Agen 338a – Football penetrates every waking hour in our lives, with live televised matches just about any night and a constant stream of media covering the game in minutiae. The policy reaches saturation point on the festive period with lots of live games broadcast within the Christmas fortnight. Amongst this all eventually remains untouched. Christmas Day is a rare sanctuary from football – with no live games in the Agen 338a media and little in the way of fresh news, football fans can spend per day using their families with no temptation to check their phones for scores or transfer news.
Although not in Belfast. When the remainder of Europe is busy opening their presents on Christmas morning, the football fans of Belfast flock to Seaview, within the north of the city, to look at the Steel & Sons Cup Final.
The tradition dates back to the 1890s, when football on Xmas day wasn’t so unusual. Indeed, the Football League played 25 December games before 50s, even though the tradition didn’t die out until the mid-70s in Scotland. But while everything else around them has changed, the County Antrim FA have held firm and the Christmas morning Steel & Sons Cup Final remains, kicking off at 10.45am, often in front of crowd of three,000 spectators – an impressive figure for the Irish domestic game.
The knock-out tournament starts in August and consists of around 80 teams, all dreaming of walking out at Seaview on Christmas morning. The Steel & Sons is open to sides from County Antrim and the surrounding areas, who play their football outside the top division in Northern Ireland. Top division sides may enter their reserve sides, and Glentoran Seconds and Linfield Swifts are 2 of the competitions best clubs. Indeed, Linfied Swifts defeated Cliftonville Olympic within the first ever final back 1895.
Memorable finals in the modern era include the RUC’s (the authorities) beating old B Division rivals Dundela 5-1 within the 1993 final and Ards beating Carrick Rangers with a last second Ricky Billing winner in 2008, highlights that were broadcast on Sky Sports News. Other winners include Chimney Corner, Albert Foundry, Harland & Wolff Welders, Shorts Brothers as well as the Black Diamonds. This past year Bangor beat Larne 2-1 in-front off a sold-out Seaview. The Seasiders joined Larne and Crusaders as the three teams that have won the trophy with both their third and fourth teams. Glentoran Seconds are the most successful side within the competition’s rich history, lifting the famous old cup 13 times. This coming year they come back to the final to handle hot favourites Ards inside the Christmas morning final.
For almost all their existence Ards have been a top-flight club, but relegation from the Irish Premiership in 2006 meant it was now their firsts, instead of their reserves, that play in the Steel & Sons. Ards will probably be hoping that Christmas morning’s final is the first-team’s last game in the competition, as they currently lead the Premiership promotion chase by seven points.
Your competitors isn’t without controversy, however. Within the second round Ards were beating their local amateur rivals Ards Rangers 3-2 when referee Keith Kennedy sprained his ankle, after he slipped brandishing a red-card at Rangers’ defender Jamie Patterson. As the competition doesn’t have referee’s assistants before semi-final stage the overall game was abandoned. Ards won the derby re-match 2-1, with Patterson receiving his second red card of the tie.
Using a bumper-crowd expected, this year’s game will be the first all-ticket final. Amusingly, the host association have erroneously called themselves the Country Antrim and District FA around the tickets. While their friends are out paryting the seasoned campaigners of Ards and also the young hot-shots of Glentoran Seconds are getting ready for the big day. So while you’re ignoring football in favour of board games and terrible films, spare a thought for your losing side at http://genkbola.com.