wait until the Summer of 2019.

This is a fixture that has become a bit of a tradition in recent years, with Linfield visiting Wilgar Park in 2016 and 2017. There was also a game in 2015, but that was billed as a Linfield XI.

A welcome sight for Linfield fans at the start of this game was the return of two players whose 2017-2018 ended prematurely, in the shape of Jordan Stewart (February) and Jamie Mulgrew (March)

There was also a Trialist from Scotland starting the match at right-back. He was very vocal and not afraid to get stuck in. Mulgrew was joined in midfield by Joe Crowe, who wasn’t as effective as when he usually plays at right-back.

If Linfield fans were hoping that 2017-2018 was behind them, there wasn’t much to suggest that it was, as Dundela were by far the better team.

Lining up in red/red/green, Dundela looked like Portugal. Thankfully, their finishing was more like Helder Postiga than Cristiano Ronaldo.

If their finishing was more like Cristiano Ronaldo, Dundela could have been a couple of goals up by the time they deservedly took the lead midway through the first-half.

The only Linfield player that looked at the game was Andrew Waterworth.

Eventually, Linfield got more into it, with Jordan Stewart getting a lot of the ball down the left, and Jamie Mulgrew getting more of the ball to make things happen.

It was Andrew Waterworth who got the equaliser for Linfield, blasting home after being played through.

A few minutes later, Dundela got a penalty. The award ranged from soft to dodgy. If it was a competitive game, there would have been protests.

It didn’t matter, as Roy Carroll saved the penalty.

In the second-half, Linfield were an entirely different team. Literally. On a day when England were playing in their first World Cup Quarter-Final since 2006, it was a nice tribute to friendlies during Sven Goran Eriksson’s reign as England manager by making eleven substitutions.

Among those introduced were Mark Stafford, Niall Quinn, Andrew Mitchell, Chris Casement, Stephen Fallon, Robert Garrett, and a debut for Joel Cooper, while another former Glenavon player, Daniel Kearns, played as a Trialist.

Dundela were made to rue not taking their chances in the first-half, as Stephen Fallon put Linfield 2-1 up, before Daniel Kearns smashed home from the edge of the box to make it 3-1.

Joel Cooper had an impressive debut, always being available for a pass and making things happen when he got the ball.

As the game neared it’s end, he got a deserved goal when he headed home from a corner, hitting the bar before the ball bounced in. You could hear the thud as the ball hit the bar. It was the sort of goal that Alan Partridge would love.

A winning start to pre-season, but not a convincing one. It’s always hard to judge on the first pre-season friendly, but if that first-half performance is repeated, it’s going to be a long one.

For me, the 2018-2019 season is up and running.

Next for me, i’m off for a short break to Dublin. Naturally, i’ll be hoping to take in some football in amongst the touristy stuff.

I usually visit Dublin once a year, usually a day trip or an overnight stay. I’ll be heading over on Fridayy for an overnight stay. I have a choice of two matches, Bohs v Sligo or Shelbourne v Drogheda United.

As it stands, i’m going for Shelbourne v Drogheda United, just to try and squeeze in one last visit to Tolka Park.

Bad news for Shelbourne fans is that i’ve never seen Drogheda lose, seeing them win and draw (but win on penalties) against Linfield in 2006 and 2007, and then draw with St Patrick’s Athletic in 2013, and then beat Bray in 2014.

I could cross my fingers and hope that Shamrock Rovers v AIK on Thursday is postponed for some reason, and would have to be played on Friday lunchtime.

Talking of football visits to Dublin, the schedule for Euro 2020, which has Dublin as one of the host cities, has been announced.

As you will see, no kick-off times are announced, just dates and venues. 2pm or 5pm in Dublin would mean a day trip, while 8pm means overnight. It would be nice to know so I could make plans in advance, instead of having to participate in a scramble for hotel rooms.

The 2020 European Super Cup Final was awarded to Porto, meaning that Windsor Park misses out on that again.

And finally, the 2026 World Cup will be held in Canada, Mexico and the USA. Yep, what a disaster this is going to be. 32 teams was perfect, 48 will be bloated. Two host countries is tolerable but three makes it a shambles, especially when one is taking on most of the workload.

This means that people will be getting ideas about a UK co-host bid for a future World Cup, and when Northern Ireland is unable to be part of it due to not having a big enough stadium, we’ll have to put up with the Maze Brigade coming out of the woodwork and starting to pipe up again.

During the close season, we’ve seen Politicians embarrass themselves when it comes to football, with Sinn Fein demanding that Northern Ireland postponed their friendly against Israel in September.

I’m not quite sure why they waited until June to make these calls as the game was announced in February. I’m no expert on the Middle East, but I can’t think they were all holding hands and singing at the start of the year.

This was jumping on the bandwagon of Argentina’s decision not to play Israel prior to the World Cup.

Northern Ireland’s fixture schedule will not be dictated by Argentina, or by any MLA. They are free to play whoever they wish. In fact, they can play anybody who isn’t a member of FIFA if they wish. I’d love an away friendly against Yorkshire.

I haven’t got a clue about the Middle East. I don’t know who is right or who is wrong. It’s hard not to be disengaged when this particular matter is a cause celebre for one particular movement in Northern Ireland, one who is hostile to the existence to the Northern Ireland football team.

The irony of all this is, i’m not going to the Israel game. It’s an underwhelming choice of opponent and a team i’ve already seen before. I’ll be giving this game a miss.

Meanwhile, Jolene Bunting, an Independent Councillor in Belfast City Council is wanting to try and establish a Northern Ireland version of the Football Lads Alliance (whatever that is) to protest against bad shit and stuff. The last thing we need is to create our own version of a fuckwit movement.

If England win the World Cup, i’m really looking forward to the DUP absolutely embarrassing themselves by trying to jump on the bandwagon, demanding England flags at Stormont and inviting them to a Civic Reception.

I’m indifferent to the England team, so don’t really care if they win it or not, but them winning it will have some positives, such as culchies having meltdowns, DUP embarrassing themselves, and a possible Bank Holiday.

Fixture lists for the new season have been published. In the Premier League, i’m planning to visit Old Trafford to see United take on Burnley (January) and Cardiff (March), as well as a European Cup group match, hopefully.

In the Irish League, the fixtures were published in late June, far later than they should have been in comparison with England and Scotland. So, i’m going to have a quick analysis.

Glenavon away first will be tough, but they usually make slow starts, so we have to exploit this.

That game will be put back to the Monday night if Glenavon get past Molde in the UEFA Cup. I can’t see that happening. There is no reason why it couldn’t be moved to the Sunday instead.

The first home game is Institute, inconveniently moved to the Friday night as i’ll be at George Ezra. Hopefully, Linfield will be riding shotgun, underneath the hot sun. Whatever that means.

You may remember I wanted us to be away to Institute that day, so I could make a weekend of it by going to Stendahl to see Embrace.

The away game against Institute will be on an international weekend (Northern Ireland are at home the following day) but hopefully it won’t be postponed. The release of Linfield’s new away kit means that they will be playing at The Brandywell wearing red and white. This will be a new ground for me to visit.

The following week will see Linfield travel to Seaview on the same day I go to see The League Of Gentlemen at The Odyssey. I’ll let you insert your own punchline.

How many times do the players have to be told? DO NOT BE AFRAID OF CRUSADERS. DO NOT BE AFRAID OF CRUSADERS. I thought we had put that nonsense behind us in 2016-2017.

If you get a nice book for Christmas, that will be handy, as you’ll be spending a lot of time sitting around Ballysillan Leisure Centre on the Saturday afterwards.

If you’re planning a late night on New Year’s Eve, you won’t have far to travel on the opening day of 2019, as Linfield travel to Ards.

It’ll be a tough opening 33 games, and the 5 games post-split will be tough as well.

Even though it’s a relatively new tradition (2014) it is disappointing that there will be no Charity Shield this season due to being unable to find a date.

Why not have it on weekend of 4th August, and slot in a midweek fixture list somewhere?

It is interesting to note that there are no midweek League games scheduled in 2018-2019, barring Bank Holidays, albeit there are two Friday night games, one for an International on the Saturday afternoon, and the other for the League Cup Final.

On that note, I hope that NIFL already have contingency plans in place for the fixtures scheduled for Saturday 23rd March should Northern Ireland have a home Euro 2020 Qualifier, the draw taking place in late 2018. You can never be too prepared.

Mixing friendly wishes and former player news, Grant McCann is the new manager of Doncaster Rovers. Go on, Summer 2019, a friendly at The Keepmoat, ideally on the weekend of Tramlines in Sheffield.

2018-2019 hasn’t even started and i’m already talking about 2019-2020 pre-season games. On that note, decent headliner at Buncrana Music Festival and Finn Harps at home on the same weekend could give me an idea.

And finally, i’ll be heading to Edinburgh next month to take in the Edinburgh Festival.

The only confirmed match on when i’m there is Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers in the Irn Bru Cup, while there is the possibility of Hibs being at home in Europe on the Thursday night, or a short trip to Glasgow if Rangers have a decent home tie.

2018-2019 is finally here. Hopefully, it’s a lot better than 2017-2018.

Photo Album

Dundela v Linfield 2016

Dundela v Linfield 2017

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : AUGUST

August’s football watching began at Wilgar Park to see Linfield take on Dundela in a friendly. The following day, was another Pre-Season Friendly, but in different surroundings, as Manchester United took on Sampdoria at Lansdowne Road.

That weekend, I was in Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Festival. While there, I make an effort to attend a game, and I saw Edinburgh City v Montrose while I was there.

Upon my return, was the start of the Irish League season, and I was out for Linfield’s opening week of matches against Carrick, Ards and Dungannon.

My football watching for the month ended by seeing Linfield take on Ballymena at Windsor Park.

Dundela v Linfield

Manchester United v Sampdoria

Manchester United v Sampdoria Photo Album

Edinburgh City v Montrose

Edinburgh City v Montrose Photo Album

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Ards v Linfield

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

2017 IN PICTURES – AUGUST

August began for me at Wilgar Park, seeing Linfield take on Dundela in a Friendly.

The following night, was another Pre-Season Friendly, as I was on the road to see Manchester United take on Sampdoria at Lansdowne Road.

That weekend, I was travelling some more, heading to Edinburgh for a weekend away, getting some Street Art photos and taking in Edinburgh City v Montrose.

When I returned home, I was out getting some Street Art photos, the aftermath of Hit The East Festival in Eats Belfast.

The following weekend, the Irish League season started, with Linfield taking on Carrick Rangers at Windsor Park, followed by a midweek trip to Ards and a trip to Dungannon Swifts.

As soon as the final whistle blew at Stangmore Park, I was straight back to Belfast to see Amy MacDonald perform at Custom House Square.

A few days later, I was back at Custom House Square to see Blossoms warm up for Kasabian, or so I thought, as Kasabian pulled out at the last minute.

A few days after that, I was back at Custom House Square, to see Ocean Colour Scene in concert.

The following day, I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Ballymena United.

My photo adventures for August ended by getting snaps of murals of Jimmy Cricket, Jimmy Nesbitt, Jimmy Young and Carl Cox.

Dundela v Linfield

Manchester United v Sampdoria

Manchester United v Sampdoria Photo Album

Edinburgh Street Art

Edinburgh Street Art Photo Album

Edinburgh City v Montrose

Edinburgh City v Montrose Photo Album

East Belfast Street Art

East Belfast Street Art Photo Album

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Ards v Linfield

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Amy MacDonald live at Custom House Square

Amy MacDonald live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Blossoms live at Custom House Square

Blossoms live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Ocean Colour Scene live at Custom House Square

Ocean Colour Scene live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Linfield v Ballymena United

The Three Jimmys and Carl Cox

The Three Jimmys Photo Album

Carl Cox Photo Album

DUNDELA 0-2 LINFIELD 1.8.2017

It has been a busy pre-season for Linfield fans, taking in trips to Wales, San Marino and Scotland before mid-July, which was then followed by a run of friendlies against Bangor, Sheffield United Under 23s, Newry and Glentoran, before a trip to Wilgar Park to take on Dundela, hoping to avenge a defeat to Linfield in a friendly the previous summer, as well as defeat in the Steel and Sons Cup Final on Christmas Eve.

Normally, I would have went to the Bangor game, but a trip to Clandeboye Park in the League in mid August negated the need for me to go to that game. I didn’t go to the Sheffield United game as I don’t usually bother with games against XI teams. By all accounts, I missed out on a good game. Having beaten their Under 23s 5-1, I think it’s only fair that Linfield get invited to Bramall Lane to take on their first team, on the weekend of Tramlines Festival.

I haven’t been to Newry since 2010 and it would have been nice to head over, but it was a weeknight and I was heading to Dublin the next day and it felt pointless going half the way, coming back and then going the full way.

I wasn’t at the Glentoran game due to being in Dublin, but I did get a laugh when I heard Linfield won 1-0 on penalties.

In the early minutes of this game, Linfield had a lot of pressure, with Jordan Stewart, Andrew Mitchell and Cameron Stewart all having chances to score.

The goal eventually came when Stephen Lowry scored from close ranger.

Within minutes, Dundela almost equalised when a corner was thunderously headed against the bar from a corner from close range.

They were soon made to pay for not taking their chance when Cameron Stewart made it 2-0, just when it started to look like he was going to have a frustrating evening.

Not much happened in the second-half, apart from Dundela hitting the bar from a long range shot, and Ryan Strain missing when he was put through, not knowing if to pass or shot, doing both and ending up doing neither.

Ross Clarke came on in the second-half. A player I rate highly, he has been gradually getting game time as he continues his recovery after two years on injury misery. If he can recover his form of 2014-2015, it will be like a new signing, and what a signing.

Elsewhere, the game away to Crusaders has been put back from 2nd September to 6th September due to the Scottish Challenge Cup. It’s good that the club have been proactive in getting a new date as soon as possible.

We’ll be away in that round. Hopefully, not too far to travel and a Saturday game, or else there will be some squad rotation in the Irn Bru Cup.

The fallout from the Celtic tie came through with Linfield getting a relatively small fine and having to close a section of the South Stand for the next European home game. It’s fair to say, it could have been a lot worse.

Meanwhile, Celtic fans got their club into trouble for flying banners proclaiming “Brendan’s undefeated army” in a competition they lost five times in last season, as well as “Paying tribute” to road signs in County Armagh.

Interestingly, it took a while for this to be a story. The match was on the Wednesday night, but it didn’t become a story in some publications until Friday or Saturday. It’s almost as if they were shamed into doing so once they realised it wasn’t going to go away.

It seems that some journalists can embarrass themselves by being silent just as much as they did when they were vocal in the build-up to the tie.

I saw pictures of the banners on social media while the game was going on. There’s no way they couldn’t have been aware of what was happening.

It is worth noting that The Scotsman covered the banners as part of their report of the match on the Thursday. After a relatively small fine, Celtic will be breathing just as big a sigh as Linfield after their UEFA punishment.

And talking of press coverage, Linfield have indicated that they have received a letter from the Daily Record for printing lies (sorry, a “memory lapse”) told by Joe Miller and appear to be satisfied with it.

I am aware that the apology was made privately on a business to business basis, however, the claims were not. The lack of a public statement to this effect by the Daily Record in either their print or online editions does not resolve this matter satisfactorily for a lot of Linfield fans.

In the 30th July edition of Sunday Life, they doorstepped a supporter who had been banned for something that happened at the Celtic away game.

I don’t know the guy and I don’t know what he did, but there is no merit in this. Something happened and he has been punished by Linfield, and the law of the land. There is no life left in this story. He did something, and he has been punished for it. That should be the matter closed, especially as it looks as if he isn’t going to appeal against either punishment.

There is no issue with his punishments being reported, but doorstepping him at his job? Really?

The fact a lot of comments, when the story appeared online, began with “I support xxxxx, but …..” tells you all you need to know.

Attention was directed towards the start of a new League season begins with Carrick Rangers visiting Windsor Park where Linfield would line up with at least five changes from last season’s Irish Cup Final due to injuries (Callacher, Clarke, Waterworth) and suspensions (Lowry, Burns)

The four new signings over the summer have added quality to Linfield’s squad, which we expect to see the benefits of it over the course of a season.

We didn’t expect it to come in the first League match of the season.

Photo Album

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 : JULY

Following a UEFA Cup exit to Cork City, there would be no European Linfield games for me in July, relying on hastily arrange friendlies for my football fix.

I got two of them, away friendlies against Dundela, then a trip to Harland and Wolff Welders.

Dundela v Linfield

Harland and Wolff Welders v Linfield

DUNDELA 1-3 LINFIELD 19.7.2016

Out of Europe, Linfield quickly plugged the gap in their diary by arranging a series of away friendlies as they look to get ready for the start of the new league season on August 6th.

One of those friendlies, was a short trip to East Belfast to face Dundela. It was my first pre-season game. I’d hoped that would be at Larne last week, but the fact the last train for Belfast left during the game ruined that plan.

It was my first visit to Wilgar Park since 2005, and fans attending were treated to a strong team. It wasn’t a full strength team, but I had heard of ten players in the starting eleven.

The one player I hadn’t heard of was Number 16, a trialist. It turned out his name was Aaron Duke, a 20 year old striker from Lisburn last on the books of Dundee United. He was to endure a mixed evening.

Linfield went on the attack in the opening minutes, with Paul Smyth getting in behind Dundela’s defence and firing into the side netting from a wide angle.

It was no surprise to anybody that Linfield took the lead after 13 minutes. It was even less of a surprise that the goal game from Paul Smyth. It was a header from a Ross Gaynor cross.

Smyth was involved in all of Linfield’s attacking play, he was running show.

His strike partner Duke, endured a frustrating evening, but he did get a reward for his persistence.

He shot wide when he could have scored, then he headed against the top of the crossbar. It looked like it wasn’t going to be his night.

Eventually, he made it 2-0 after a cross from Kirk Millar. Fittingly, even his goal came after he had a shot saved, scoring the rebound.

Most of the game was attack v defence, with Linfield doing the attacking.

Early in the second-half, Aaron Burns went close, while Jimmy Callacher had an overhead kick saved.

The match looked like being a non event, until Ross Glendenning let a Scott Collins shot under his body.

Suddenly, the match became competitive when it should have been long put to bed.

Despite this, Linfield introduced substitutes from the bench. The most effective sub was Ross Clarke, desperate to make up for lost time after a year out through injury.

Clarke fired home a low free-kick from the edge of the box to make it 3-1 and secure the win for Linfield.

Up next, another trip to East Belfast to take on Harland and Wolff Welders. It will be my first visit there since 2012. Linfield lost 1-0 there and it set the tone for when the season finally kicked-off.

Hopefully, it will be a bit better this time around.

Photo Album