Limerick v St Patrick's Athletic

6.30pm  24 June 2017

League of Ireland, Premier Division
Limerick 2 St Patrick's Athletic 2 (att 1,470)

I finished my 2016/17 football season, after a two week hiatus that's likely to be longer than my close season, with a yet another visit to Limerick ... Markets Field being the fifth different home ground I've seen them play on.

This time, more than any of the previous visits, they feel like a club on the up. The first two Limerick home games I saw, at Rathbane in 1997 and at Pike Rovers in 2004, each attracted less than 200 spectators to very basic venues.

Markets Field is a return to the ground they used before Rathbane, and having been spruced up into an impressive League of Ireland venue it was good to see a large and noisy crowd inside.

I last saw Limerick away to Dublin-based Cabinteely in October (last season in League of Ireland terms) when they were rounding off a successful division one campaign that saw them return to top flight football.

They've made a good to start back in the top tier, but were lucky to get a point from this game despite having a 2-0 lead early in the second half. The hosts scored the only goal of an even first half, but their second, a penalty not long after the break, was very much against the run of play.

St Patrick's went into the game at the foot of the table, but it didn't show and they continued to dominate possession even after going two behind. The two quick goals they got to earn a draw were much deserved, and although that was the end of the scoring it was the visitors who looked more likely to get a winner.

Markets Field is dominated by a large seated stand, with a smaller one behind the goal at the away end. The rest of the ground is open standing, with grass banks providing good vantage points behind the paved areas.










Birchtree v Twynholm

6pm  11 June 2017

Stewartry Sunday Amateur League, Clive Harris Memorial Cup, Quarter Final
Birchtree 10 Twynholm 1 (att 18)

I don't usually watch Sunday league football, but the Stewartry League meets my criteria by having a summer season, and south west Scotland is a nice place to spend a Sunday.

This cup tie's 6pm kick off was a curiosity, with two other matches scheduled for the afternoon, but it fitted in well on the back of a weekend in Cumbria, and gave us time to visit some bookshops in Wigtown before heading to Dalbeattie.

The Birchtree is a Dalbeattie hotel, and its football team plays at Colliston Park. It's a pleasant park with a war memorial, bandstand, boating lake and children's playground, as well as a football pitch and adjacent changing rooms. It's next door to Dalbeattie Star's impressive Islecroft Stadium.

The evening was a stroll in the park for the home side, who scored five times in each half for a very easy win. Twynholm's solitary goal was a good one, but came in the second half when the tie was already well out of reach.









Rothes Amateurs v Macduff

2pm  4 June 2017

Moray and District Welfare League
Rothes Amateurs 9 Macduff 0 (att 29)

Macduff are new to Moray Welfare football this year, and after a tough start to the summer season things were never likely to get any easier when they visited one of the league's strongest sides.

Rothes scored five in the first half and four in the second, but the visitors never gave up and it was a shame they their efforts weren't rewarded with a goal. That said they rarely looked like scoring, and the home side could have got well into double figures.

Macduff's plight hasn't been helped by the league shrinking to a single division this year, meaning they have to face sides, like Rothes, who would have been a division higher. I think the format includes a mid-season split into two tiers, so hopefully they have some more even contests as the season goes on.

Rothes Amateurs play in a pleasant park next door to Highland League Rothes FC. There's a single pitch with a pavilion in the corner and a some grass banking along the touchline nearest the entrance.

There's even a covered shelter at the top of the bank. I doubt it was built with fans of welfare football uppermost in mind, but on a wet Sunday afternoon in Rothes it was put to good use by several members of the crowd.









Hill Rovers v Ness

1pm  3 June 2017

Highland Amateur Cup, Second Round
Hill Rovers 6 Ness 6 aet, 3-2 on penalties (att 65)

The Highland Amateur Cup has long been among my favourite competitions, bringing together teams from a wide area of the north of Scotland including Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides.

Ness are based on the isle of Lewis and set off at 5.30am to make it to Inverness, via a lengthy ferry journey, for a 1pm kick off timed to allow them time to catch the return crossing back to Stornoway.

They brought quite a few fans with them and they, like me, probably expected a routine win against opponents from the lowest of the Inverness and District League's three divisions.

An early Ness goal looked to have put them on the road to a place in the last 16, but Hill fought back and equalised. Twice more Ness went in front, but each time the hosts fought back to level.

The tie looked to have swung in Hill Rovers' favour when they edged 4-3 in front late on, but despite heroic defending against an onslaught from the islanders they were undone in the 88th minute, and at 4-4 the tie went into extra time.

In each period of extra time Ness scored first, and each time Hill Rovers equalised. The home side's sixth, to take the game to a penalty shoot out, was a converted penalty that was quite literally the last kick of the 120 minutes.

The deciding shoot out had its own drama, with both sides having spot kicks saved before Hill Rovers triumphed 3-2. All in all a remarkable cup tie, which reinforced my love for this great competition.

The venue was one of several pitches at Bught Park in Inverness. My plan had been to follow this match with one of the three other Highland Amateur Cup ties being played at Bught Park, all scheduled for 3pm.

Extra time and penalties scuppered that, but as I went for a walk to see how the games were going I spotted that one of them was about to kick off, 30 minutes late. I stayed and watched as IRN Security enjoyed a comfortable 4-0 win against fellow Inverness League side Polonia, whose players are Polish, scoring twice in each half in front of 15 spectators.

None of the drama of the earlier game, and played on the same pitch as an Inverness League game I watched in 2015, so not a new ground for me and hence so separate blog post.









Thornton Hibs v Brechin Victoria

2.30pm  27 May 2017

SJFA East Region, North Division
Thornton Hibs 6 Brechin Victoria 0 (att 60)

As expected an easy win for Thornton Hibs, who were rounding off a successful season which has seen them win promotion back to the East Region Premier Division, a year after they were relegated.

They took a while to get going. The visitors provided stubborn resistance in the first half and it was only 1-0 by the break. In the second half Thornton stepped up a gear or two, while Brechin seemed to finish their season 45 minutes early, at least defensively.

Although they were helped by lacklustre defending, Thornton played some good football and scored some quality goals.

Thornton is a Fife village sandwiched between Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes. Hibs are based  at Memorial Park, a pleasant tree-lined public park which requires some effort by the club to take a gate.

There's a small covered area, including a snack bar, in front of the changing rooms, and a larger section of cover next to it. The pitch itself is railed off, but otherwise open to the rest of the park.

It's worth mentioning that not only are Thornton Hibs one of the few Scottish Junior clubs to produce regular matchday programmes, but it's an excellent read. The issue for this game was printed for the original fixture postponed in March, but included a free up-to-date insert that was packed so full of information they could have sold it as a programme in its own right.











Blairdardie United v Blantyre at Benburb FC

11am  27 May 2017

Glasgow and District Saturday Morning League, League Cup Final at Benburb FC
Blairdardie United 6 Blantyre 0 (att 65)

This seemed rather low key for a cup final. Just before kick off there was only a handful of people inside the ground, but the numbers swelled as the game got underway, and my rough head count was a bigger crowd than the last time I watched this final.

Three years ago, when I saw Invac win the trophy, it was staged at Colville Park. This time the venue was Govan-based junior club Benburb's new home, New Tinto Park, built immediately adjacent to 'old' Tinto Park, that's now covered by housing.

The old ground was one of the most atmospheric in non League football, dominated by a huge covered terrace. The new ground suffers from inevitable comparisons to its predecessor, but does at least have plenty of seats, something the old ground lacked, even if they're open to the elements.

Luckily for the cup final crowd the threatened rain didn't arrive, and we watched as Blairdardie comfortably added to the league cup to the premier division title they'd already won, against division one Blantyre.

The underdogs started the game well, coming close to scoring and hitting the crossbar, but their failure to take any of their chances cost them when Blairdardie went ahead before half time.

The second half was one-way traffic. Blairdardie scored twice in two minutes right at the start of the half, and from then on it was just a matter of how many more they'd get. They finished with six, but could easily have scored three or four more.










Wesham v Treales

6.50pm  24 May 2017

Catforth and District Summer League, Division Two
Wesham 5 Treales 5 (att 12)

Ticking off each year's new venues in the Catforth Summer League has become something of a ritual since I first watched football in this competition over 20 years ago.

Back in the 1990s it was an unofficial league, which the county FA presumably turned a blind eye to, and featured village teams based broadly between Preston and Lancaster. These days it's officially sanctioned, and has become a way for local sides to keep fit over the summer months.

A downside of the change has been the proliferation of unenticing school and park pitches in Preston, many of them 3G, but at least Wesham Recreation Ground is more like the sort of summer league ground that I enjoyed visiting in the past.

It's in the shadow of AFC Fylde's new stadium, seemingly bound for the Football League. AFC Fylde were once Kirkham and Wesham FC, and the Wesham half of the club played their pre-merger football here.

It's just a pitch in a public park, but a pleasant place to be on a warm and sunny evening, especially when you get to see a 5-5 draw.

Wesham were awful for much of the first half, and trailed Treales 1-4 at half time. They scored the opening goal of the second period, but had let in a fifth before they began a remarkable late comeback. Having got to 5-5 they even had chances to win it.