Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Northern Ireland – a poor version of Eyre. Old, but semi-professional clubs, smaller league – only 12 teams, players moving to English clubs earlier, as teenagers, not young adults, and fans taking the ferry to Glasgow for yet one more battle between Catholics and Protestants. Belfast ruled Northern Irish football, but Belfast with its bombs ans skirmishes between IRA and British Police/Army was not merrily Guinness soaked Dublin. Football was regularly played, of course, but it was of little note. Glentoran – one of the two 'big clubs', the other is Linfield – won the championship.

Sixteenth title for Glentoran and confidently won too – 5 points ahead of 2nd placed Glenavon (Lurgan) and devastating 18 points more than their arch-rivals Linfield, finishing 3rd. The title stayed in Belfast, but not the Cup. Linfield tried to remedy the lost league season, but their opponents, Coleraine were much better this day.

4-1 victory and 4th Cup for the club boasting to be 'one of the most successful clubs outside Belfast'. This is true to a point: the 1970s were the best time for Coleraine ever – champions in 1973-74, their only title, and Cups, collected in 1971-72 and 1974-75. Having a good run and not knowing it came to an end... 1977's Cup was to be their last trophy until 21st century. Coleraine, founded in 1927 is quite a young club by Irish standards – Glentoran was founded in 1882, for instance.

What else could be said for a country calling players from 3rd division English clubs to its national team? FC Bangor and Cliftonville (Belfast) ended at the bottom of the table, 11th and 12th respectively, but that meant nothing, for there was no promotion and relegation. Same 12 clubs were to start anew the next season. George Best was still in the news, but he never played in the domestic championship, so the news had nothing to do with home-played football. High scoring was the best about Northern Irish football – 408 goals were scored in the championship, 3.091 goals per match average.