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Billy Weir on the box: Referees given a proper lashing

By Billy Weir

Published 07/05/2015

Oval and out: Portadown fans brave the weather by sheltering under a turnip, sorry, umbrella.
Oval and out: Portadown fans brave the weather by sheltering under a turnip, sorry, umbrella.

I now the BBC are often accused of trying to please everybody so it was refreshing in Saturday's coverage of the Irish Cup final that they plumped for two analysts who would annoy both sets of fans equally.

Not so big David Jeffrey and still quite hairy Gary Hamilton were chosen as the men to sit beside Stephen Watson-Live at The Oval swimming baths as away team, Glentoran, took on hosts, Portadown. Good old IFA, always getting things spot on.

Glens fans had got there early, booking their temporary seats not by throwing down towels but plastic sheets, although the latter would have come in handy as the weather was less than glorious for local football's big day in the sun.

"It's a very untypical Irish Cup day," began Cecilia Jeffrey. "Usually the sun is shining (this is a myth). I wasn't too disappointed when I saw the rain, but there's a wind outside, the rain is on and it's pretty miserable out there." Wait until the game starts, the football will brighten things up. Or not.

Not to be outdone, Barra Watson and Angie Sidebottom were getting in on the act too, the latter telling us, "I can't tell you how bad the weather is" and the former speaking to the groundsman, who said, "it's the kind of day if you found a fox in the hen house you'd let it stay there". Okay…

But as predictions go, right up there with Michael Fish-like statements of portent, was Glentoran hero Chris Morgan-Day, who said: "I hope the referee isn't the one we're talking about at the end of the game". Ahhh…

After all this talk of weather it was time for the football to do the talking, but not for long as Jackie Fullerton, doing his 135th Irish Cup final - sorry, commentating on the 135th Irish Cup final - got in on the act as the camera trained in on umbrellas and then a soaked Glens boss Eddie Patterson.

"He's not been caught with a brolly, not after what happened to Graham Taylor," he explained, as we wondered just how good a shelter a turnip would give you, but he rectified his rare error later, apologising profusely but no-one minded as it was easily the most entertaining thing in the first-half.

Back in the studio at the break, Cecilia, sorry, Jeffrey was back, confirming that it was a "horrible stinking day" before switching, briefly, to football, to give one of the best pieces of analysis ever for a defensive blunder.

"My goodness did he have to make the tackle because he made a bit of a hames," he said and then confounded us all further by calling Hamilton 'Gaz', a rare occurrence given his propensity for elongating everyone else's name. I'm surprised he didn't call him Garfield. He's certainly as hirsute.

If that was good, the following exchange between Glentoran coach Tiernan Lynch and Sidebottom was straight from The Fast Show. Well, it was certainly fast, as the teams squelched back out for the second-half.

"Tiernan, any changes?" quizzed Sidebottom. "No, no changes," confirmed Lynch.

"Can you win it?" pressed Sidebottom.

"Of course we can win it," came the reply and then we were back to the excitement, slightly baffled and a little bit wiser but not feeling it.

So bored was co-commentator Stephen Baxter that the Crusaders boss started blurting out random pop acts, mentioning that he would like to see more from Twiggy, but before all that all hell broke loose.

As goal-bound Michael Gault was breaking through, in lemming-like fashion he took a tumble, and Glentoran ran to the other end to score the winner through David Scullion, while the officials, a bit like the white lines, appeared to be painted on and then washed away.

It was such a talking point that it left Jackie speechless, almost silenced by smoke from flares but anyone who remembers Sportscast knows that if one man can deal with flares, it is Ballymena's dedicated follower of fashion.

"Love changes everything goes the song," he observed as people across the land fled in fear that not only had he regained his voice but he was going to sing, and incredibly soggy matches were being struck in desperation in an attempt to light some more flares.

After a strange silence, a muffled cough or two, Jackie croaked back into action and apologised for having a frog in his throat, probably attracted to the watery swamplands of east Belfast, but there was something even more hopping mad at the end.

"I'm really not going to allow us to brush over Michael Gault's foul and what was a clear penalty," fumed Jeffrey, but not as much as Portadown boss Ronnie McFall, less than impressed with Sidebottom's imploring that the referee "is human".

"That's no use to us today," he barked, as we all wondered what type of animal he would like, preferably ones that don't have the vision of myopic moles, although, in fairness, there are only five officials so you can't expect them to get everything right.

And that was that, the Glens were "feeling the love tonight" said Watson-Live to set up a wee song at the end from pop combo Rudimental, while outside it didn't need an expert to forecast that there would be a cold welcome for referees in the Portadown area for some time to come.

Belfast Telegraph

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