Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Contract Update

The following players received new contracts for next season:

Noel Bailie 1 year
Steven Douglas 1 year
Stephen Garrett 1 year
Glenn Ferguson 1 year
Aidan O'Kane 2 years
Tim McCann 1 year

Personally, I'm not sure about the last three. I'd have given O'Kane 1 year, for me, he's only a replacement at best at both LB and LM; I don't think McCann is good enough, and I'm sure there must be a better LB out there; and I'd have let Ferguson go, or just given him some kind of coaching position. I'm surprised Garrett signed a new contract. It's clear that DJ loves Ferguson and pretty much played him every time he was fit last season, except for the Setanta games (and then played him in the final, shitting on the admirable Tommy Stewart from a great height) and will probably continue to do so next season, leaving the ambitious Garrett as continuing to be minimum fifth-choice striker at the Park, behind Ferguson, Thompson, Stewart, Dickson (sixth if we count Adamson). I think playing Ferguson will hold good ambitious strikers at our club back, and I can only hope DJ resists Spike's ego and makes good on his alleged promise to make Tommy Stewart one of our 2 main centre-forwards next season, otherwise I can see Tommy going elsewhere, something we will regret in the medium to long term.

Mark Magennis was released by the club after struggling for fitness, and Greg Shannon had a tranfer request accepted. Best of luck to both for the future, and hope the former doesn't come back to haunt us...

In other news, Winkie Murphy and Paul MacAreavey were arrested by Spanish police for bieng in possession of counterfeit Euros while on a stag do. Not good news.

On the dark side, another comedy week, as Glenturd appointed a new manager, only to turn around 2 days later and tell him he wasn't their new boss after all, as he didn't have the necessary coaching badges, and Glenturd couldn't have entered Europe with him in charge; so they've appointing inexperienced first-team coach Allan McDonald as their new manager instead. Happy days, you really couldn't make this stuff up!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Another One Bites The Dust

This week saw the demise of Paul Millar, Glentoran's ill-starred manager, the second manager David Jeffrey has seen off in 15 months.

Millar's tenure, in Linfield fans' eyes, will be remembered for the following:

1. "We scored one, we scored two, we scored 6 more goals than you"
2. The 2-1 2006 Cup final win to complete the Clean Sweep, the first time we'd beaten the Glens in the Cup Final since 1945.
3. Various rants and foolish boasts in the local press, suggesting that there had been a sea change in IL football, that the IFA sponsored Linfield, etc etc.
4. Dodgy allegations regarding his private life.
5. The 'Ask yer ma' rant at a Glentoran fan at Distillery.
6. This classic video, including the immortal line 'Our main aim this season was to stop Linfield winning the Clean Sweep, and we've done that':

DJ's record against Millar should have been better, the 0-0 at Windsor in the league at the tail end of the 05/06 season was the first match I can remember where the Glens failed to register a single shot on target; though I thought we were lucky on Boxing Day 2006. Millar's solitary win was on penalties in the semi-final of the CIS last season; it was to be his last.

Here's the record:

DJ: P9 W4 D4 L1 F17 A 8

28/02/06 SC (a) 3-3
03/04/06 SC (h) 6-0
15/04/06 IL (h) 0-0
06/05/06 ICF (n) 2-1

07/11/06 LC (h) 0-0 (3-4 pens)
26/12/06 IL (h) 1-1
05/03/07 SC (h) 1-1
14/04/07 IL (a) 2-1
17/04/07 SC (a) 2-1

Millar will be missed by Bluemen. The Glens were a mess with him at the helm.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Setanta Sports Cup Final 2007, Linfield - Drogheda


Linfield 1 - 1 Drogheda (Drogheda win 4-3 on penalties)

Windsor Park, Belfast, 12th May 2007.

So it turned out to be a game too far for the Blues, as they played their second 120 minutes of football in a week and finally ended up gallant losers to the Drogs, who won their second Setanta in a row.

I managed to listen to it in the end, thanks to the highly entertaining LMFM of Drogheda, their 2 commentators were like crackerjacks and kept ILF members highly amused all match. Smurf also did a great job in his last and unfortunately losing outing as live web updater.

To be honest, from what I could hear, Drogheda deserved it. I don't remember us having a shot on goal in the first half, whereas Alan Mannus was in world-class form, saving us on countless occasions; the woodwork and some close shaves also saved us in the first period.

Sure enough, we scored with our first worthy shot on goal, headed in by Maccers after Winkie had nodded back an O'Kane corner. We continued to ride our luck and eventually, two Drogs substitutes combined for Tony Grant, a former thorn in Linfield's side, to turn and shoot past Mannus for the equaliser. We were much more in it in the second half and in extra time, amazing considering it was our 53th game of the season, and Dickson had a good chance, but neither side could score, so it went to penalties.

We took the penalties first:
Ferguson SCORED
Mouncey SCORED
Dickson MISSED

Whereas Drogs only missed their first. So they walked away with the prize and the big money. Linfield fans, superb throughout, gave the Drogs a deserved standing ovation.

Well done Drogheda. Well done Linfield. Another great season in which you have done yourselves and the Irish League proud. It just wasn't quite enough tonight. We'll have to make do with a Double (Double).

Sometimes It's Hard To Be An Exile...

This is something I'm sure those Bluemen in Oz, NZ, England and elsewhere can empathise with. Today, Linfield play in the final of the Setanta Sports Cup. It's always frustrating when you can't be there in person to roar on the boys in Blue, as I was luckily able to do last weekend. (In fact, I should have stayed at home for a week longer and pulled a sickie, as I hardly had any hours of work this week and was actually ill, but I'm trying not to think about that right now).

For the exile, therefore, there remains few channels of communication open to them to keep in touch with live events during games:

- Text updates of course are the most direct way, but they're expensive and intermittent.

- Watching the game on Setanta Sports would be a possibility; except Setanta Ireland is scarcely available outside Ireland, and a no-no in Berlin.

- Watching a live stream via a service such Live Football Online is sometimes possible, but hard cash needs to be stumped up in advance.

- Live radio coverage is the most frequent option, but for some reason Radio Ulster only broadcast RU FM online, and this rarely has live football coverage, especially not evening games nor Cup Finals. This is a particular pet hate of mine, and I have complained about it on more than one occasion, only to get this response:

F/M is our premier service which is why it is used online. There are occasions when we switch, but with Sport we sometimes only obtain M/W rights, instead of F/M.

Today, there are no listings for the Setanta Final, some Gaelic language programme is scheduled for the time of the second half, so that option is ruled out. Of course, it's easy to point out that Radio Foyle provide much better coverage for Derry City in all competitions, but that's another beef for another day.

Which leaves us with the Godsend that is Smurf, the Linfield official site and his invaluable live updates. Plus the input of those fans in NI watching the game on TV and reporting back on ILF (esp Glentoran Oldie, who posts up the goals etc almost immediately after).

It's far from ideal, but there's no other option open to us. Not even any Drogheda Radio station is broadcasting the game. I know it's the final of a cup sponsored by a rival broadcaster, but I think it's a joke that the BBC and UTV give this essentially all-Ireland Champions decider such criminal coverage.

Such is the lot of the neglected exile :(

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Classless FC

Unnoticed by many, but not the greater ILF community, was the presence of various Glentoran players at the Irish Cup Final on Saturday. No problem with that, you might say, and normally I'd agree. But what if the Glentoran player in question was a half-time PITCH INVADER? To wit (thanks to aquascrotum for the pics):

The evidence is tenuous enough, but Glenmen have confirmed that it was their left-back, Kyle Neill, was dressed as Osama for a bit of 'zany' 'japery'. In addition, Bluemen were warned that Neill, his drinking buddy Gary Hamilton and their clique had something like this planned, a week in advance, so it was most definitely not a case of drunken hi-jinks.

The action itself was harmless enough, one of the three came up to the Bluemen in the Kop and bared his ass, but most just found it funny. That's not the point, though. It just shows the depths to which Glentoran FC, aka Classless FC, have plunged.

Can you imagine an opposing player from any other league in the world staging a pitch invasion at the nation's premier footballing occasion? John Arne Riise bouncing onto Wembley next weekend at half-time during the Chelsea-United match and running around with a mask on? And even worse, getting away with it? As yet, no statement from Glentran has been forthcoming. Then again, that's no surprise from a club that allows its manager to say to HIS OWN SUPPORTERS 'Ask yer ma' when questioned about what's going wrong with the team, and who has a whole score of embarrassing actions this season alone.

What's even funnier though, is that Neill, or one of his cronies, find nothing wrong with what they did, in fact, think they lit up the cup final and did their club no harm in the process! To wit, here is Neill/a pal of Neill's on ILF, under the pseudonym of 'batman', defending himself:

lighten up you sound like a boring know it all!! the irish league needs a few characters! (i bet your some crack) so if it was neill well done, i was there it was brill!!!!!!!!!

9 pages on kyle Neill. All you guys should wise up. The cup final is always a bit of crack everyone there for a day out a drink and a laugh! so what if he runs about with mask on? hes got sum balls to do it anyway. i duno about you guys but i was in absolute tears laughing at the three nut cases! all you guys are just ones who dont like the windy millar set up. to tell ya the truth i think that was one of the funniest things this country has saw in a long time. go take a chill pill!

there was no harm done, no one was hurt and people laughed. Starting up another convo about getting children interested in football is a different matter and trying to use Kyle Neill as a scape goat is useless. Children will want to play football regardless. if you really wana get children involved in irish league football go set up irish league youth teams at all clubs not just the big 2. I do honestly think clubs in this country do nothing for the youth in this country, look at the way the GAA is set up and the following it gets!!!

Remember, this is a paid employee of Glentoran, representing Glentoran in public, who did this LIVE on TV. It gets better: he's officially injured at the moment, yet on Saturday, he had to leap a 2-metre moat to get onto the pitch! You couldn't make it up!

Pat McGibbon called Glentoran 'Ragarse Rovers' upon leaving them last season, and never has a description been more apt. Just to show you that such a lack of class and notion of professionalism runs right throughout the club, here's a picture of the Glens management signing their sponsorship contract with Danepak:

And this went on their official site! Classless FC - Always In Our Shadow.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Irish Cup Final 2007, Linfield - Dungannon Swifts

Windsor Park, Belfast, May 5th 2007
Linfield 2 Dungannon Swifts 2 (Linfield win 3-2 on penalties)

Phew. That was a bit close. Apparently a great game for the neutrals, but I was a bit disappointed with our performance. We took an early lead through Mark Dickson, but then took the foot off the pedal, Dungannon deservedly equalised after an apparent error by Mannus, his clearing header landing right at the feet of Hamill, who slotted it into the empty net; to be honest, there wasn't too much that Tino could do after Ervin lost possession. Ferguson put us ahead again with a turn and shot on the left, I thought it looked a weak effort and their keeper should have got it, then shortly after, a free-kick from just outside the area levelled things; this time, I thought Mannus was at fault, he went down VERY slowly and should have stopped it.

After that, it was more or less all Linfield, but some criminal finishing and wonderful keeper from my MOTM meant no further goals.

So it was onto the lottery of penalties. I usually can't watch, after bad previous experiences (Gillingham play-off 99 springs to mind), but after we missed our first two penalties (Ervin and Stewart the culprits) and they scored theirs, I thought fu ck it, and watched. Cue the comeback, Ferguson, Dickson and McShane slotted home, and McAllister's kick was saved by Mannus, who turned from villain to hero. I actually missed the last penalty, as I was trying to help a guy who had fallen from the top tier over the wall down onto the steps. He was wrote, but he must have shattered his shoulder. It was a disgrace that no stewards were in the stand, and that it took so long for help to arrive.

Jamie Mulgrew was awarded man of the match, and I thought he was brilliant, running the midfield and driving the Blues forward, but I thought wee Jim Ervin was outstanding, tackling well and getting forward and linking up with Dicko.

The celebrations continued long into the night in the bar below the Viewing Lounge, then in the Edinburgh club. Yet again I fell asleep, but fortunately a lot later than last year... a big thanks to all the ILFers I met and had a drink or 10 with.

Match Highlights

DJ acting the eejit again

The cup being presented

The Dungannon fans in the North Stand

South Stand

Kop Stand

Exile's banner

South Stand banners and flags

The mother of all banners

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Linfield 1-0 Cork City

Setanta Sports Cup semi-final

Windsor Park, 30th April 2007.

We're through to another final! Our second Setanta final in 3 years of the competition, at home to Drogheda on May 12th.

And boy did we mug them! Have a look for yourselves (thanks to Glentoran Oldie for copying the highlights):