Well, it’s 2009… but before I reflect on the opportunities of a new year, let’s get up to speed on 2008.
It finished in a remarkably peaceable style for me… Christmas and Boxing Day were almost exactly like they always are. This year though, both my paternal Grandparents were suffering with a flu so they couldn’t make it for their annual Christmas Evening visit. Boxing day saw Da & I go to the annual festive fixture at Shamrock Park, for Portadown v Larne. This was the first time I’d been in Shamrock park to see the new stand, and indeed to sit in the new stand.
It’s a pretty impressive structure for the IL. 1845 seats, a control room (including PA), and although not completely finished, will have facilities underneath it. Shamrock park is undergoing some pretty impressive improvements at the moment (has been for a few years to be honest). The Chalet End stand was completed a few years ago, for visiting spectators. Now, the Unreserved Side Stand is patron ready (if not changing room ready – expected completion by start of next season).
Also, new TV standard floodlights are being installed as we speak, and the club aim to have relaid (and in doing so levelling) the pitch. This move will in fact bring the pitch closer to the two Stands by a few more yards and leave Shamrock Park ready for International Standard Football – I kid you not. Now, we’re not going to see the NI Starting XI playing at Shamrock, but there’s no reason why the U-21 team can’t play at Shamrock Park.
Following this, there’ll probably be a period of consolidation, but plans extend to another grandstand on the Reserved Side of the ground and a training pitch at the Clounagh end of the ground. Indeed, whilst this is great, I have reservations and disappointments that the club don’t intend on a small terrace at the Clounagh End. My ideal would be a ten step stand, with safe terracing, but with removable seating. This would do two things:
- Give Shamrock Park back a necessary part of footballing folklore – the terrace (and neatly enough, given that the supporters group is called the ‘Red Terrace’ could have all sorts of tie-ins and aid the club – spectator relationship.
- Make Shamrock Park the Premier footballing ground in Northern Ireland, with an approx capacity of 5000 seats – giving it opportunity to hold finals, corporate events, etc.
Part of me feels that this fourth stand should actually be a supporter driven initiative… but as with all of these things, talking the talk is a lot easier than walking the walk. 50 dedicated souls could probably fund such a structure over 10 years without much hardship but finding 50 dedicated souls is the issue.
Still, it’s great to have dreams.
Anyways, I also attended a couple of weddings over the holidays. First up was Stuart & Joanne Dougherty’s wedding. I guess I grew up with Jo, and it was lovely to see her special day. It was a really nice wedding… probably one of the nicest I’ve been to… and I’m not sure if that was because of the people involved, or just because of the banter at the dinner table, but it felt like a good one. After the ceremony, Ruthy & I decided to get some grub in (NI weddings seem to take an eternity to get to the food bit) and managed to be late to the reception for the photo’s!! D’oh!! Ah well, a few personal snaps later (no, not that kind of personal) and the job was recovered. The reception was held at Corrick House, outside Clogher. It was the first time I’d been to a reception there (at least I don’t remember being at one there before) and I have to say the place was super for the job, and the feeding was terrific.
The second wedding was that of George & Nikki Condell. Again, I grew up with George, indeed, we shared a house in Belfast for a couple of years at Uni, and I also knew Nikki. Again, a nice wedding, but for me the highlight this time was the after dinner banter. It was great to sit around with the boys & gals and chat about the old days, running about together. That sounds like we’re all getting old, but the reality is that it’ll never be the same again… some of us are married (or getting) and some of us don’t live in the same continent or towns any more. I guess things change… This time the reception was at the Manor House, outside Enniskillen, and whilst the food was good, the quantity was not half the Corrick experience.
Finally, I also spent a bit of time playing games over the holidays. Two friends, Brian & Tevor, both had their Christmas boxes as Wii consoles. So when I visited, we had a good go at working it all out and having a few games over a few cups of tea. All good fun. The Wii is a fantastic social toy… a defo if you’ve got company around for an evening. Apart from this, I also bought myself a Christmas Present in the form of a PlayStation 3. So I’ve been playing lots of online games of that – particularly FIFA’09.
And so to the New Year… I’ve decided I’ll catch up on what’s happened on 2009 by the end of January… this post has been long enough. Namasta.