It’s not ALL bad news. The Irish News (subs needed) gives us a breath of fresh air with this story – Camogie team train at home of Linfield.
THE unlikely event of a 2010 All-Ireland final being held at Windsor Park was suggested yesterday as it emerged that it has already hosted a camogie training session.
For years the home of Linfield football club was seen by many Catholics as an arena of sectarianism, which hosted an infamous derby match between Belfast Celtic and Linfield on St Stephens Day in 1948.
A pitch invasion by Linfield fans brought the match to a halt, with Celtic players being attacked and one having his leg broken. They never again played a competitive match in the Irish League, officially withdrawing in 1949.
Several years ago, Manchester United skipper and Republic of Ireland star Roy Keane also caused controversy when he referred to Linfield as a Protestant club with bigoted supporters.
However, the 45-time Irish League winners, whose home lies on the edge of the loyalist Village area of south Belfast, were hailed yesterday as the miracle saviour of St Marys University camogie team. This Saturday the teacher training college side will face Queens University Belfast in the semi-final of the Purcell Cup.
St Marys coach and former Antrim senior camogie player Nell ONeill said she wanted to give her players the best preparation for the match, as they usually train on gravel pitches in west Belfast.
I said to the girls that I would get a grass pitch for them by Monday night, she said.
Ms ONeill began a desperate search for floodlit grass facilities but every place she tried was booked or unavailable.
Then I got to the bottom of my list. I had tried everywhere, she said.
Linfield were the top team in soccer and I wondered whether they would lend us some help. My husband said that I was nuts.
However, Ms ONeill, who has coached the Falls Road side since the start of the academic year, was undeterred and phoned Linfield manager David Jeffrey.
Mr Jeffrey said yesterday that he had been only too happy to help.
We were not only delighted, we were privileged. All they have to do is make sure that they go and win the final, he said
Ms ONeill said other people had been surprised by their new choice of training ground.
A lot of people have said to me: Windsor Park, are you mad? But Im a sportswoman and I know in my heart and soul that David Jeffrey is a sportsman.
The coach said camogie was a non-sectarian sport because there were no barriers to playing it and none of the girls on the team had any problems in training at Windsor Park.
She also joked that the stadium might even host an All-Ireland final within five years. But with St Marys linking up with Linfield, is there now a assistant coaching role in the pipeline for David Jeffrey?
Oh, I dont know about that, she laughed.