I don’t know about you, but this has been one long wait for a game of football to materialise. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Or is there? It looks like a date has been set out very loosely – 17th October 2020 was the last date talked about. But I would wait out on that, we all know to take what the NIFL are saying with a pinch of salt. Let’s face it, we have witnessed the league start in Scotland with certain clubs breaking the rules and still the league carries on. So, what has been the hold up in Northern Ireland? Yes, the Institute case against the NIFL was one of the reasons, but that has now passed. It is time we started to play again and move on.
Talking of playing, we have teams from all over Europe flying into the province, then fly back out. Amazing! Why can’t we do that every weekend with our own clubs visiting each other? Anyway, well done to all involved last week – Linfield, Glentoran, and Coleraine have all progressed into the next stages of their respective European competitions. Further to that, each club will pick up a nice quarter of a million pounds to go with it.
I will get straight into it as there has been a lot of movements around the league, more so at Glentoran. Last week I was unable to keep up with Mick McDermott’s revolving door at the Oval. There must have been one happy joiner at the Oval with the door falling off the hinges after the number of times Mick’s door was opening and closing. Contract extensions were handed out to evergreen Elliot Morris and Keith Cowan, as well as Stephen Gordon, Cameron Stewart, Mal Smith, and Ciaran O’Connor, who has been a great signing since joining the Glens from Warrenpoint Town.
Two new signings coming into the East Belfast club caught everyone’s attention last week. The rate Mick is going, he could be a very good asset for Charles Hurst motors the way he is selling the Glens and also the league. Midfielder Gael Bigirimana put pen to paper and signed for the Glens. The ex-Coventry, Newcastle United, Motherwell, and Hibernian player went out for a loaf of bread and came back a Glens player. Wonderful! The lure of a semi-professional league seems to have been working for Mick. Next up was the capture of Gibraltar International keeper, Dayle Coleing.
I will not go on record and say I know much about Coleing, but he is an international player. Yes, Gibraltar has a vast size area of 6.8km and has a population of 33,000 people, but he has Champions League experience too. Well, the early qualifying stages. Coleing also has had a few games in the UK with the likes of English lower leagues clubs, Thackley and Liversedge. Again, I can’t say I know much about the standard there, but Mick will have done his homework. I am sure he will not turn out like another great player that graced the lower leagues of England, “Miguel Suarez”. Crues fans won’t want to remember this big striker in a hurry.
Leaving the Oval were Gavin Peers, who has now moved onto Warrenpoint Town, and Elvio Van Overbeek, one of the most gifted players to grace the league over the last few seasons.
Coleraine also in the last few weeks have moved fast. The Reds put Ronan Wilson on the transfer list and within a few days the Bannsiders snapped him up. The Bannsiders also captured the Blues keeper Gareth Deane on loan for the season. Crucially for the Bannsiders and Oran Kearney, club captain Stephen O’Donnell has signed on for another two seasons with experienced full-back Aaron Traynor.
Dungannon Swifts tied down a few experienced players for another season. Michael Carvill, Mark Patton, and Ally Teggart all added another year to their stays. Also staying with them will be Corey McMullan. McMullan had an injury in the 2019/2020 season and will be looking to make up for lost time.
On top of gaining the experience of Gavin Peers, Warrenpoint Town have also signed experienced goalkeeper Andy Coleman. Coleman was part of the Newry side that got relegated in the 2018/19 season but will bring a wealth of experience into the club.
Ballymena United delved into the transfer market and picked up Ryan Waide from the Blues. The young striker has had loan spells at Carrick Rangers and most recently at Dungannon Swifts. Hopefully, this is the move that will help Waide push on with his promising career.
Last but not least, ‘Portadown’. They moved quickly to snap up Aaron Burns who was released from his contract at the Sky Blues. This will be a good move for him and will bring great experience for the newly promoted team. Leaving the Ports last week was young talented Dale McCullough, who has joined up with the Premier League outfit Burnley.
It has been hard sitting and watching football being played around the world on TV while we still yet wait with anticipation for the resumption of football in Northern Ireland. It is about time we got the finger out and started to get money back through the gates. The clubs are running a business not charities. Let us get the game started now!