'It's blood and thunder': Glentoran hero Robbie McDaid salutes supporter passion after day of tension in Ballymena
With two red cards and three goals, including an injury-time winner, it was an eventful afternoon at the Ballymena Showgrounds.
The home side looked set to claim their fifth win in seven games against Glentoran until Robbie McDaid popped up with two clinical finishes in the closing stages.
His winner, a close-range poke after Elvio Van Overbeek's cross fell in the box, sparked pandemonium amongst the away support, the players on the pitch and the staff in the dugout.
Since the half-time melee in the tunnel that resulted in Glentoran manager Mick McDermott being shown the red card, the tension had been building between the Glens' bench and the packed stand behind them.
When McDaid's winner went in, a Glentoran substitute banged the perspex, further enraging a home support that had watched their side's lead reversed since the 84th minute leveller.
Fast forward a few minutes and, after another melee and a fan banging back on the opposite side of the dugout, a second Glentoran staff member was sent off.
It was all a little close to boiling point.
When the three points were secure, the Glentoran players couldn't hide their delight as they went into the tunnel.
While, of course, tensions cannot be allowed to spill over, McDaid says that passion is exactly what makes the Irish League what it is.
"It was a feisty game," he mused, in a home stand that still felt like it was echoing from the chaos of half an hour earlier.
"That's why this league is as good as it is. You don't have 100,00 fans at games, you don't have tourists but it's real blood and thunder. It's great.
"You don't want it to step over the line but that banter is what every footballer loves. If I wasn't playing, I'd probably be in the stands shouting some things as well. I can understand where they're coming from. That's what you want. You don't want to be playing in front of a crowd making no noise. I really enjoyed it.
"Since I've come home, you really understand the passion and how much people love their club. Our fans have been fantastic. They live, breathe and bleed Glentoran so to give them the three points today was a bit special."
McDaid has now scored 25 league goals since joining the Glens two years ago.
"That was a sweet one," he said of his Showgrounds winner. "As a striker, those are the best moments. There aren't many better feelings than that one.
"It was a bit crazy. I got a chance before that and I thought it might be the last one. Elvio whipped a great ball in and it just fell for me. I swung at it, saw the net and it was euphoria from then.
"You couldn't have scripted it any better."
McDaid has known Glentoran before and after the takeover and says there is a renewed drive amongst the squad, chalking it down the quality signings like midfielder Hrvoje Plum, who showed his undoubted quality as he struck the post twice in the first half.
"For the boys that haven't been here for a couple of years like myself, it's lit a fire under us because there are going to be new guys coming in from here and abroad. We need to up our levels to make sure we're in the team," he explained.
"The club has needed that investment and now that it has come, us players have to do the business.
"The new boys have been super. They've all really bought into the club but they're still coming to terms with the league. It's a tough league to come into, especially from a more technical league like Croatia or Holland. Elvio came on an injected real pace and legs into the team.
"That's what we have, a squad of 24 or 25 boys who can make a difference. You saw the good side of that squad today."
There's also been a lift, McDaid says, from playing under new boss McDermott, who previously worked with Carlos Quieroz at Iran.
"Mick's been really good," he said. "You can see has been in the full-time game. His levels of professionalism are through the roof. He's the kind of manager that if you buy into what he's doing, he will make you a better player.
"His sending off galvanised us if anything. We really wanted to get the three points because we knew he was in the stand getting a bit of stick. He can go out tonight with his head held high."
The boss, of course, will not be in the dugout for Tuesday's League Cup tie at home to Ballyclare after his half-time dismissal.
So what's the dressing room policy on red card fines?
"I'll leave that up to him but I'll definitely be pushing for it for the Christmas party," McDaid laughed.
A smile to end a hectic day at the Ballymena Showgrounds.
Belfast Telegraph Digital