Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

New season is not going swimmingly

Where there’s gloom, then it’s old friend doom is never far behind, and the new all-singing, all-dancing JJB Sports Premiership is yet to go to the ball, never mind kick one.

It’s just a pity that the referees didn’t look at the long range weather forecast before going on strike last week and as the water rises there is that horrible sinking feeling surrounding our local game.

With Slemish in danger of becoming an island and the local B&Q reporting a roaring trade in Ark building materials, it was no surprise that Ballymena United’s clash with Lisburn Distillery bit the dust.

All the talk from local wags was of Michael Phelps and Rebecca Adlington, but even they would have turned up their noses at this, a day when you wouldn’t have put a milk bottle out.

It means the curtain-raiser for the season is now the County Antrim Shield on Tuesday night – weather/referees/plagues of locusts – permitting, not exactly what the IFA had dreamt off.

Once again the men in the middle found themselves the centre of attention and this time it was referee Paddy McFadden who was more than happy to get back into action.

An initial inspection at 2.00pm passed the Showgrounds pitch playable, the players braved the elements for their warm-up but as the rain continued to lash it was clear by the second that there would be no whistle to signal the start of the season.

Just past ten to three and the Londonderry official made the decision we all expected and while there was frustration all round, it was the right one.

Paul Kirk, scheduled to watch the match from the stand after making a splash of a different kind when the two sides faced each other last season and all hell broke loose, was philosophical after another controversial day by the Braid.

“I don’t blame the referee — as I said to him on the sidelines, make a decision to play the game and allow the players to prepare mentally for a game as they’re entitled to do,” he stressed.

“If by that time the pitch is not playable because of health and safety and you have to call it off, then no-one will fault you for it.

“The players’ safety is the main thing and I think the referee made the right decision.

“I feel for the fans but my main concern has to be my team, preparing my team and getting them mentally ready for the game.

“There are other knock-on aspects and I understand that, but I think the right decision was made.

“The league seems to be doomed before it even starts but we have to stay positive; we have to stay focused.

“Last week could have been avoided, this week couldn’t.”

As for opposite number, Roy Walker, he will hope for third time lucky when he makes another attempt to begin his life back in management against Ballyclare Comrades in the Shield.

Given the weather forecast there could already be grave doubts surrounding that clash and with the Sky Blues’ reserves in Steel & Sons Cup action it gives him an early headache.

“At this stage we’ll take any fixture to get started — if the rain stops,” joked Walker.

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