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Irish Invasion

On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific–and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise–
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

John Keats (1795 – 1821)




Saturday 28th June 2014  Pre-Season Friendly   k.o.:- 3.00pm

Austrey Rangers                                                1

Michael Bloore 82,

Chelmsley Town                                                1

Ben Toon 40,

Referee:- Rob Hathaway                       attendance:- 27


The end of June is awfully early to be beginning a new season, but begin it we did! Austrey is is sleepy little village in Warwickshire, right in the middle of nowhere, but not a million miles from Tamworth and also handily placed for Bosworth Field (Battle of 1485). They used to ply their trade in The Midland Combination, but that league has been gobbled up by The Midland Football Alliance and the new combined league is known, rather more simply, as The Midland League. Next season, both Austrey Rangers and their opponents today, Chelmsley Town, will play in the lower divisions of the new league.


The ground is on the very outskirts of the village and even with sat-nab, we missed the turning. Re-tracing our steps, we found the playing fields down a narrow track, but with a pretty substantial car park at the end and a good-sized club house adjoining two full sized football pitches. You can see the clubhouse in the pictures above and below.


During the regular season, Graeme tells me, Austrey issue programmes on match days and there is a very friendly tea house on the end of the club pavilion. Neither were in evidence today!

It was a pretty ordinary game, punctuated by droves of substitutes and the slightly more highly placed away team opened the scoring and looked good for a victory until a late equaliser ensured that the spoils were shared.



Thursday 3rd July 2014          UEFA Europa League   k.o.:- 7.45pm

!st Qualifying Round 1st Leg

Derry City                                                      4

Patrick McEleney 15,

Rory Patterson 25,

Mark Timlin 47,

Barry McNamee 86,

Aberystwyth Town                                    0

referee:- Mads Kristoffersen (Denmark)                 Attendance:- 1,980


It was with great difficulty that I retired to bed at 8.00pm on Wednesday evening and with even greater difficulty that I responded to the radio alarm booming in my ear at 1.00am urging me into the shower and and early start to a long day on foreign soil. I collected Graeme at 3.15 am and Chris and Jack at 4.00am and, blearily, we decanted at East Midlands Airport to catch the Ryannair flight FR 535 to Dublin at 7.00am. I slept through most of the flight and the touch down re-awoke me.


We had an Audi A4 on hire for the trip north to Derry (all the signs, when we arrived in the vicinity, had the pre-fix ‘London’ erased or painted over or otherwise defaced!). We stopped in Longford for lunch and paid a short visit to both Longford Town, which was on our itinerary and Longford Rangers, which was not (but which I would certainly wish to visit at some future date!). The large pub in the centre of town, where we had eaten on our last visit, was, sadly, closed and up for sale, but we found a very reasonably priced hostelry which was serving a carvery amongst other things!


By now, thoughts of dual carriageways were but a distant memory! All the roads thenceforth, were narrow and twisty with frequent villages and farm vehicles liberally spread along the route to test the patience of a saint (and when it comes to driving, I’m no saint!). We reached Derry in an early evening of Stygian gloom. We parked in a wide expanse of car park less than a hundred yards from the stadium and I had plenty of time to visit the well appointed GAA arena a few yards further up the hill from Brandywell, Home of Derry City FC. There could be little doubt about which sport had the better backing and the better facilities! It wasn’t just geographically that Derry City were ‘down the hill’.

Still, Brandywell had a quaint, comfortable feel about it, like a pair of well worn slippers! There was the usual chicanery when match officials did not want to put themselves out for the average punter. Team sheets couldn’t be printed on the orders of UEFA (oh aye!), but we were able to obtain team lists, thanks to a local reporter who came out and shared them with us and John managed to snaffle a couple of team sheets which he printed up for all of us later!


I thought that the attendance was a lot larger than the 1,980 announced at the end of the match. It looked to be nearer 3,000 than 2,000 but the vagaries of the counting systems at Irish football games never ceased to intrigue me!


Derry City, who have enjoyed an indifferent season, were definitely ‘up for the cup’! They swept aside a mediocre Welsh side with alarming ease. Two goals were scored in each half and there could very easily have been more. The home support provided a cacophony of sound throughout the match, whilst a small miserable rump of Aberystwyth supporters raised barely a whimper at the other end of the long stand. A week later, in the return fixture in Wales, Derry City enjoyed an even more emphatic triumph, this time notching five goals without reply, to take the tie 9-0 on aggregate.

It was a long drive back down to Dublin, but this time we hugged the motorways and dual carriageways, taking the route via Belfast on The M2 and then down to Dublin via Dundalk and Drogheda on The M1 (or was it The N1?). We arrived back at our rooms in Dublin City University just after midnight. The hire car had done fine service! The following morning, we returned it to the airport and boarded a small coach with the new arrivals who landed from various English airports to begin the main business of the ‘hop’!


Chris, ‘Our Dear Leader’ outside Dublin Castle, after the visit to The Guinness Storehouse and before the visit to The Post Office on O’Connell Street, where the Easter Rising started from in 1916.

Friday 4th July 2014     SSE Airtricity League of Ireland    k.o.:- 7.45pm

Premier Division

Bray Wanderers                                          1

Jake Kelly 18,

Adam Mitchell s/o 59

Drogheda United                                       3

Gavin Brennan 3,

Gavin Holahan 38

Cathal Brady 90+1

Referee:- Rob Harvey                            Attendance:- 495


The first match of the official tour was at Bray, about half an hour down the coast from Dublin. It was the middle of the tourist season, but the little town was largely deserted and the holidaying clientele were mainly middle aged, middle class, stern and steadfast types, mostly in bed by 9.45pm. Whilst the rest of the party enjoyed the sea front, I repaired to the railway station and took a train journey several stops back towards Dublin and enjoyed quite spectacular views of the coast line. When I got back it had started to rain and I hurried into the makeshift football ground to find some shelter.


Compared to Brandywell, this was a shack of a stadium. The main stand had plastic sheeting for a roof and on the opposite side of the pitch, there was seating along the entire length of the ground, but no cover. A small group of vociferous away support made for the shelter of the canvas covered stand as half time drew near and the precipitation increased. Behind the goal nearest to the railway station, there was a tree spreading it branches where the terracing would have been. At the opposite end, there were no spectator facilities, just a car park for players and officials of the club.


Both teams were in the middle of spectacularly poor runs of form. Drogheda United had lost every one of their previous six matches and sat one place above bottom club, Athlone Town. Bray hadn’t fared much better and were themselves, just one place in front of Drogheda in the league table. This evening’s events would change that detail!


Drogheda United opened the scoring in the third minute and although Bray equalised a quarter of an hour later, the away side had confidently regained their lead by half-time. As the second half progressed, Bray had a central defender dismissed just before the hour mark and Drogheda’s dominance of the match increased.


It was only in added time at the end of the match that they scored their final goal to seal a determined and well earned victory. It was a win which moved them above Bray in the League of Ireland table.



Saturday 5th July 2014        SSE Airtricity League of Ireland         k.o.:- 7.30pm

1st Division

Longford Town                                             3

David O’Sullivan 64, 80,

Gary Shaw 78,

William McDonagh s/o 62

Shelbourne                                                    0

Glen O’Connor s/o 62

Referee:- K. Callanan                          Attendance:- 680

Longford is a fair trot from Dublin, nearly a hundred miles, or, if you prefer, over one hundred and fifty kilometres (when in Rome ……). On the way, Chris had arranged a stop off at The Battle of The Boyne Museum near Drogheda and apart from the football, this was the highlight (well, for me, anyway) of the entire tour. Our tour guide was not only knowledgeable, but had that focus and attention to detail that kept the event flowing purposefully. It was interesting how the tour and the talk tended to eliminate religion from the contest, instead focussing on the divine right of kings and republican Europe’s struggle with Loius XIV.

Before reaching Longford Town’s ground, some two miles outside the town, we stopped briefly at Longford Rangers small but neat arena, also on The Stokestown Road.


I had paid my first visit to Longford Town some five years ago (Tuesday 22nd September 2009, League of Ireland 1st Division: Longford Town 1 Kildare County 2 attendance:- 100). I remember thinking that day that there were only 100 people in an all seater 6,000 capacity stadium, and the population of Longford could hardly have much exceeded that total! This evening, having first of all been mistaken for away fans and directed to the far end of the car park, we were welcomed into the ground. It was, however, the only occasion when no tickets had been printed for the match.


The ground had been smartened up since my last visit. It is remarkable what a lick of paint and a spot of carpentry can do to revitalise a stadium. It looked and felt fresh and vital and gave the strong impression of a club going forward, unlike the last occasion, when the ground had had a somewhat careworn feel about it!


Even so, there was an area behind the goal to the right of the main stand, where the seating was in poor shape and from which spectators were banned for safety reasons. It didn’t look so bad, but close inspection showed how the original terracing was ill suited to the seating which had been bolted to it!


Shelbourne had already visited (and won 1-0) early in the season. Each club in this division plays the others four times in a regular season. Shelbourne, who sat at the top of the division before the match started, had also won their only ‘home’ tie with Longford Town this season.

The stewards were ready for trouble. Apparently, Shelbourne have a ‘reputation’ in the league for causing trouble. The away fans were segregated in one corner of the ground but, on this occasion, they were pussycats! Only about seventy away fans were actually present!


The first half was almost slapstick as the hosts piled on the pressure and contrived to miss every opportunity presented to them (and there were plenty). The game was still level at 0-0 after sixty two minutes when each side had a man sent off, the home team’s William McDonagh for a reckless tackle and the away team’s Glen O’connor for throwing a punch in the melee which followed.

Longford took the depletion in their numbers far better than their opponents and scored two minutes later and completed a hat-trick of goals in a fifteen minute spell which saw them not only confound their championship rivals for the first time this season, but also overtake them as Division 1 leaders. They were worthy winners!


Back in Dublin City University at 11.30pm, The Netherlands were dispatching Costa Rica on penalties at The World Cup in Brazil and I had a large Jack Daniels nightcap!

Sunday 6th July 2014      SSE Airtricity League of Ireland        k.o.:- 4.00pm

Premier Division

Athlone Town                                                0

Derry City                                                       1

Patrick McEleney 19,

Referee:- Graham Kelly                           Attendance:- 230

Now, I have to admit that I have difficulty in coping with large numbers of people, probably down to some streak of Aspergers in the family gene pool, but I did enjoy the boat trip along The River Shannon from Athlone to Lough Ree aboard The Good Ship ‘Viking’.


(Picture courtesy of Laurence) 

The trip lasted about an hour and a half and the running commentary was useful in that you could dip in and out of it as you chose. Afterwards, I just had time to dine sumptuously at Thyme Restaurant in Custume Place, a superb meal washed down with a fine bottle of Merlot!


(picture courtesy of John – with Eddie standing and to his right, Jack, Laurence and Graeme)


Athlone Town’s Lissywoollen Stadium has been their home since 2007. It is a large purpose built arena on the edge of town  with facilities for a range of other sports on the site. Three sides of the ground are flat, largely redundant areas, but on the fourth side there is a substantial stand, probably accommodating some 1,500 spectators. Athlone Town were founded as long ago as 1887, but only competed in The League of Ireland from 1924, becoming only the first side from outside Dublin to compete in the league. A ground record of 9,000 was set at their old ground at St Mels in 1975 when they entertained AC Milan in The UEFA Cup and drew 0-0, but sadly lost the away leg by 3-0.

They have been League of Ireland Champions on several occasions, including a double in 198o/81 and 1981/82. As recently as six years ago they were in danger of going out of existence, but a huge contribution from fans saved the day and in October of last year, they gained promotion once again to The Premier Division defeating Waterford United by 1-0.


This season, they have struggled becoming easy meat fro the rest of the clubs in The Premiership – until, that is, a recent change of manager brought a significant change in their fortunes. They still languish at the foot of the table, but there is a new spirit and a new hope at the club, and even, dare I say it, a belief that relegation might not be a foregone conclusion!


They weren’t up to much today, however. Mighty Derry City whom we had seen disposing impressively of Aberystwyth Town (was it only last Thursday?), came to town and snaffled the points with an extremely workmanlike performance. They looked a cut above their hosts, but it was the least entertaining encounter of the weekend.


Back in Dublin – at Dublin City University for the last evening, food was on most peoples minds as we repaired to the end of the drive and over the road to a ‘chippie’ and a Chinese. Whilst they stocked up on solid calories, I chose the liquid variety and purchased a half bottle of Irish.

There was an early morning on the morrow – the 8.00am flight from Dublin to East Midlands! Flight FR 534 landed uneventfully at East Midlands Airport and on the trip down to Leicester to decant Graeme, I fell foul of a police camera at traffic lights, which added a hundred pounds to the cost of the weekend!

Still, it was a great weekend. Chris had excelled himself. I wasn’t too sure about these cultural visits (being a bit of a Philistine), but I did enjoy The Battle of The Boyne site and the boat trip on The Shannon. It all seemed to go like clockwork, but ……………..that’s the proof of good organisation! Here’s to the next one!

Tuesday 8th July 2014           Pre-Season Friendly             k.o.:- 7.30pm

Rugby Town                                                     7

David Kolodynski (2)

Seb Lake Gaskin (2)

Jamie Towers

Justin Marsden

Sam Youngs

SC Alvis                                                            0

Referee:-                                                   Attendance:- 46


An interesting match played on the astroturf adjacent to the main stadium. Alvis SC were outclassed, Virgin trains flashed past at regular intervals and at half time the club supplied free drinks – cider, lager, beer and soft drinks all in tin cans from a cool bag!



Saturday 12th July 2014            Pre-season Friendly           k.o.:- 1.00pm

Ashby Ivanhoe                                                   4

Luke Tozer 2,

Josh Pepper 41,

Dan Stephenson 43,

Elliott Bott 74,

Swannick PR                                                     3

Ant Fay 52,

Andy White 60,

Guy Wilding 88,

Referee:- Andy Barney                               Attendance:- 42

This was another match played on a pitch adjacent to the main pitch. Indeed, it used to be the main pitch, but there was vocal opposition from a resident with a house in the corner. It is said that he used to burst any balls which landed in his garden!

The club have achieved promotion to The East Midlands Counties League, but as yet there are no floodlights installed. They have received the promise of a grant, but it is likely that the floodlights won’t be in place until March or April 2015.

Initially, it looked like a fairly easy victory for the home team. 3-0 up at half time, they suddenly found themselves pegged back to 3-2. A fourth goal seemed to calm the nerves of the home team, but back came Pentrich Road and added a third goal with just two minutes remaining!




Matches this season:-    7                   New grounds:-          6

Matches this year:-   120                     New grounds:-   80

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