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Irish League Lives: Coleraine's Michael Guy on day he confronted fan, winning league and moving to Sheffield United

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Michael Guy

Michael Guy

Michael Guy

Michael Guy

Michael Guy

Warrenpoint Town's Mark Byrne made the headlines for all the wrong reasons last month when he was caught up in an ugly brawl with Ballymena United supporters at the end of an Irish Cup tie.

Although the 19-year-old goalkeeper from Dundalk regretted his actions, he was subsequently charged with bringing the game into disrepute by Irish Football Association disciplinary chiefs and banned for six months, three of which were suspended for 18 months.

But he wasn't the first Irish League player to accost rival fans on the terraces - just ask Michael Guy!

Indeed, the former Coleraine striker, never one to hold back on or off the pitch, has a great deal of sympathy for Byrne.

He can vividly recall the day he 'jumped the fence' at the Ballymena Showgounds to confront a fan, who continually subjected him to abuse, most of it sectarian.

"I was the same age as the young goalkeeper - 19," remembers Michael.

"I used to get awful abuse when I was playing for Coleraine. I went after a boy one day at Ballymena, I could take it no longer.

"Our manager, Bertie Peacock, ordered Jackie Cooley, who was our bus driver, to 'get that man out of the crowd'. Jackie said, 'you may go over yourself because I'm not going near him'."

Michael Guy

Byrne saw red when his father got involved in disturbances with opposing supporters.

"I would have done the same thing in those circumstances," admits Michael.

"It's a natural reaction if you see your father being caught up. You can't condone it, but it's a spur of the moment thing.

"He (Byrne) was given a long ban so obviously the authorities wanted to make an example of him."

Michael is now 67 years of age and, astonishingly, only hung up his boots TWO years ago.

In a career that took him from Coleraine to full-time football with Sheffield United, he walked away from the Irish League at 33, but continued to play for his hometown club Roe Valley.

"I didn't play a lot of football at school because I fell out with the teacher," laughs the Limavady man.

"He wanted me to play basketball and, because I refused, he didn't let me play football."

"It's nice to be able to say that I was part of the Coleraine side that won the League title for the one and only time, although that may change this season."

It was a local scout, Dermot Doherty, who recommended Michael to Coleraine boss Peacock.

"I played in a trial, coming up against Davy Jackson," he recalls.

"I must have done alright because Bertie signed me after one game.

"It took me a while to break into the side, it was actually the following season. Bertie said to me one day if I scored (for the reserves), I'd be in the team to play Derry City in midweek.

"But I had just started my apprenticeship as a joiner and, because I couldn't get off work, I had to pull out.

"However, it wasn't long until I got in. It was a formidable side - Dessie Dickson, Brian Jennings, Johnny McCurdy, Ivan Murray, Sean Dunlop, Alan Campbell, Eugene McNutt and Davy Gordon.

"I was selected to face Glenavon one day because Jennings was injured. Dickson and I both scored hat-tricks, but I was dropped for the next game. I wasn't happy, I didn't understand the logic to it. Bertie knew what he was doing.

"It's nice to be able to say that I was part of the Coleraine side that won the League title for the one and only time, although that may change this season."

Soon after that, Peacock quit and was replaced by Murray and McCurdy.

Michael adds: "We reached the Final of the Irish Cup in 1975. It took two replays to separate us and Linfield. I played in the first two games but was substitute in the third.

"It was the first time the Final was taken out of Belfast and the Linfield supporters were not too happy.

"Bertie brought in Jim Smith for the Cup and he nicked the winner, he did the job for us," he adds.

The following season, Michael went on trial at Leicester City, managed by Frank McClintock. Although the Foxes declared an interest, Coleraine were holding out for a better deal.

Instead, Michael joined Sheffield United.

"I travelled over for a trial with Mal Donaghy and Gerry O'Kane," he adds.

I quit Irish League football too early, I could have played until I was in my forties. Ballymena asked me back and Portadown talked to me, I wasn't interested.

"We played in a game against Aston Villa. They beat us 10, but Harry Haslem still wanted to sign me.

"Ivan (Murray) came over to Sheffield to seal the deal. I went straight into the first team squad and was substitute for the first couple of matches.

"Regardless of how I played, I was always the one who was left out (of the team). I bought a house and lived in Sheffield and settled in well. I got on well with the players, but the manager wouldn't give me a run in the team.

"I remember being taken off in a pre-season game and wasn't happy. I gave the boss a mouthful and took off my shirt and told him what to do with it. I was fined the next day.

"We then played in an FA Cup game away at Aldershot. I scored two goals, but I sustained a facial injury. Although I played the rest of the game, I visited hospital the next day - my jaw was broken.

"I had it wired and was out for five weeks. What annoyed me was not one club official came to see me in hospital. Some of my team-mates visited, but not one from the management. That was me finished."

Michael moved on to Crewe Alexandra, relieved to get away from his Bramall Lane nightmare.

"I never got a fair crack at it, so I relished a new challenge," he adds. "I'd two seasons at Crewe, which I enjoyed.

"Bruce Grobbelaar was there for a time. He was mad as a hatter. I met him a few years back when Liverpool Legends played at Institute's ground. He told the boys he remembered me from his Crewe days - I don't know whether he did or not.

"He was a bit eccentric, the old saying goes you must be mad to be a goalkeeper."

Having turned down a chance to join Bradford City, Michael opted to return home.

"I spoke with Dickie (Dessie Dickson), who was in charge at Coleraine, but my old team-mate Alan Campbell offered me a good deal to join Ballymena United," he explains.

"However, Alan was involved in a bad car accident and was out for a long time. Ivan Murray took over before Ian Russell arrived.

"The highlight was winning the Irish Cup, beating Carrick Rangers in the Final back in 1984, when Jim Platt was manager. After four seasons at The Showgrounds, I couldn't agree terms so decided to leave."

Michael had another Irish Cup Final appearance three years later when he was lured to Larne by manager Paul Malone. However, he experienced his first defeat, losing 1-0 to Glentoran, Gerry Mullan bagging the winner.

"We had a decent team at Larne but, on that occasion, the Glens put away the one chance they created - that was the difference," he recalls.

"Big Paul offered me a new contract, but I wasn't enjoying it.

"For me, I thought some of the players were not putting in the effort. It frustrated me because I was travelling a fair distance from Limavady to training and to games. I decided to pack it in, even though I was only 33.

"I quit Irish League football too early, I could have played until I was in my forties. Ballymena asked me back and Portadown talked to me, I wasn't interested.

"Instead, I joined my old club Roe Valley and I played there until I was 65. I always gave 100 per cent - even when I wasn't playing well.

"I was sent off quite a few times in the Irish League, I was classed as a bit of a bad boy. I think some of the referees looked out for me."

Michael has one big regret - not getting the chance of a Northern Ireland call-up.

"I was in England for four years and my name was never mentioned," he stresses.

"I think it was because of my reputation. There were articles in newspapers, urging Danny Blanchflower to have a look at me and Billy Caskey. I was playing well at Coleraine at the time.

"Billy did get caps. I think I must have rubbed certain people up the wrong way."

÷ In five seasons at Coleraine, Michael made 155 appearances and scored 37 goals, including six in the 1973/74 title term.

÷ He represented Coleraine in Europe against Feyenoord in the European Cup and against Eintracht Frankfurt and Lokomotive Leipzig, when he scored twice, in the Cup Winners' Cup.

÷ Michael once played alongside George Best in a friendly with Ballymena United.

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