| 7.5°C Belfast


Morgan Day's stunning match is celebrated but don't erase the horror we must learn from

Steven Beacom


 

Close

Trouble at the match

Trouble at the match

Magic moment: Chris Morgan celebrates his famous goal

Magic moment: Chris Morgan celebrates his famous goal

Ugly scenes: Sadly April 23, 2005 will also be remembered for the disgraceful behaviour at the Oval when fans invaded the pitch and running battles took place

Ugly scenes: Sadly April 23, 2005 will also be remembered for the disgraceful behaviour at the Oval when fans invaded the pitch and running battles took place

Trouble at the match

It's been 15 years. They call it Morgan Day now. On the anniversary of April 23, 2005 Glentoran fans will celebrate a famous title defining derby victory over Linfield at the Oval, but let's not forget the bigger picture.

It wasn't just Morgan Day, it was a Mad Day. A shameful one too.

Sometimes things tend to be swept under the carpet in this country. Football should not be guilty of the same.

The game itself was sensational. Compelling right to the end. What happened following the final whistle, however, was shocking and had a lasting impact on the game here that continues to this day.

On the Monday morning after the Saturday before, when the Glens had beaten the Blues 3-2 thanks to a dramatic late winner from ex-Linfield striker Chris Morgan, the phones in the Belfast Telegraph sports desk just wouldn't stop ringing.

The calls from those on the other end of the line were wrought with emotion. Fans were desperate to express their feelings of disgust, disappointment and despair.

Pain in mums and dads, many of whom had taken their children to their first Irish League football match, poured out. Some were in tears recollecting what they had witnessed with the vast majority insisting they would never return to an Irish League fixture.

Close

Ugly scenes: Sadly April 23, 2005 will also be remembered for the disgraceful behaviour at the Oval when fans invaded the pitch and running battles took place

Ugly scenes: Sadly April 23, 2005 will also be remembered for the disgraceful behaviour at the Oval when fans invaded the pitch and running battles took place

Ugly scenes: Sadly April 23, 2005 will also be remembered for the disgraceful behaviour at the Oval when fans invaded the pitch and running battles took place

 

They weren't talking about the gripping Big Two contest. What concerned and frightened them was how scores of 'fans' from both clubs ended up on the pitch with some kicking and punching each other and others throwing missiles.

The hooliganism was a disgrace and disturbing as it was disheartening.

I recall the build-up to the that Big Two derby was intense.

This match was the penultimate one of a cracking league season. A Linfield victory would give them the title. A draw would keep them on course. It was win or bust for the Glens. Home success would see the destination of the title in their hands with one game left. Such was the interest in the game that sunny Saturday, with a massive crowd showing up, kick-off had to be delayed.

The atmosphere was electric as Stephen Parkhouse and Paul McAreavey scored for each side before the break. Colin Nixon made it 2-1 for the Glens before late on David Larmour, kept by then Blues boss David Jeffrey instead of Morgan, netted an equaliser that looked like claiming the title.

Then came that memorable winner from Morgan, who had crossed the great divide. It was a stunning finale.

Sadly events would take a sinister turn. After the final whistle Linfield fans spilled on to the pitch with some throwing bottles and anything they could get their hands on at Glens supporters in the main stand.

Next home fans from the other end of the ground made it on to the pitch leading to fights breaking out between opposition supporters. It was scary stuff, especially for all the children in the stadium.

Eventually the police arrived to clear the pitch and later video evidence helped make numerous arrests.

The Glens went on to win the title with the Blues lifting the Setanta Cup, but a dark cloud hung over the campaign.

Football fans were lost to the Irish League that afternoon. Some never came back.

Close

Magic moment: Chris Morgan celebrates his famous goal

Magic moment: Chris Morgan celebrates his famous goal

Magic moment: Chris Morgan celebrates his famous goal

 

Health and Safety means now that the vast crowd at the Oval that day - that 10,000 plus at the ground - won't happen again.

At the time the game in Northern Ireland was battered by all sides and there were genuine fears for its future.

It has recovered somewhat and was in a good place before the coronavirus pandemic brought it to a halt.

For sure remember the football "Morgan Day" brought us. That was so good but don't erase the bad and ugly from 15 years ago. Continue to learn from everything that happened and hope and ensure that it never happens again.

Belfast Telegraph