IT was a basic, happy existence supporting an Irish League team. My team is Glentoran, and I have supported them all my life. The Glens are one of the “Belfast Big Two” (along with rivals Linfield) and are one of the most successful Irish football clubs of all time, and the second most successful Northern Irish football club. This wee blog post takes us back to the year 2000. The buzz of the new millennium have calmed down to a slow pulse, yet my heart was beating come May again, when Glentoran got into the Irish Cup Final yet again. I had already watched them in 2 previous Irish Cup Finals (1996 and 1998), both of which we won 1-0 against Glenavon. This time we were paired against the other big ‘mid-Ulster’ club, Portadown and the final was scheduled for Saturday 6th May 2000. I had been to about 6 or so matches only that season, having spent most of them there Saturdays working in Stock Control for Tesco in Springhill, Bangor. My life outside work was football and pub. I enjoyed politics, music gigs and the odd holiday, but in the year 2000 I didn’t have a proper holiday as such. A weekend in London and a weekend in Dublin (for football and Oasis), so really this day was the pinnacle of that year, looking back…
It all started rather slowly, my lifetimes friends Michael and Gavin McClelland were season ticket holders with Glentoran almost every year without fail, and I was never quite so committed as them, but for big finals I always got my ticket early. For this one, I bought my ticket in a wee garage in Newtownards. I got a ticket for my Dad as well and we were ready for the big day. Michael and I worked on the Norn Iron football fanzine together and our quirky ideas led to getting very simple T-Shirts done for this final. These T-Shirts we got printed in Bangor, simple designs, a white T-shirt with the words “Cheer Up David Jeffrey” written in green and red on it, the colours of Glentoran. The slogan, aimed at balding “hate figure” and Linfield FC manager, David Jeffrey, sick at the sight of Glentoran, and on the eve of us lifting another trophy in their home stadium of Windsor Park. This was to be a tad bittersweet, given that Linfield had already won the league. Anyhow, that all didn’t seem to matter as we flocked into Windsor Park’s North Stand, without booze (yes a sensible day for the 20 year old Jonny Blair). WE had 5 t-shirts printed and as the atmosphere began, another epic Irish Cup Final battle commenced.
Glentoran were slight favourites on the day, but that means nothing in an Irish Cup Final. We had to prove it. The match itself was tight, hard fought and relatively uneventful, yet still sustaining itself as another fine Irish Cup Final day out. In the end it was a solitary goal that settled it, as usual. And on this rare and fine occassion, Ian Gilzean, son of ex-Spurs player Alan Gilzean headed in the winner. An Englishman for the second time in 4 years had won the Irish Cup for my team Glentoran. There was a slight sweat towards the end, but we sang loudly in the North Stand and we hung on for the win, bringing the Irish Cup back to the Oval in our East Belfast home. The songs included the number “Cheer Up David Jeffrey”, which was apt as we bore the T-shirts of that slogan. It was a nice day, a crackin Cup Final and soon we were back in Bangor getting changed for a night on the town to celebrate. It was quite mild, as I recall. A few beers down the Windsor and then onward to the old “Boom Boom Room” nightclub, as we celebrated the wee Glens victory. Football made me happy, they were good times…
Date – Saturday 6th May 2000
Where – Windsor Park, Belfast, Northern Ireland
What – Irish Cup Final: Glentoran 1-0 Portadown (Ian Gilzean)
Attendance – Around 9,000 probably
Who went – Joe Blair, Gavin McClelland, Michael McClelland, Jonny Blair, Philip McClelland, Wesley Irvine, Brian McClelland and loads of other Portadown and Glentoran fans.
No Videos of the match seem to exist online, but here’s a wee video of the two teams more recent match in 2007: