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The St Patrick’s Swagger


The Wind that Shakes the Barley


There’s music in my heart all day,
I hear it late and early,
It comes from fields are far away,
The wind that shakes the barley.


Above the uplands drenched with dew
The sky hangs soft and pearly,
An emerald world is listening to
The wind that shakes the barley.


Above the bluest mountain crest
The lark is singing rarely,
It rocks the singer into rest,
The wind that shakes the barley.


Oh, still through summers and through springs
It calls me late and early.
Come home, come home, come home, it sings,
The wind that shakes the barley.

by Katherine Tynan (1859-1931)




Friday 11th October 2013 European U-21 Championship k.o.:- 3.00pm
Group 9

Northern Ireland U-21                                                                                     0
Belgium U-21                                                                                                    1
Michy Bashuayi 41
referee:- Jan Valasek (Slovakia)                                                            attendance:- 350


It was dark and cold as we left Northamptonshire for the airport at Luton and a flight to Belfast at the ungodly hour of 7.50am. James had arrived with his son’s passport and it looked very unlikely at first that he would be allowed to travel! When we eventually got there, we drove the hire car to Botanic Rest where Claire had booked rooms for us for a couple of nights and having dropped off our bags, we set out immediately for Lurgan in County Armagh, and the first match at the home of Glenavon. We found the beautifully appointed ground fairly easily and repaired back into the small town, which only seemed to have one pub, but that was all right because it provided both food and a pool table. It was on the pool table that James demonstrated his prowess to the frustration of the rest of the party, whilst we waited for the meal!


Graeme had found this match quite by chance as he was glancing through the sports pages earlier in the week. Entry was free, programmes were free and team sheets were handed out as soon as they were available. Mourneview Stadium – probably so called because of the vicinity of The Mourne Mountains –  was lovely, modern, well cared for and offering a good view for spectators. It is a relatively small arena which can accommodate up to 5,000 spectators, but it was the venue for the 2008/09 Irish League Cup Final. Considering all the trouble the Irish FA had gone to, to put this match on, I was a trifle surprised to find that it was all free!


Only the main stand was used for spectating!

The Belgians, whose football credibility is on the up at present, brought a tall, rangy, beefy contingent of skilful  youngsters – many of them with African antecedents – and also a 1-0 victory against their opponents in the first game just four weeks previously. It was a funny old game. Belgium dominated for eighty minutes and could and should have added to their one goal advantage gained just before half-time. Ireland, frankly, were outclassed and yet, in the closing ten minutes, they could quite easily have snatched an equaliser from several good chances as the Belgians seemed to lose their concentration.


The teams line up before kick-off


Friday 11th October 2013 Belfast Telegraph Irish Championship k.o.:- 7.45pm
Championship 1

Newington YC                                                                                                 2
Neil Quinn (pen) 80
Catmalo Kane 89
Tobermore                                                                                                        1
Trevor Parkhill 47
referee:- Steven Gregg                                                                             attendance:- 53



Newington YC of the upper division in The Irish Championship, were playing their home fixture, this evening, at the home of Crusaders, at Seaview in Shore Road, although there was little evidence of either sea or shore from our vantage points! There weren’t many people around, either and we had to enquire as to how to gain entry! James, Michael and Liam had a nose for the Guinness and off they went. Graeme and I paid the £5 entry fee (there were no programmes) and went for a wander around the big, old and largely silent stadium. There was seating all round the pitch and one large stand which gave a grand view of the game. The pitch was 3G and there was a bar, of sorts, under the stand which sold tea, coffee and crisps and bottled beer, which didn’t suit the three musketeers who ensconced themselves in the ‘real’ bar on the other side of the ground until kick-off!



It was a pretty good game, too. You had to feel sorry for the away side who competed well throughout the match, but were undone by a last minute goal. They had scored first, early in the second half to gain a deserved lead and then Newington were given a rather dubious penalty award just ten minutes from time. Having been handed a lifeline, they then proceeded to lay siege to the Tobermore goal mouth and staggered over the line with a late, late, winner.


Outside, the wall was painted in Crusader slogans and pictures, but the area surrounding the ground was pretty deserted and had that ‘run-down’ feel that seemed to affect the whole city. I don’t think I have seen so many houses boarded up and so many derelict shop fronts as I did in Belfast this weekend. The following morning, we took in ‘The Titanic Experience’ which was well worth the visit for a delve into the past of the Belfast of one hundred years ago and the vast impact that ship building had on the city, its culture and society. We were given a full blown ride across the ship as it was being built with red hot rivets being hammered into the hull platings. The ‘museum’ where it was housed stood isolated on what seemed to be a reclaimed part of Belfast, but there were no other buildings around.

Saturday 12th October 2013 Danske Bank Irish Premiership

Linfield                                                                                                         2
Andrew Waterworth 40, 58
Dungannon Swifts                                                                                        0
referee:- Mervyn Smyth                                                                      attendance:- 1,415


Fortune favours the Brave”

Donegall Avenue has got to be one of the most derelict streets in Belfast. More than half of the houses were boarded up and the only ‘business’ was Michael’s thriving Fish ‘n’ Chip shop on the corner of Donegall Road. Right at the end is Windsor Park, home of Linfield FC and the national stadium. It has fine stands on three sides (although quite why the biggest stand has red seats, is difficult to fathom). At one time, there was generous terracing in front of the main stand and behind one goal, but that has now been closed down, presumably ,in these politically correct days, for some sort of safety reasons. The stands were imposing and the ground itself was large and roomy, but the overall effect was one of dereliction and decay. The place had been let slip and lack of maintenance over the years gave it a very run down appearance. If I was the Irish FA, I’d be embarrassed to play international matches there!



The fish and chips (from Michael’s, naturally!) were very tasty and we ate them in one of the many bars inside Windsor Park, accompanied by pints of Guinness for the boys. On our way to the ground, we had been caught up in a giant traffic jam on The M1 which culminated in the closure of the motorway. We found out when we got to Windsor Park, that it was all due to a bomb scare and that the afternoon match was going to be put back by forty-five minutes. A 3.45pm kick-off meant that it was going to be extremely tight in terms of time, in getting from Windsor Park to the 7.00pm evening fixture at Drogheda, some seventy-five miles away! The boys decided that they would rather not go (there was still plenty of Guinness left to drink in Belfast!).


Lovely stand, but why the red seats?



You can’t go very far in Northern Ireland without seeing the mountains!

Linfield are currently in pole position in The Irish Premiership, whilst their rivals, Dungannon Swifts, are marooned in mid-table after a bright start, but following two recent defeats. It wasn’t a particularly impressive match. Linfield gave a workmanlike performance and deserved their victory. The Swifts huffed and puffed, but were never going to trouble the home team. At the end of the match, Graeme and I made a speedy getaway from the ground and headed south down the A1 to the border.



Plucked (figuratively speaking) from the breast of a young lady supporter of The Swifts!

Saturday 12th October 2013 Airtricity League of Ireland k.o.:- 7.00pm
Premier Division

Drogheda United                                                                                               1
Peter Hynes 11
UCD                                                                                                                   1
Robbie Benson 33
referee:- A Azzopardi                                                                         attendance:-


The hire car got a bit of a thrashing down to Drogheda, but we made it and were in the ground with twenty minutes to spare, all tooled up with programmes, team sheets and ‘jotters’.


The stadium was a bit of an eye-opener. To say that it was languishing in genteel poverty would be putting it charitably. I doubt if it would make the ground grading for The Conference. There was a large, seated stand on the far side and a smaller one (perhaps fifty seats) on the nearside. In addition, on the nearside was a covered standing area. It all had a ramshackle, Heath Robinson look about it and I dread to think what British Health & Safety officers would have made of the strange protuberances, hidden steps, a blank wall immediately behind one goal and uneven surfaces, but the locals didn’t seem to mind and for all its eccentricity, it had a certain charm and ‘olde-worlde’ attraction, that made one believe the story (possibly apocryphal) which the steward told me, about the cows grazing on the pitch during the week!


Apparently, there had once been two clubs in Drogheda, but Drogheda FC with its own ground had amalgamated with Drogheda United at some time in the 1970s. United had been founded in 1919, but the upstarts, Drogheda FC were only formed in 1962, yet were able to join the League of Ireland the following year! They had scant success until after the amalgamation. Drogheda United won The Setanta Cup in successive seasons, 2006, 2007 and The League of Ireland title in 2007, but they had overstretched themselves and very nearly went out of business. They had some European success, but the cost of staging such matches at Dalymount Park contributed to their financial problems. They were forced back into part-time playing, but retained their status in The Premier Division of The League of Ireland.


This evening, they really should have defeated a youthful university side. They were the stronger team but yet, the students had a terrier like determination which gained them a point from a wonder strike from Robbie Benson just after the half hour. All the officials were from Malta on an exchange visit with a similar number of home officials taking matches on Malta. It is proving exceedingly difficult to get attendance figures from League of Ireland sides, but at an estimate, I would say that there were no more than 600 spectators.


Sunday 13th October 2013 Leinster Senior League k.o.:- 11.00am
Senior Division Sunday

Bluebell United                                                                                         4
Gerard Bambrick 8, 74
Sean Fitzpatrick 45,
Gareth Looney 90+1
Leixlip United                                                                                              0
referee:- Richard Glynn                                                                     attendance:- 52



James couldn’t come to the final couple of games. Because of his lost passport, he had to fly home from Belfast, so it was Michael and Liam with sore heads from a good night out in Belfast the previous evening, who slept their way to Dublin with Graeme and I navigating successfully to Capco Park, opposite The Red Cow in, on Naas Road, Dublin 12, for the first match of the day. Maybe I should say that we eventually navigated successfully. At one stage our journey resembled a ride on a carousel as we went round and round on the dual carriageway trying to find the correct exit to  Capco park which lies behind a large scrapyard!


The Leinster Senior League operate twenty-three divisions on both Saturdays and Sundays and their season, unlike the League of Ireland stretches across the winter. Today’s match was in the senior Sunday division and pitted seasoned veterans Bluebell United (founded 1946) against comparative newcomers Leixlip United from just over the county border in Kildare and formed a mere five years previously. Leixlip have come through the ranks of The Leinster Senior League with successive promotions to the top table. Today, however, they found Bluebell too good for them, although the 4-0 scoreline was not a fair reflection of the play. It was a good game to brighten up a dull morning and it seemed that Bluebell had the Midas touch!


You can clearly see the floodlights pointing away from the goal!

The ground was a railed field with a clubhouse hemmed in on all sides by an industrial estate – except for the fourth side, behind one goal, where there appeared to have been a floodlit training area at one time, although now it looked pretty derelict.



After the match, we repaired to Richmond Park, home of St Patrick’s Athletic, which was a mere three miles away, and purchased tickets for tonight’s match. I was unsuccessful in trying to obtain an old man’s ticket. The lady in the ticket office skilfully outmanoeuvred me with telling put-downs! Then it was back to The Red Cow for a carvery lunch. At first, when we arrived, it was quiet and peaceful, but an hour later, it seemed that the entire population of Ireland’s squalling and mewling children had been squeezed into the hostelry to try our patience.

Sunday 13th October 2013 Airtricity League of Ireland
Premier Division

St Patrick’s Athletic                                                                                  2
Greg Bolger 33
Anthony Flood 42,
Sligo Rovers                                                                                              0

referee:- Alan Kelly                                                                           attendance:-


This was a Premiership decider with the added spice of last season’s champions playing the champions elect! Richmond Park on Emmet Road in Inchicore in Dublin, is sunk behind a row of houses that comprises the main street and must be a good ten metres below street level. The atmosphere inside the ground was electric with banners waving and red flares flashing all through the match. A good sized crowd of around 4,000 (once again, a League of Ireland team was reticent about divulging attendance figures) almost completely filled the ground, except for behind the goal at one end, where a small motley band of away support tried to drum up enthusiasm for their team.


The ground had a fine seated stand all along one side of the pitch. This stand, seating maybe 2,500 people, was almost entirely full. Our tickets, however, precluded us entry into that section. Behind the home supporters goal was another, uncovered seated area made from what was once temporary seating. This area, too, seating around 1,000 was almost completely full. Meanwhile, we were standing opposite the main stand where the terrace was uncovered all along the side, but where the TV gantry overlooked proceedings. Radio Telefis Eirean were televising the event!


Note the TV cameraman’s precarious position!

The match was a prisoner of the passion and emotions of the large crowd. Two goals in the first half killed off the contest, but did little to dampen the enthusiasm or the spirits of the vast home support. At the end, they poured onto the field of play like the Red Sea descending upon Pharoah’s Army. Their delight was infectious!


They were still celebrating as we slunk out and drove away from the stadium with little difficulty across the city to Dublin Airport. It had been an exhilarating weekend. Thanks mainly to Graeme, we had squeezed in six matches and had plenty of fun along the way, not least when James, Michael and Liam were trying to avoid the middle seat in the back of the hired Seat Leon! The 22.00 Ryanair flight landed in a very wet Luton around 11.00pm and were were all home not long after midnight!


Firebrands in the stand!


Victory and The Premiership…Let the celebrations start!

‘Twill live long in the memory!


Tues 15th October Toolstation Northern Counties East League Cup k.o.:- 7.45pm

1st Round

Shirebrook Town                                                                                       1

Jordan Claxton 57,

Worsborough Bridge Athletic                                                           2  aet

Dean Shirt 85, 99

referee:- Peter Henger (Lincolnshire)                             attendance:- 55


It was supposed to be Shaw Lane Aquaforce v Louth Town in Barnsley, but when we got there, the match had been called off. Parkgate in Rotherham was in darkness and we hurtled on to Shirebrook, a ground both Graeme and I had visited before!



It was a good match and the manager and some of the players from Selby Town were watching future opponents and were quite witty. Shirebrook should have had it sewn up early on, but The longer the game went on, the better Their opponents looked and they took the tie with a strike in the first half of extra time!



Wednesday 16th October 2013   Oxon Senior Cup   k.o.:- 7.30pm

1st Round

Hook Norton                                                                           2

Dan Watkins 30,

Craig Robinson 43,

AFC Hinksey                                                                          3

Jack Dunmall 12,

Tobias Webster 34, 69

referee:- Michael Cofie                                          attendance:- 38


Sonny Alexander, aged eleven months!

I went to see my grandson on Wednesday in Chipping Norton. He hadn’t been well and had been sent home from his nursery. His dad had to take a day off work to look after him, but he looks well enough here!


Jim and I went to see Hook Norton in the evening. It was an Oxfordshire Senior Cup tie that pitted Eastern division against Western division of the Hellenic League and it was AFC Hinksey, who are top of the Eastern division who triumphed in the end – after a fine and spirited attempt by the home side who are bottom but one of the western division!

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