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Still no team handshakes in Cliftonville and Linfield row


Cliftonville players break away before the traditional handshakes on Saturday

Cliftonville players break away before the traditional handshakes on Saturday

Cliftonville players break away before the traditional handshakes on Saturday

The controversy over pre-match handshakes between Cliftonville and Linfield footballers went into extra time on Saturday.

Players from the north Belfast club broke away from the traditional line-up without shaking hands with their south Belfast rivals at Windsor Park before a Danske Premiership game.

The move has been seen as the latest chapter in a row that goes back six months to a protest by Cliftonville players over the playing of the National Anthem before the Irish Cup Final against Coleraine.

In 2013 the IFA decided against playing the anthem before that year's final between the Reds and Glentoran to create a politically neutral environment.

However, this year it did a U-turn.

In protest the Cliftonville players stood with their heads bowed throughout God Save The Queen.

In August, before a match at Solitude, Linfield goalkeeper Roy Carroll walked past the Reds players without shaking any hands.

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His snub was interpreted as a response to what happened at the Irish Cup Final.

Carroll was the only Linfield player to ignore the handshakes that day.

On Saturday, as the two teams lined up before kick-off, all eyes were on Carroll to see what he would do.

But the Cliftonville players peeled away without walking down the line as Linfield fans booed and jeered and the visiting supporters cheered.

Neither club has made any comment about the latest incidents, and Linfield's TV channel, which usually starts its edited coverage with footage of handshakes between the players before games, didn't include any images of what happened at Windsor Park.

However, while there has been silence from the two, it is understood that officials from the clubs had discussions on Saturday after it became known there could be an issue over the handshakes.

There is speculation that Carroll had indicated he would again decline the hands of the Cliftonville players.

And a number of the visiting team are reported to have said they wouldn't shake Carroll's hand even if he did offer it to them.

Sources said it was agreed that one way of defusing the situation would be for Cliftonville players to leave the line-up before kick-off without any handshakes.

It is believed that Linfield players and match officials had been informed of what Cliftonville were planning and fans said there appeared to be no surprise on the faces of the Windsor Park side as their opponents turned away.

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson, who had backed Carroll for ignoring the Cliftonville players in August, tweeted a picture of the Windsor Park scene on Saturday.

He said: "It seems Cliftonville players ran away before the handshakes prior to their game with Linfield today (which they lost). Doesn't offend me; I have long felt that imposed handshakes - whereby everyone is supposed to pretend we all like each other - are an absurdity."

It is not clear if footballing authorities will take any action over the non-completion of the pre-match formalities.

Once the game got under way, Linfield striker Andrew Waterworth scored a hat-trick as the Blues beat Cliftonville 4-2 to return to the top of the table.

Cliftonville are fifth, 11 points off the lead.

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