The Oval, NIFL Premiership, 19/8/22
Me 241 , Wee Man 119
Glentoran Football Club
Founded – 1882
Nickname – The Glens
Selected Honours – Irish League 1893/94, 1896/97, 1904/05, 1911/12, 1912/13, 1920/21, 1924/25, 1930/31, 1950/51, 1952/53, 1963/64, 1966/67, 1967/68, 1969/70, 1971/72, 1976/77, 1980/81, 1987/88, 1991/92, 1998/99, 2002/03, 2004/05 and 2008–09.
Irish Cup – 1913/14, 1916/17, 1920/21, 1931/32, 1932/33, 1934/35, 1950/51, 1965/66,1972/73, 1982/83, 1984/85, 1985/86, 1986/87, 1987/88, 1989/90, 1995/96, 1997/98, 1999/00, 2000/01, 2003/04, 2012/13, 2014/15 and 2019/20
Irish League Cup – 1988/89, 1990/91, 2000/01, 2002/03, 2004/05, 2006/07 and 2009/10
Random Fact – The club were the first side ever to prevent Benfica from scoring at Estadio de Luz in a European tie. This coming in the 1967/68 European Cup, with Benfica eventually reaching the final after drawing 1 v 1 at The Oval going through on away goals.
Corona was a bastard, there is no denying it. In the summer of 2019 Wee Man and I took on a driving holiday in the Emerald Isle. It was a stupendous break which saw us see many sights. In all honesty it was the greatest holiday I had taken on. The Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede, Bushmills, the Falls of Glenoe, Carrickfergus Castle, Ballymacdermott Tomb are just some of the the places we visited. On top of that we crossed the border to watch Dundalk destroy Finn Harps on the Friday night. On the Saturday we headed to Stangmore Park in Dungannon where the host Swifts beat Glentoran 3 v 1 in a shock win. On the plane back to Aberdeen I was informed, we had to head back to Belfast. This as Wee Man clearly loved it. Although he asked if we could go back to see Crusaders(this after seeing their Seaview ground as we drove past) I had a feeling it would not be Crusaders but a trip into East Belfast to a ground high on my must see list. However, the world came to a standstill and prevented any holidays.
Finally Wee Man and me were back, probably later than expected but we had made it. The mission was to head to Finn Harps v Sligo Rovers on Friday and Glentoran v Crusaders on Saturday. However, as happens a lot to me, TV got in the way and moved the Glens back to Friday. As this was the match our break was based around we had to knock Finn Harps on the head and work around the Glens. As always the day started with history lessons as we headed to the Ulster Museum which was well worth the fiver donation. (This coming after a brilliant trip to the Crumlin Road Gaol on Thursday, also worth a visit). From here we headed to the Oval for a tour.
We were treated to an access all areas tour by club secretary Ricky Rea. This coming after an email discussion about other things in regards to the game and Ricky finding out we would not make any official tours. This meaning Wee Man and I had free reign of the place and Ricky acting as a brilliant curator. But not only that, Ricky is clearly a great man and could not have been friendlier or just generally accomodating and friendly and I cannot thank him enough for taking time out of his busy schedule. (His phone was constantly going). We were in the changing rooms, board room, gym, stand, on the pitch and just the lot really. We were being told of the famed Benfica game, the stadium bombing and when George Best finally played for the club he watched when he was young.
Five hours later we were back in East Belfast parking up on a side street. We were a bit early so A- we could park(highly residential around the Oval and I thought it would be a bit of a nightmare) and B- to take in a bit of the pre-game shenanigans in the bar. For the latter we had struck gold. First person to speak was a an American who questioned my Blackhawks cap as we stood in the beer queue, as he was from Detroit and a Redwings fan he was wondering why an Irishman (who surprisingly to him turned out to be Scottish) was a Blackhawks man. But on the other hand I was wondering how a Detroiter found his way to the Oval and his answer was way better than my Blackhawks answer. He was over due to the fact Glentoran played in the the 1967 USA North American Soccer League as the Detroit Cougars. The same tournament in which Aberdeen played as the Washington Whips. Something I had already had a conversation about with Ricky on our tour. Speaking of Ricky again, he also gave Luke a tour today. What a guy. Luke had based a multi town/city break around the game tonight. Quality stuff. I bought the pints of Harp one for him and one for me, said our goodbyes and then we left looking for a seat which were in scarce supply. But again the friendly folk of Belfast appeared and a group offered us a space at their table. This turned out to be great as the were brilliant with us. All rangers men barring one but we had a decent craic about the Glens, Wee Man and his insatiable need for fitba and just Belfast in general. Cracking company and again showing Belfaster……Belfastian……Belfastdonian….. Eh, people from Belfast to be fantastic folk. Kick off approached and it was time to take in what we were here to do which had kind of slumped into forgotten insignificance given how the day had gone thus far and how we were treated throughout.
The game its self was a good watch too. It was one each in rapid fashion. Crusaders took the lead in the fourth minute when Ross Clarke was picked out by Ben Kennedy on the right to tap in out of reach for a full stretch McCarey who had no chance. The Glens will be disappointed seeing it back as Kennedy was given a criminal amount of space out wide. The lead lasted all of three minutes as Rory Donnelly looked to back heel (opposite end and not too clear but I am sure he did)the ball past Tuffey in the Crusaders goal. The ball was cleared but the linesman’s flag was straight up giving the goal. What a start to game which was like a tennis match given its end to end nature. Crusaders were dealt a big blow when Kennedy had to go off injured in the fifteenth minute. A shame as despite the game being in its relative infancy he looked like he could cause the Glens problems. The next big chance fell to Crusaders Jude Winchester who missed the target with a clear effort from eighteen yards. He should have done better and he knew it given his reaction as the shot sailed over the bar. Glentoran were then screaming for a penalty when Singleton looked to have been taken out well after the ball was away. Even given our long distance view, both Wee Man and I shouted penalty at the same time. But it was waved away. The to and fro game continued and it was Crusaders who were cursing the eagle eyed awareness of McCarey when Dean Ebbe was sent clean through with a huge Tuffey boot upfield. The Glens keeper saw this early and closed Ebbe’s angle leaving the striker to try and lob the keeper but failed to get the trajectory as the keeper clearly put him off, this leaving the effort to end up well over. The game was very even throughout the half and as the whistle went for half time Wee Man in a delighted tone explained that the game was “really good as both teams always attack”. He was entirely correct.
HT 1 v 1
First thing of note in the second half was the swapping of ends by the Glens fans who spent the first half at the opposite corner to us. This area was now empty. There is something marvellously old school about this practice and always raises a smile on the rare occasions you see it. It summed up the general old school feel to the Oval. Which also in the bygone era feeling had someone with a clacker who wasn’t afraid to use it. The second thing that was obvious was the Glens had come out with even more fire in their bellies and created a couple of good chances but failed to trouble Tuffey. The Glens pressure did eventually pay off and they took the lead via the penalty spot after a clear handball was spotted and given without any protestation from Crusaders. Conor McMenamin made sure from twelve yards. McMenamin was unlucky moments later when he bent an effort past Tuffey from distance which crashed of the keepers right hand post. It deserved a goal . From our angle the curl of the ball looked incredible. The game should have been put out of doubt on the hour when a dangerous freekick was sent into the box, ex Queen of the South man Ally Roy headed off target toward the back post, McLean slid in and missed the ball and incredibly team mate Wilson followed suit in identical fashion. Would they rue the chances missed. They almost were when a rare big second half big chance fell to Ebbe at the back post for the visitors, but he got his header all wrong from a few yards out. A huge let off for the Glens and what could have been a game changer in this cross city derby. Glentoran were the better team in the second half and got their rewards with fifteen minutes to go when Aiden Wilson rose to to place a header home from a freekick leading to mass celebrations on and off the park as everyone Glentoran related knew this had clinched the three points. The action was not finished there as the game ended on what was a sour note when Crusaders man Josh Robinson put in a ludicrous challenge with nothing but malice, this catching McMenamin. There was no need at all in a game which had not been played in that manner. He really should have seen red but was only booked for the assault. The seconds faded and our fantastic day was brought to an end with a welcome Glentoran win.
I cannot big up the day enough. I always put my trip to Go Ahead Eagles up there as the best I have taken on. It was eclipsed today and then some. Every detail just made it, people, club, ground, hanging out with Wee Man. A truly sublime experience in every single possible way. What a club, what a ground, what a city.
Entrance – £12 Me, £8 Wee Man
Attendance – 3145
Pie– £7.50. Sausage roll x 2, Irn Bru, Coffee
Pint – £4.00, Harp, Fan Bar
Score Predictions – Me 1 v0, Wee Man 1 v 1
Score Prediction Total – Me 0 v 0 Wee Man