Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Linfield's Got The Blues

St Pat's 2 - 0 Linfield.

This evening I was just settling down to write an essay, when John came into the room, with a strong temptation. Linfield were coming down to play St Patrick's Athletic in the Setanta Cup. Could we possibly get tickets?

Initially, I was going to write the essay. But then the thought of watching the Irish League leaders in Dublin grew stronger, and I grabbed the car keys. Quick check online as to where they play, and a check of the map to see where to go, and we were off to Richmond Park.

Got parked outside the ground handy enough, and managed to get tickets in the home stand - after having proved that we were adopted Dubliners (by me producing my Trinity College student card). As a security measure, no one was allowed to buy tickets without proof of being non-Linfield fans.

So there we were, in the home stand - two seats away from me, and over the wall in the director's box was the Lord Mayor of Dublin (with a portrait of King Billy on his mayoral chain of office, nonetheless). Sitting right at the halfway line. Game on.

Linfield weren't at the game at all - maybe one chance in the first half, and a couple in the second half. St Pat's however were in a different league. The forwards seemed much faster, getting past the defenders time after time after time. After seven minutes, they were 1-0 but they should have gone in at half time leading by at least 10, the number of chances they squandered. At times it seemed as if the ball was simply refusing to go in for them.

Linfield started better in the second half, but soon St Pat's were back in their rhythm, with more relentless pressure on the Linfield defence. Near the end they got a second - a cracker goal from the edge of the box, with the Linfield keeper not even moving as he watched it fly into the net.

So a convincing win for the side that started the match bottom of the Setanta Cup group. All in all a great game to watch for the neutral supporter.

Just a few wee things were a bit troubling. During the game, some in the St Pat's terraces were chanting 'The IRA...' and waving a huge tricolour. That was at the other side of the ground from me, but it surely made me uncomfortable. the Garda operation at the end of the game was interesting, to say the least. When we made it out of the ground (well after all the Linfield supporters' buses had left), the Garda had erected a barrier across the road - with my car on the other side! A huge number of uniformed officers as well as dog handlers, horses and cops in riot gear were manning the barriers, and in the end myself and maybe twenty or so others were trapped between police lines when the riot cops moved in and drove most of the crowd back down the road (those wearing hoodies and covering their faces). Thankfully we eventually got through, but not before some of the other men in the crowd made their feelings very well known to the policemen on duty.

But the disruption wasn't too bad, and didn't spoil a good night of football, when Linfield truly had a bad case of the blues...

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