Belfast Telegraph

Billly Weir: Goalkeepers keep us sane with all their crazy antics

By Billy Weir

Goalkeepers are a bit like a dancing bear - a strange breed capable of moments of brilliance, but you just know that an act of madness may be just around the next corner. Or free-kick.

We are blessed in the Danske Bank Premiership to have some outstanding custodians of the goal, and who would have thought as things stand we'd have two Northern Ireland international keepers in our ranks?

Roy Carroll is still an exceptional performer and he was badly missed by Linfield during his recent injured spell, while Jonny Tuffey has been nothing short of magnificent for Glenavon, the best keeper in the league by a country mile according to his boss Gary Hamilton.

Tuffey was in outstanding form on Saturday as he kept Crusaders at bay, pulling off a string of top class saves - no mean feat given that he used to be woman and never actually existed.

I shall explain.

Crusaders utility man and clear fan of ancient mythology Sean Ward described Tuffey's display by saying 'he was like Medusa today…he seemed to have more than two arms and was making saves all over the place."

Medusa was, of course, in the same youth team as Brian Jensen before her move to Panathinaikos...

To those not in the know, Medusa was a character in Greek mythology who had snakes for hair and the capacity to turn men into stone with one sleekid glance at them.

It was a look adopted in later years by Coleraine and Larne shot-stopper Vince Magee but, and I stand to be corrected on this, he never turned anyone into stone, although some of Larne's defenders were a bit statuesque at times.

Jensen was famously known as 'The Beast' during his time at Burnley but, as far as I am aware, his follicles have never turned into puff adders, which could go a long way towards explaining why Tuffey is given a wide berth in the changing rooms when someone is looking for the Timotei.

As I said, where there may be brilliance, sometimes there's a wee bit of air getting in - and this was demonstrated by Carroll who, now in his early sixties, should probably know better, as he galloped up the field like a scalded gazelle to celebrate Linfield's second goal last Saturday.

"There was obviously some relief in the Linfield camp when they scored because it was the first time I have seen a goalkeeper run the length of the pitch to celebrate a goal - I certainly don't know what that all was about," said bemused Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey, no stranger to an ebullient celebration himself.

There are other keepers from far and wide; Berat Turker from Germany via Warrenpoint, Ballinamallard's Englishman Richard Brush, and Carrick's Harry Doherty, who represented the Republic at youth level and is surely destined for bigger things.

Brian Neeson, his predecessor at Taylors Avenue (that's what it is), has also shown - like Sean O'Neill, who became a sensible 30-year-old yesterday (good luck with that) - it is possible to switch codes from Gaelic football. Hell, if it was good enough for Pat Jennings then why not?

Coleraine's Chris Johns, a man who has put the disappointment of stepping down from the professional game at Southampton behind him to continue his studies and excel for the Bannsiders, was last seen giving himself a damned good mental thrashing after what he recognised as an error in conceding his side's goal against Cliftonville at the weekend.

But yet again there was an example of Oran Kearney's fantastic man-management, backing his man and saying they wouldn't be where they are without him.

"It means something to him," Kearney said. "It is a bread and butter shot for Chris and he usually saves those but we wouldn't be sitting joint top in the table without him."

And no piece on goalkeepers in this part of the world can possibly go without mention of Elliott Morris at Glentoran, a constant presence in the never boring but often ridiculous goings on in the east, or Stuart Addis who got the glory he richly deserved this season lifting the League Cup with Dungannon Swifts.

A great bunch of lads altogether, a much wiser man than me once said, but just be careful in case Jonny Tuffey looks at you in a funny way.

They think it’s all Oval, it is for now for Nicky

Another week, another crazy chapter in the story of Glentoran Football Club.

As if getting rid of Gary Haveron to ensure that they finished lower than the sixth place he had guided them to (and exited the quarter-finals of the Irish Cup they had reached under him) wasn’t bad enough, the farcical gift that keeps on giving continued yesterday.

Colin Nixon was next up for the Oval Office but even Donald Trump couldn’t have handled things as shabbily. A man like Colin Nixon should never be made to feel like second choice and, wise man that he is,  he said ‘no thanks’ and put pen to paper on a new deal at Ards.

I hope that some day he gets the chance to manage his beloved Glens, perhaps a case of third-time lucky, but for now the grass, or 3G, is definitely greener at Ards.

Nicky is a legend at the Glens and has red, green and black blood coursing through his veins and as fierce a competitor as he was on the pitch, he is an absolute gentleman off it.

A look at his record as a player and proud captain is incredible — four league titles and six Irish Cups, as well as a clutch of other honours. It’s just a shame that the Glens, who have been in freefall since the daft decision to get shot of Eddie Patterson, didn’t approach him straight away when, in my opinion, they got rid of Haveron too soon.

Rodney McAree was the first to turn them down with concerns about training facilities and other imponderables that made it too much of a risk.

 “Everyone was aware of the speculation, but I believe that we can do well at Dungannon — we can push on and finish higher up the table.” What a kick in the wobbly bits that was for Glentoran, but nothing to the haymaker landed on them by Nixon.

So, where now? Ronnie McFall will continue to fill the void in the professional and no-nonsense way he does best. It’s just a shame that mantra doesn’t seem to apply to everyone around Mersey Street.

Final word

A BBC person was less than chuffed that I had criticised them for not showing the big title clash between Crusaders and Coleraine on Easter Tuesday, pointing out, as I surmised, that Uefa restrictions meant they couldn’t as it clashed with the  Champions League. Fair enough, sorry about that, but Uefa need to get a grip if that’s the case.

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