Sunday, December 31, 2006


It was only a 70 minute trip, keeping it fairly legal, from the slums of North Dublin to the shopping mecca that is Newry. With the comfort of excellent directions, I put Sam's Town into the CD player and headed north to view my first ever IPL game.

Feeling as excited as a teenager ripping open a condom I kept a close eye out for the graveyard on my left, and spotted it in my rear view mirror. One wrong turn wasn't too bad. Sh1t, u turn at next exit, then into another graveyard.

The Showgrounds in Newry were pretty empty when I arrived, and they were pretty empty when I was leaving. It's a neat stadium in an inelegant setting, the aroma of treated sewage caressing the nostrils of the faithful few. It was difficult to erase the vision of all those Warrenpoint gluteals squeezingand squirting the processed dirge of Christmas excess from their loins - so I passed on the burger.

Considering the recent weather conditions the playing surface was in fine shape, and the gods were in benign mood on the day; it was perfect footballing weather. The most recent efforts of both protagonists would not set the pulse racing, but a hungry virgin will always take whats on offer. Anyway, this was more indicative than a Big 2 game of the state of play in the IPL.

The Sky Blue supporters emerged just before kick off and assembled on the opposite side to me. I kept looking over my shoulder to see if there were any home supporters in the ground; there were bodies there alright, but the quietest fans I never heard.

That being said, they weren't given much to cheer about in a directionless first half. Their opposite numbers made a good effort in spite of this, creating a worthy noise when the mood took them. The half time whistle inspired the hope of a good earbashing for both sides, and an improved showing in the second period. While neither side seriously threatened, it was the visitors who had more menace about them in the opposing half.

Roy Coyle's Newry are workmanlike and uninspired; the continued absence / disappearance of Karl Bermingham leaves them severely hamstrung. Darren King deservedly won the home side's MOTM award, his performance easily outshining that of his colleague's. He probed along the left constantly, supported his attackers at every opportunity and covered well at the back. I think it was Kevin Keegan who nonchalantly flicked a cross onto the bar in the first half; it was more a half chance than a sculpted opening - Paul Murphy had little else to worry about throughout the game.

Ballymena have more than their fair share of blonde bombshells; all style, no substance? Unfair!
They seemed like a side lacking in confidence, there is an undertow of skill and ability, but a nervousness about imposing it. Once Newry produced their secret weapon [bring me the special shoot myself in the foot gun] and presented their visitors with an opening goal, United were a changed side.

Randal Reid impressed - his finish was emphatic, Aidan Watson and Mark Picking probed; Haveron was accomplished, ably complemented by Albert Watson's determined defending. The ball, which had been enjoying a bird's eye view of the local hamlet for much of the game, was suddenly glued to the ground as the Sky Blues came over all 'pass and movey'. Newry City were like bumbling detectives, two steps behind the action as Tommy Wright's side unwrapped their potential and pulled away into a 3-0 lead.

The Newry City silent knights unwrapped their vocal chords as Stephen Wetherall played his final tune of the afternoon; 'It's not good enough Roy' was probably the most pertinent observation of a rudderless performance.

For this neutral it was a royal treat, having been starved of live action for a month now; and I look forward to my next incursion.

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