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Celtic v Linfield: Fans excited and also apprehensive ahead of possible dream match

By Christine Carrigan

It is the tie which has got everyone talking.

Yesterday's draw for the Champions League qualifiers - and the potential for a Linfield v Celtic showdown - drew plenty of reaction from both Blues and Hoops fans on the streets of Belfast.

The match, which could take place in Belfast on July 11 - provided Linfield come through a match against opposition from tiny San Marino - carries plenty of history, as well as some potential angst.

It would be the first time Celtic and Linfield have played each other. If the Blues beat lowly SP La Fiorita on June 27, they will progress to the second qualifying round and a play-off over two legs against Celtic.

The first leg is scheduled for July 11 at Windsor Park - at a time when tensions could be high. It has led to growing concern that the match could invoke sectarian tensions in the city as it will coincide with the pre-Twelfth celebrations.

Chatting to supporters of both teams yesterday, it was clear there was excitement - but also apprehension - from both sides.

Linfield supporter John Freeburn (69), from Sandy Row, said: "I am happy for Linfield if it happens, but I am frightened for the result."

Similarly, Robert Frame (65) and also from Sandy Row, said: "To be honest I would love to see Linfield playing Celtic."

Referring to the date that the match is scheduled for, Robert added: "Without a doubt it will cause problems."

One hopeful football fan from Sandy Row was Raymond Cupples (52), who said: "I am excited, I'm not too sure if there will be trouble or not, you just never know with these things."

However, Shaun McGervn (31) from the Falls Road, is far less optimistic that the game will even go ahead. "I can't see Linfield winning the first round," he said. "If they do, brilliant, but if it is on the 11th, there could be big trouble."

Keen Celtic supporter Jim Crilly (18) jokingly said: "If it happens, Celtic will hammer them, and then there really will be trouble."

Barney Quinn (76), who lives on the Falls Road, said: "Linfield are predominantly Rangers in a smaller form, and Rangers and Celtic fans don't get on for obvious reasons."

However, many yesterday did not want concerns over the game to ruin what could be a fantastic and historic occasion for both clubs.

Ex-Belfast Celtic player Stanley Duncan (87) said: "In my days there was no problems, there are problems today yes, but I won't let it effect me. I will go anyway to support the best team, it doesn't matter what colour they are playing in."

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