Its taken me a while to actually post about the first club team I ever supported. This is because I was kind of waiting till I had some useful photos of times following Glentoran, but then I realised that I won’t have these photos any time soon. My parents have them all!! So I’ll begin with a description, and add more and more photos of Glentoran as and when I have them. I also have countless old videos of Glentoran. I grew up in the 1980s as you’ll have gathered from reading this blog, I also grew up in the troubled land mass of Northern Ireland. I also grew up in the era where there was no internet or mobile phones, and we enjoyed the finer things in life, such as playing football every day and watching our local team! My Dad (and my Granda and more enthusiastically my Great Granda John Mawhinney) all supported Glentoran FC. It was a trait in those days for kids who were football fans to support a big team like Man United, Liverpool or Everton. But you don’t get to watch them, other than on TV! Well not in a 1980s Northern Ireland you didn’t. I used to watch the Northern Ireland matches on BBC, and I completed the Mexico 86 World Cup album (the last tournament Northern Ireland qualified for), but at home in Marlo, we had a book called ‘The history of Glentoran.’ I used to read it and look at the big crowds and the big teams that Glentoran played. I became a fan and my Dad told me he would take me to a match. I don’t know why but I didn’t go to a Glentoran match until I was 10 years old. Probably money and the fact that Dad was always working. He kept his promise though and took me to my first Glentoran and Northern Ireland matches in the same year (that was 1990!). It was also handy that Gavin and Michael McClelland who lived two doors down from me, also supported Glentoran. Their Dad Brian, like my Dad was also from East Belfast and they used to go every week and had season tickets as well as going to many away matches to watch the wee Glens. I started travelling up to the stadium with Brian, Michael, Gavin and his mate Wesley Irvine. My Dad couldn’t always make it, so Brian always offered when they had a spare seat in the car. I’m very grateful and thankful for that.
Glentoran Football Club have been around since 1882, they are based in East Belfast where they currently play at The Oval Grounds (there have been talks of relocation for ages). They are nicknamed ‘The Glens’ or ‘The Cock’n’Hens’. The club mascot is a cockerel. The traditional colours are green red and black. I’m not sure how many other clubs in the world share these unique three coulours. I own three Glentoran shirts. One from 1990, one from 1994 and one from 2003. Since my Dad supported Glentoran and LIVED in Glentoran Street (which was off the Ravenhill Road, actually not far from Cluan Place/Short Strand at the bottom of the Woodstock Road) well I had to support Glentoran didn’t I? Although I do recall some people at school supported Bangor FC and Linfield FC, but I was Glentoran FC! In those days you couldn’t buy football shirts the way you can now. Local Sports shops Armstrongs and Lifestyle would only sell Rangers, Celtic, Man United, Liverpool and Everton. They were the big five teams in those days. Though I do remember once seeing the white Northern Ireland away shirt. My parents first bought me a Rangers shirt then swopped it for a Man United shirt. I never ever wore that Man United shirt, even though I worshipped Norman Whiteside in those days. Until 1988 I don’t think you could buy a Glentoran FC shirt. But my granny knitted me a hat, I had the book with knowledge and I had green and red armbands. It was the start of my fascination with the wee Glens!
Glentoran FC have a proud history and are classed as one of Northern Ireland’s top two clubs. They have fierce rivals in South Belfast side Linfield FC. They are one of the “Belfast Big Two.” This rivalry has produced high tension and rioting often in the past, which is strange for Northern Ireland, given that both clubs support Northern Ireland’s union with the UK and both are traditionally Protestant clubs, Glentoran slightly less so, due to the fact that Linfield and Rangers often go hand in hand, and Linfield play in red white and blue and are seen as the traditional Loyalist club in Northern Ireland. Politics aside, rivalry is fierce and these matches are the highest attended in Northern Ireland club football. In 1914 Glentoran won the first ever European Trophy, The Vienna Cup, as well as winning many Irish Cups and Irish Leagues right through the decades until the 1960s. During this time Fred Roberts scored a staggering 94 goals in one season (statisticians will prove/verify this fact). Glentoran also featured many international players for Ireland/Northern Ireland. My Dad went to a lot of big games in the 1960s and 1970s, when attendance was normally over 10,000. We used to get big gates! We drew with Benfica at the Oval, we also only lost 1-0 to Juventus (with Warren Feeney senior missing a penalty). Our European record at The Oval was always good, we even drew with Spartak Moscow and Steaua Bucharest during communism!
Locally we also have East Belfast rivals in Dundela FC and Harland & Wolff Welders FC. Plus there’s the North Down teams Bangor FC and Ards FC. Since my first match in 1990, I have been to over 100 Glentoran matches, hardly any of these were tickets only, normally we’d just pay in on the gate. The range of grounds I’ve been to isn;t that good however and I really should make an effort to go to more and more Glentoran FC matches every time I’m back home. I never made it to St. Julian’s Road, home of Omagh Town FC, a club which despite hosting Man United in a friendly, managed to fold as a club. A sad tale. Its my dream to watch Glentoran at every stadium in Northern Ireland someday. I also want to go to an away European match, we qualify regularly into the UEFA Cup preliminary rounds. I’ve been to quite a few home European matches including v. Mittyland, Sparta Prague and HJK Helsinki. The whole money element in football really pisses me off though. Glentoran (and any minor-ish European team really) should be able to play the likes of AC Milan and Real Madrid in the European Cups every season. The draw SHOULD NOT be seeded, in a case of the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We play our European matches in July for fucks sake!! They used to be in September. I know in my heart that this will never change back to the way it was but it is sad. In 1993 we played Marseille in the first round of the European Cup/Champions League. WE were drawn out of a hat together. Now in 2008 we have to play TWO qualifying rounds just to earn the right of MAYBE getting a team as big as Marseille.
I also got to see Glentoran in big finals, winning things! The first League win I witnessed was in 1992, when inspired by Gary McCartney, Terry Moore, Gary Hillis and Stephen Doglas we won the league title! The year before I had saw us at Windsor Park lifting the Roadferry Cup in a 2-0 win over Ards. I continued to go to matches right through the 1990s, and even attended a match last year in 2007 (a 1-0 win over Armagh City FC). One day I’ll return and do a season where I don’t miss a match home or away. It’s a dream of mine, trust me I’ll do it sometime! I have collected a lot of Glentoran memorabilia over the years, including:
– Fridge magnets
– Match programmes
– Newspaper cuttings
– Match tickets
My favourite players over the years supporting Glentoran would have to be Gary McCartney, Johnny Jameson, Glenn Little (who now plays in the Premiership for Portsmouth) and Andy Smith (who was brilliant in 2002-2003 season and later flopped). If you’re in Belfast and it’s football you want, get yourselves down to the Oval Grounds, Belfast and cheer on the wee Glens!
Some honours we have won:
League titles: 22
1893/94, 1896/97, 1904/05, 1911/12, 1912/13, 1920/21, 1924/25, 1930/31, 1950/51, 1952/53, 1963/64, 1966/67, 1967/68, 1969/70, 1971/72, 1976/77, 1980/81, 1987/88, 1991/92, 1998/99, 2002/03, 2004/05
Irish Cups: 20
1913/14, 1916/17, 1920/21, 1931/32, 1932/33, 1934/35, 1950/51, 1965/66, 1972/73, 1982/83, 1984/85, 1985/86, 1986/87, 1987/88, 1989/90, 1995/96, 1997/98, 1999/00, 2000/01, 2003/04
League Cups: 6
1988/89, 1990/91, 2000/01, 2002/03, 2004/05, 2006/07
Vienna Cup: 1
Gold Cup: 15
1916/17, 1941/42, 1950/51, 1959/60, 1961/62, 1965/66, 1976/77, 1977/78, 1982/83, 1986/87, 1991/92, 1994/95, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2000/01
County Antrim Shield: 25
1900/01, 1901/02, 1910/11, 1915/16, 1917/18, 1924/25, 1930/31, 1939/40, 1940/41, 1943/44, 1949/50, 1950/51, 1951/52, 1956/57, 1967/68, 1970/71, 1977/78, 1984/85, 1986/87, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2000/01, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2007/08
Ulster Cup: 9
1950/51, 1952/53, 1966/67, 1976/77, 1981/82, 1982/83, 1983/84, 1988/89, 1989/90
City Cup: 18
1896/97, 1898/99, 1910/11, 1911/12, 1913/14, 1914/15, 1915/16, 1916/17, 1918/19, 1931/32, 1950/51, 1952/53, 1956/57, 1964/65, 1966/67, 1969/70, 1972/73, 1974/75
Floodlit Cup: 2
Budweiser Cups: 1
Bateman Cups: 1
All-Ireland Cups: 1