Rush Athletic (v Oliver Bond Celtic, St Catherine’s Park)

Competition: Leinster Senior League Sunday Senior Division 1B (Sixth Tier)

Date: 26 March 2023

Result: Rush Athletic 0 – 0 Oliver Bond Celtic

Tickets: free, walk up

Attendance: Roughly 100

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆

The Game: Both Rush Athletic and Oliver Bond Celtic had plenty of reason to be up for this one – Rush are sitting in second and still holding outside hopes of winning a title, but also have an eye on those behind them – they must finish at least third to secure guaranteed promotion. Oliver Bond are one of those sides pushing to catch them.

Unfortunately these games can go either way, and this one wasn’t good. A first half filled with offsides, and few decent chances, and a second half only slightly better, though Rush has a couple of threatening headers, and Oliver Bond scuffed a one-on-one with the Rush goalkeeper. Oliver Bond also had a forward sent off late on for kicking out at a defender after the ball was shepharded out. A daft red card if you ever saw one.

The bottom line, though, is this wasn’t overly entertaining, though it probably suits Rush more than Oliver Bond as the current gap stays in place. Three games to go to secure that promotion.

The ground:  Rush Athletic is just a pitch with a metal barrier around it, but my word the views are exceptional (see pics). Always a pleasant experience.

Extras: Berry and Bean coffee van. That’s about it.

Assorted asides: I think I’m right in saying if Rush secure promotion to the fifth tier (third tier in Leinster Senior League terms), they’ll be at the highest level they’ve ever been in the Irish system. That means a huge few games over the next month or so.

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 7. Home wins: 4 Draws: 3 Away wins: 0

Goals: 20. Home goals: 13. Away goals: 7. Goals per game: 2.86


Groundhopping: Ireland (v Latvia, Aviva Stadium)

Competition: International Friendly

Date: 22 March 2023

Result: Ireland 3 – 2 Latvia

Tickets: Included in season ticket, mine was around €170 in teh cheapest category.

Attendance: 41,211

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆

The Game: This is in practise a warm up game for the visit of France on Monday (which you’ll also find summed up on this site after it’s happened), and saw Ireland go with a heap of changes, many of which were a chance for the young lads which I thought worked quite well. Evan Ferguson was the big one, with the young Brighton forward instantly putting in his claim to hold the shirt for the next who knows how many years. A couple of others, like newly internationally cleared Mikey Johnston and rarely-played Will Smallbone, looked strong, too.

Ireland started superbly, with O’Dowda and Ferguson scoring close-range goals inside 20 minutes. From there they continued to dominate, but somehow contrived to be level at the break, with Latvia scoring a rocket from 25 yards and then a deflected equaliser from pretty much their only two first half chances. A not unfamiliar story.

The quality of play is definitely improving, though, and it was Johnston’s introduction that led to the winner, with one of his earliest contributions being a decent run down the left, ending in hitting the post to leave a tap in for fellow sub Ogbene.

It should have been far more comfortable, but it was a good watch.

Groundhopping: Loughshinny United (v Derry Rovers, Loughshinny Park)

Competition: Leinster Senior League Sunday Division 3A (12th Tier)

Date: 5 March 2023

Result: Loughshinny United 1 – 1 Derry Rovers

Tickets: free (walk up)

Attendance: 35 (approx)

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆

The Game: First vs second in village-level football as Loughshinny United played a side from all the way over in Edenderry, Co Offaly, Derry Rovers. This is the lowest tier of Sunday Leinster Senior League football, and Loughshinny look all set to launch out of it for next season.

One thing I love about this level of football is what you can learn from the small number of regulars stood around the sidelines. While I kicked a ball around with the kids at the pitch edge, for example, I learnt that the Loughshinny keeper, who it’s fair to say was shaky looking, normally plays full back and was standing in for their missing usual goalkeepers.

Derry Rovers took the lead when he fumbled a cross to a closing striker about 15 minutes in, which hardly seems his fault under the circumstances. Loughshinny were angry – not at him, but generally – with their level of play, with a full-on shouting match instigated at half time. They eventually got level through a header in the second half, before the game’s drama unfolded.

A penalty for Loughshinny was saved, and one of the home team’s strikers reacted by punching a defender, causing a brawl and a quite bitter end to the game, including the Derry Rovers player who had been hit being prevented from following the dismissed player into the dressing room at full time by the rest of their bench. Not brilliant quality, as youi’d probably expect, but great entertainment.

The ground:  Loughshinny Park is basically a walk up pitch with a metal barrier around it and a tiny changing area, plus another kids pitch nearby. It’s exactly what you’d expect for the level – no frills, rough and ready, but welcoming with it. There’s a notable slope to the pitch and the whole thing has a great view of the Irish Sea if you stand on the high end. A proper rural feeling spot.

Extras: I mean Loughshinny Harbour is lovely and it’s a five minute walk away. The town isn’t big enough for a shop, so that’s about all you’re getting…

Assorted asides: It’s exposed and so windy, buy coffee on the way over!

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 5. Home wins: 3 Draws: 2 Away wins: 0

Goals: 15. Home goals: 10. Away goals: 5. Goals per game: 3


Groundhopping: Bray Wanderers (v Kerry FC, Carlisle Grounds)

Competition: League of Ireland First Division (tier 2)

Date: 24 February 2023

Result: Bray Wanderers 3 – 1 Kerry FC

Tickets: €15 (adult), free (accompanied under 14)

Attendance: 1500 (approx)

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆

The Game: Kerry FC were, at the time of this game, a brand new club out of Tralee playing their second ever League of Ireland game, having lost their first 2-0 to Cobh down in Tralee. They’re surprisingly well followed for a club that formed out of nowhere, and brought perhaps 100-150 fans an eight hour round trip away ot Bray (okay, some might live up here, but still). I understand their home games are selling out.

The new side is what attracted me to this game (they were one of very few League of Ireland teams I’d never seen live, for obvious reason), but Kerry FC are still, unsurprisingly, very much a work in progress, with a few shining moments (including a goal from Leo Gaxha at 2-0 down, which was really nicely worked), but not really a coherent team just yet.

The game was largely balanced overall, and in my view swung on Kerry’s inability to defend corners. Despite having three players who were notably tall (6ft 3 plus), they didn’t seem to be able to get on the end of crosses and Bray took full advantage. Wanderers led 1-0 at half time, and scored again early in the second half, only for Kerry to respond with the next attack (the two lads with me managed to miss both goals by going to buy a can of Coke, as you do).

The Kerry goal was their first ever in a competitive game, which was pretty cool. Bray comfortable winners, though, and at this early stage look a good bed to challenge to go up to the Premier.

Groundhopping: Skerries Town (v Tolka Rovers, Park Lane)

Competition: Leinster Senior League Division Senior Sunday 1 (fourth tier)

Date: 3 February 2023

Result: Skerries Town 2 – 0 Tolka Rovers

Tickets: €5 (adult, including tea or coffee)

Attendance: 80 (rough head count)

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆

The Game: A game of two halfs: a wildly entertaining first half, and a fairly dull second one, a little pressure aside. Skerries, who were mid table going into this game, took the lead with pretty much their first attack, with a sweeping move ending in a shot being deflected into the back of Tolka’s net.

Skerries were on top generally early on, without producing a huge amount, but the half came alive in a nasty way after a couple of yellow cards gave way to a niggly game and a horrible challenge right in front of me on the sideline. An absolute legbreaker of a tackle from a Tolka midfielder on Skerries’ wide man saw the Skerries man jump straight up and punch his tackler in the head. In fairness, he was lucky to be in one piece, however overblown the reaction was. There was a bit of a brawl and both were, quite rightly, sent off. Fiesty.

From then on, there was something a bit stand off ish about the game, almost like both sides didn’t want any more agro. After half time, Tolka dominated, but didn’t produce very much despite it, with both sides looking tired. Skerries soaked it up, usually without much of an outlet, until with the final attack of the game they managed to string a forward move together and snatched a 2-0 win with a sliding finish from a sub. A bit fortunate, all things considered, but then again the league leaders were surprisingly tepid up front.

Groundhopping: Cadbury Athletic (v Sutton United)

Competition: Midland Football league Division 2

Date: 14 January 2023

Result: Cadbury Athletic 2 – 2 Sutton United (Birmingham)

Tickets: £5 (adult)

Attendance: 100 (rough head count)

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆☆

The Game: Cadbury Athletic was a fun little add on to my Birmingham trip, which was mainly to see Villa, but what a spot it is. I was lucky enough to catch a top of the table game, which saw Cadbury (second) play league leaders Sutton United (the Birmingham side, not the much higher placed South London one) in what is a Midlands division in the seventh tier of English non-league football.

I learnt before the game that Cadbury actually would have been promoted last year had they been allowed to build floodlights, a requirement for the next tier up, having won the previous season’s title. If you look at the ground, I suppose its obvious why generic floodlights somewhere like this might not appeal, so that could be an expensive add on.

Sutton United twice led in this game, despite Cadbury having marginally the better of it overall in my view. The first was a penalty, before a classic non-league moment saw a one-on-one for Cadbury’s striker saved by the goalkeeper, but bounce back off the striker’s face and go in. Sutton led again through a really impressive long-distance volley, and Cadbury equalised at the death, in a game that they probably needed to win to stay in the title race. Another classic non-league moment fell in the middle, when the referee gave and then withdrew a red card (presumably a mistaken identity on a second yellow, I’m not sure).

The game was really scrappy to start with but as it went on I was more and more impressed with the quality, well worth watching.

Groundhopping: Aston Villa (v Leeds, Villa Park)

Competition: Premier League

Date: 13 January 2023

Result: Aston Villa 2 – 1 Leeds United

Tickets: €39.50 (adult), in the second row of the Holte End Upper.

Attendance: 42,008

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆☆

Disclaimer – I am a lifelong Aston Villa fan, so this may not be the most neutral take. My first trip since 2017 (covid, babies, etc). had to be documented, so here it is.

The Game: There’s been a growing rivalry between Villa and Leeds in recent years, and this definitley had a little bit of bite (not least Jesse Marsch, the volatile-feeling Leeds manager), but I’m impressed with Villa’s newfound composure. Bailey put Villa in front in about the 3rd minute, curling a beautiful shot just inside the post from the edge of the area after a break from Kamara, who is nothing short of exceptional.

From then, Leeds dominated for large parts of the game, but didn’t create a huge amount as Villa frustrated them with lots of slick passing around the back and created a couple of decent chances of their own. There were two forced changes for Villa in the first half, with Watkins and Digne going off injured, leaving the ineffective Ings and newly signed wide man Alex Moreno to play most of the game.

Moreno looked seriously nervous at first, but soon found himself playing in heaps of space as Leeds defended narrow; he looks really effective. Villa led 2-0 when a VAR check eventually ruled Emi Buendia onside after he scored from a rebound from another Bailey chance (he had many, most seemed to run down blind alleyways), before Bamford scored off what looked suspiciously like a foul from Gnonto in the build up to set up a tense finish.

A great game to be over for, semi-riotous under the Friday night lights, and I got to sit a few seats from my old season ticket location in K5, near the front of hte Holte End Upper. It’s been way, way too long.

Indie shirts: Stingz, the One-Man Multinational

Ernest Stobbs is just one man, but he makes a serious shirt. From Tuvalu’s evocative, traditional national shirt sported at the almost-international CONIFA 2018 tournament in London, to the current international rugby shirts of Serbia, Uganda and Kazakhstan, Stobbs and his newly-constructed Stingz Sportswear brand have gone global since he started out making shirts for his local club team in Devon.

“I have links to manufacturing, so I could do it quite easily. I came up with a design for my team, got it professionally rendered, and as soon as it came through I fell in love with it,” Stobbs says of his first design. “It was for my team Farway United. I thought, I wonder how far I can push it.”

“I’m connected with a global fashion brand called Giordano, who I do brand ambassador and consulting work for, and they decided the best way to market a product was probably sports sponsorship. So we sat down and came up with a two pronged attack, approaching teams with a combination of a sponsorship package and a shirt manufacturer.”

“We got involved with CONIFA and the 2018 World Football Cup, after I heard Paul Watson [former CONIFA executive member] talking on TalkSport. I was so disillusioned with FIFA and the world governing bodies and all the money, and they stood for so much more, for community and for football for people in countries that aren’t recognised.”

“If you look at the shirts,” Stobbs says, “you’ll see our unique selling point is really in the detail. They all really reference the culture and the landmarks of where they come from, and I put a lot of time into making sure we get that right. It sounds cheesy, but it’s for the people. The shirts represent history, heritage and people.”