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Billy Weir

A big hand for all the Irish League clubs who gladly gave a helping one

Billy Weir


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Helping out: Glenavon players packing aid parcels

Helping out: Glenavon players packing aid parcels

Helping out: Glenavon players packing aid parcels

Down through the years there have been moments, quite a few of them if we are being totally honest with ourselves, where our wee league hasn't exactly covered itself in glory.

Riots, scuffles, registration red-faces, financial skulduggery or simple administrative ineptitude, plus on and off-field unsavoury shenanigans of all types, have served up easy pickings for those ready and willing to sink a size nine into the wobbly parts.

This season has been a wonderful one. Or was a wonderful one before you know what came along, with the race for the Gibson Cup beautifully poised.

But, of course, it wouldn't be the Irish League without a bit of toy-throwing from a selection of prams. And most of it provided by those renowned shy and retiring types - goalkeepers.

It seems like a lifetime ago when Warrenpoint Town goalkeeper Mark Byrne made an ill-advised decision to get up close and personal with some Ballymena United fans. He was banned for three months and I'm not sure how that pans out with football and life in lockdown.

Elsewhere, Crusaders custodian Ger Doherty was also hauled in front of the powers-that-be for the ill-advised decision to launch bottles that had been thrown at him back in the general direction of Glentoran fans. A ball-boy was also pushed over in that game and all manner of madness ensued.

Passions ran high at Taylor's Avenue, too, when Harry Doherty (yes, another keeper) answered some abuse from Linfield fans with a display of sign language that wouldn't have gone down at all well with Donna Traynor at the end of the lunchtime Newsline bulletin.

He picked up a two-match ban and the Blues, like Ballymena at Warrenpoint, were fined for the behaviour of their fans.

You also have managers being sent to the stands for being bad and referees constantly facing a barrage of criticism - and let's be brutally frank here, some of it well merited - but before you think I'm just teeing up an episode of the Nolan Show here, stop right there.

Several Danske Bank Premiership clubs and those from further down the footballing ladder have been nothing short of magnificent in their response to the coronavirus.

And remember this isn't a Premiership star very publicly handing over a third of a week's wages to help out his homeland. These are, by and large, clubs who haven't got a receptacle to do you know what in.

Like everyone else in this little land of ours, players, coaches, officials and fans don't know what is going to happen next. We know that it is going to get a lot worse before it gets better and, pray to your supreme being of choice, that it isn't too long before we're able to lob more stick at referees.

Before the Prime Minister's declaration this week, several clubs up and down the land were doing their bit to help those in society who needed a bit of support, whether it be some supplies, a warm meal or picking up a prescription.

As it transpired, some of the good work may not have been what the Government wanted us to do after all but, rather than the stick that some cretins have been dishing out, let's get real here.

These clubs were trying to help their communities. It's all very well politicians sitting and pontificating but don't come back all high and mighty now when you were self-isolating yourselves away from Stormont for two years. Shameful.

Crusaders have an impressive hospitality set-up but with Mother's Day plans across the country thrown into turmoil, they didn't simply chuck the food in the bin.

Manager Stephen Baxter, club officials and players including Sean O'Neill, Ross Clarke and Gary Thompson delivered meals to homes in north Belfast.

Not far away, Cliftonville showed their caring side too, announcing that all the kids currently enrolled in their Academy set-up would be offered a place for next year.

Down at Warrenpoint, the impact of the virus was made all too real when it was revealed that former player Lee Duffy had contracted Covid-19 but is thankfully on the mend.

There was huge disappointment in their underage section when a planned trip to Barcelona for their Under-13s to play in a tournament bit the dust but, rather than feeling sorry for themselves, they, their parents and coaches decided to use some of the money to buy essential items for local people finding things tough at the moment, backed by local shops.

In mid-Ulster, both Glenavon and Portadown used their grounds as a hub to gather items. Lurgan Blues Gary Hamilton was joined by a host of players including James Singleton, Jonny Tuffey and Sammy Clingan with the message 'you've supported us, now it's our turn to support you'.

The Ports teamed up with a number of groups in the town to do likewise and similar exercises were underway at Carrick and Dungannon Swifts before the new lockdown rules came into place.

Of course, a few ne'er do wells poured scorn on them, mocking their 'self-isolation' tactics but this is a fast-changing world we're all having to get used to.

As I said earlier, these are just a few of the initiatives that have been carried out within domestic football - yep, that bunch of hallions playing a game for gentlemen who only care about themselves.

Hopefully it won't be too long before they are back on the pitch and the circle can be completed with a grateful community coming out to support them.

Belfast Telegraph