Total Pageviews

Friday, April 29, 2011


Dismal. That is the only word polite enough to describe the second half of Newry City's season, which has seen the club win just 5 points out of a possible 51 since the turn of the year. This abject run of form has led to the club being relegated from Northern Ireland's Irish League Premiership after a 0:4 reverse at home to Glenavon on Tuesday last. City haven't won since New Year's Eve, and, with one game to go this season, find themselves six points adrift of their nearest challenger, west Belfast side Donegal Celtic, who had occupied the bottom slot in the Irish League until a few weeks ago (only the bottom club is automatically relegated in the 12-club IFA Premiership, whilst the 11-th placed club faces a play-off against the runners-up in the Championship, Northern Irish football's second tier).

The club, founded in 1923 as Newry Town, actually finished third in the Irish League in 1928, and then some time later disappeared into the abyss known as the B Division, from which there was no promotion to the top division until the 1980s. Newry Town gained admission to the Irish League in the early 1980s, finding themselves in the second tier, when they won their only major honour to date, the County Antrim Shield, in 1988, and almost went out of business in the early 1990s, only to be rescued by local businessman Joe Rice. The Town were eventually promoted to the top flight in 1998 after winning the former First Division.

In their first season in many years in the top flight, they managed to finish fourth, and qualified for the Intertoto Cup. They faced Croatian side hrvatski Dragovoljac, who they defeated 2:1 over two legs (0:1 away, 2:0 home).

In the next round, they faced German side MSV Duisburg, but were eliminated after losing 2:0 away, and winning 1:0 at home at Newry Showgrounds. Rice left shortly afterwards, being replaced by a consortium of owners. The club finished in last place in 2002-03, but remained in the top flight after defeating Bangor in a play-off series. After the town of Newry, along with Lisburn, obtained city status in 2004, the club changed its name to Newry City (the club emblem changed as well, much to the regret of your correspondent).

The club meandered along quite nicely in the intervening period, regularly finishing in mid-table and even reacing the CIS Insurance [League] Cup final in 2009, losing 1:0 to Portadown in the final. Earlier that season, the club even found themselves top of the Irish League for the first time in their history, though their "reign" lasted a mere 18 hours or so. (Since around this time, City have been busying themselves with sprucing up the Showgrounds in line with the Irish League's spectator safety guidelines.)

Last season was more of the same, and after a close-season in which City released several players, including yours truly's favourite player of all, Kevin Keegan, who went to third-level Annagh United, they started off reasonably strongly this season (the only complaint from your correspondent being that a holiday was booked with two Saturday fixtures featuring Newry City, one home, one away, in mind, but they had both been switched to Friday evening), reaching fourth spot in September.

Slowly but surely, though, their season began to fall apart, and their last win this season in the Irish League, their sixth until now, was a 3:1 victory at home to Lisburn Distillery on New Year's Eve. (City's last win in all competitions was a 4:0 home victory against Armagh City in the Mid-Ulster Cup in February.) In February, the team found themselves bottom of the Irish League, and their manager, Gerry Flynn, was sacked by the board, and was eventually be replaced by ex-Northern Ireland international Pat McGibbon (who won 7 caps for the national side, and who had also played for Wigan Athletic and Glentoran, amongst other teams).

Since the turn of the Year, Newry City have won 5 points out of a maximum of 51, and replaced Donegal Celtic at the bottom of the Irish League. They now lie 6 points adrift of the Celtic. Donegal Celtic head for a possible play-off against the winner of the Championsip quite shortly; South Down's finest can only dream of what might have been.

To make matters worse, it was reported this week in the Belfast Telegraph that Newry City's goalkeeper and star turn, Andy Coleman, is already putting the feelers out with a view to joining a Championship side in England. City stated recently that they would not stand in his way should he leave in the event of the club being relegated, and it sems odds-on that this will happen, even though Coleman stated that he would like to finish his career at City if the club could remain in the Premiership.

What will happen to McGibbon after the season ends is unclear, but he is currently far from a happy camper, and let his feelings known to the players - and to the BBC - after the recent home defeat to Donegal Celtic, basically saying that he wasn't happy with the effort that was being put in by the playing squad, describing them as "Monday to Friday players". They certainly seem like a thoroughly dispirited bunch, with only Coleman, defender John Convery and attacker Andy Graham frequently rising above the (allegedly) sub-standard fare currently on offer to spectators at Newry Showgrounds.

Newry City's last home game of the season takes place this coming Saturday against Coleraine, and, to be honest, no great things are expected. It is almost a relief to see the season finish, but the fear is that the club may well find it difficult to get out of the Championship in the near future unless they get rid of the dead wood and can find some quality players to strenghten the playing staff. At least the Showgrounds are beginning to look the part..

City may well find themselves engaging in local derby fun next season with near neighbours Warrenpoint Town, who are situated just 5 miles down the A2 and who are currently 8 points clear in their first season in the third tier of the Irish League with games in hand on most of their nearest challengers. The club from the 'Point, founded in 1987, were playing in the Newcastle & District League just a few years ago. What price The 'Point bypassing Newry City and progressing into the Irish League sometime during the next few seasons? It just doesn't bear thinking about.

ADDENDUM: Donegal Celtic have been spared the stress of participating in a prpmotion/relegation play-off by the IFA. Apparently, the club received a message from the IFA shortly before the kick-off of their final league game, at home to against Dungannon Swifts, which informed them that their position in the Premiership was safe.

No additional details were given; it may well be the case that at least one of the top two teams in Championship 1, Carrick Rangers and Limavady United, do not fulfil the conditions needed to obtain a licence to play in the Premiership next season. Details are expected to be released as to who has obtained a licence to play in the top flight on 3/5/11. Meanwhile, Celtic then proceeded to lose anyway, by 2 goals to 1..

As for Newry City, there was to be no final flourish to their season as they lost 2:0 to Coleraine, thereby remaining six points behind Celtic at the foot of the Premiership table and will be playing Championship 1 football next season..unless a miracle happens tomorrow..

Saturday, April 23, 2011


So, Real Madrid won the Copa del Rey late on Wednesday evening by defeating Barcelona 1:0 after extra-time, thanks to a fine header from the number one candidate for the Portuguese 2012 Olympic Games diving team, Cristiano Ronaldo. No matter, that wasn't the big news this week; the big news was indeed caused by a Real Madrid player at around 04:30 on Thursday morning during an extremely late (early??) parade through Madrid by the conquering heroes themselves, with the Copa del Rey in tow.

Unfortunately, it wasn't kept long enough in tow as Sergio Ramos, who has proved himself to be a reckless bugger on the field, proved himself to be an equally reckless bugger off the field as well by dropping the Copa del Rey from the roof of the bus onto the ground, and the hapless bus-driver could do nothing only run over the trophy.

The cup was pictured rolling merrily along under the bus; it was later learned that there were 10 pieces of the cup that were left scattered over a respectable distance. If only the bus-driver had learned to stick the boot in half as quickly as some of Jose Moaninho's charges..

To view the incident at hand (sorry, but this blogsite is not equipped with screens, only link thingys - this is not the BBC or a blogsite belonging to some flash bod with access to all the latest gimmicks), kindly click on the link below, which has been culled from You Tube:

Mind you, poor old Sergio need not feel alone. In Brazil in 2009, Corinthians captain William was holding aloft the Paulista state championship trophy when this happened (again, culled without any scent of conscience from You Tube):

Fortunately, no-one was injured as a result of the incident. There has been no word of whether the São Paulo state authorities have tightened their health and safety guidelines in the light of what happened.

Never mind, Sergio Ramos has surely learned something after Wednesday evening (and it wasn't how to tackle): the next time Real Madrid win anything, he should let Iker Casillas hold the trophy. That way, the trophy will be in safe hands....

By the way, apologies to anyone who was expecting a treatise on the current state of football in Turkmenistan (it will not be happening this year); this was all just too good to miss....

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


The 14th edition of the South Pacific Games will be held in and around Nouméa, the capital of New Caledonia from 27/08/11 to 09/09/11, and included in the itinerary will be both men's and women's tournaments.

The full list of competing countries has yet to be announced, but it is expected that the full compliment of OFC member countries (expecting New Zealand) will be competing, alongside Tuvalu and Kiribati. Tuvalu are associate members of the OFC, and competed in the previous edition of the South Pacific Games, which were held in Apia, Samoa, and which was won by New Caledonia. (This was the first time that the Games were considered to be the preliminary stage for the Oceania group for World Cup qualification.) As a result, New Caledonia, runners-up Fiji and third-placed Vanuatu all progressed to the final stages of the Oceania qualifying tournament for the 2010 World Cup.

It will be the same story this time round, with both finalists and the winner of the third-place match progressing to the 2014 World Cup qualifying tournament.

This will be Kiribati's third appearance at the South Pacific Games, having previously competed in the 1979 and 2003 editions and suffering some heavy defeats in the process; they lost 24:0 against Fiji on their début in the competition in 1979. The country's record in the competition is: played 7, lost 7. Kiribati have never played against another international side outside the South Pacific Games.

The list of OFC member countries which are expected to compete in the men's football tournament is as follows:

  • American Samoa
  • Cook Islands
  • Fiji
  • New Caledonia
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Samoa
  • Solomon Islands
  • Tahiti
  • Tonga
  • Vanuatu
The Northern Mariana Islands FA (NMIFA) also intended to participate in the football tournament, but decided to pull out when it was announced that the tournament would serve as the first stage in World Cup 2014 qualification for the Oceania region, and feared that participation would be problematic for their status within the EAFF. The NMIFA are a member of the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF), an offshoot of the AFC.

It appears that the island group's nearest neighbour, Guam, are also considering taking part in the Games' football tournament, but their FA's possible application may well founder for much the same reasons as that of the NMIFA.

The fixture lists have yet to be announced, but the list of venues (to be found on the Games' website's English-language football page, the web address of which is to be found at the end of this blog) is expected to include the following:
  • Stade Numa Daly, Nouméa
  • Terrain de Football Boewa, Mont-Dore
  • Terrain de football Yoshida, Koné
  • Terrain de football PLGC, Nouméa
  • Terrain de football Rivière Salée, Nouméa
  • Terrain de football Hnase, Lifou
The 2015 South Pacific Games will be held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. The first edition was held in Fiji back in 1963, where New Caledonia won the inaugural football tournament by outclassing their hosts by 8 goals to 2.

New Caledonia and Tahiti have been the most successful participants in the history of the South Pacific Games, with 5 gold medal performances apiece. A women's tournament was held for the first time in 2003, with Papua New Guinea finishing top of the final group stage, ahead of Guam, and retained the trophy after defeating Tonga in the 2007 final.


1963 New Caledonia
1966 French Polynesia (later Tahiti)
1969 New Caledonia
1971 New Caledonia
1975 Tahiti
1979 Tahiti
1983 Tahiti
1987 New Caledonia
1991 Fiji
1995 Tahiti
2003 Fiji
2007 New Caledonia

For more information on the South Pacific Games, please visit the following link (in English):

For Francophone readers of this blog, the link address is:

To find out more about the draw, please go to the following link:

To find out more about the fixture-list for the Men's tournament, please go to the following link:

To find out more about the fixture-list for the Women's tournament, please go to the following link: