Saturday is a red-letter day in North Belfast. No it’s not bru day , it’s derby day when North Belfast sees more blow in’s than the 12th of July!
The Cliftonville Road, puts down the blow for a second and puffs out it’s chest as the great unwashed descend on the Shore Road in large numbers .
Yet like the Loyal orders , this cultural awakening is under threat!
The march down to Seaview, from Cassidy’s Bar at the top of the Limestone via Glandore and Skegoneill Avenues, is the highlight of the travelling Redman’s season. Yet at a time, when the sectarian scarred North Belfast tinderbox has largely kept its powder dry over the summer, this rite of passage for young reids has suddenly faced opposition from the PSNI and the joint efforts of a cross community Glandore/Skegoneill residents group!
The PSNI say that operational costs are prohibitive. They say that due to the walk down to Seaview , it takes more than twice as many Policemen to secure this game as it does the corresponding fixture at Solitude. They would like Cliftonville to supply buses for the journey, but why should they have to fit the bill. Crusaders supporters aren’t forced to bus to Solitude! Our supporters clubs do it through choice, at their own expense. The games aren’t all-ticket either , so it is very hard to enforce a busing restriction without doing so.
The PSNI had asked for the game to be switched to Solitude, as their resources on the ground are stretched to breaking point this Saturday.
There is an Apprentice Boys march at Clifton Street on Saturday Morning. There is a cross-community event in Alexandra Park to celebrate the re-opening of the peace-line gates for the first time in years (as a result of the thawing of sectarian tensions). Whitewell Young Defenders are holding a band contest in the White City in the afternoon, followed by one on the York Rd/Shore Rd in the early evening.
The Friday night option was discounted as an operational nightmare. A loss of a home revenue was unthinkable in Crusaders current financial plight. Thankfully, the PSNI agreed to an earlier 2PM kick-off when officers on the ground are more easily come by.
The opposition of the combined residents groups raises its own more serious in the long-term issues.
The residents in the mixed Glandore area are unhappy at drink-filled Cliftonville supporters spilling off the main thoroughfare of the Antrim Road and using their gardens and alleyways as public toilets. In fairness , I wouldn’t be happy to put up with it in my street.
Skegoneill residents claim they have been threatened and made prisoners in their own homes while yobbish football fans are herded up and down their road.
The efforts of the Red Revolution, who were either thrown out or left of their own accord at the last league game at Seaview haven’t helped matters either. Youtube videos of them singing Republican ditty’s, that in fairness to the bulk of Cliftonville’s support are no longer part of their match-day rituals , caused offence to residents , who weren’t even there on the day to be offended!
Cliftonville, to their credit, have warned supporters to observe their own code of conduct while walking to the game. The PSNI are videoing the march and i’m led to believe that residents groups will be handing out leaflets and keeping a watching brief.
Here’s hoping it passes off incident free. Health and Safety legislation, coupled with the new Justice Act , has taken a lot of the fun out of following Irish League Football. Lets keep one tradition intact!
As Tommy Breslin says in his pre-match interview , derby matches take care of themselves. Players shouldn’t need team talks. Everyone should want to play in it.
The return of Marty Donnelly should add some spice to the occassion. One fella said he’ll hardly get a kick all game with McKeown about. Knowing Big G, I bet he does!
Cliftonville hold a three point lead going into this one and the current bragging rights. Last weeks disappointments for both clubs will bring added pressure to the day. Marty Donnelly returns from suspension for Cliftonville. Chris Morrow misses out after seeing red last week at Windsor, Matt Hazley should make his competitive Crusaders debut.
C’mon the Crues!
Hugh Carvill takes charge of this game! He has shown 9 yellow cards this season in 4 games. He was in charge of our 3-0 win at Ballymena and was fourth official in last weeks game at Windsor.He refereed Cliftonville’s 2-1 win at Lisburn Distillery where he booked Joe Gormley!
Cliftonville have held the upper hand in the previous two seasons winning eight games to Crusaders two. In the last 61 games between the clubs , they only hold a slight advantage in wins of 23-21 with 17 drawn.
Timmy Adamson and Colin Coates have 4 each
Chris Scannell has 4
Chris Morrow has 1 red card
George McMullan and Marty Donnelly have both seen red