The history of Linfield - Part 3

Published Thursday, 17 September 2009
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There have been some dark chapters in Linfield FC's history. But in recent years, the club has mirrored the changes in Northern Ireland society in a positive way.

Not so long ago the notion of Linfield FC having any association, however tenuous, with the GAA would have been held to ridicule.

But the Blues have now developed links with the organisation.

In 2005 Linfield Manager David Jeffrey answered an SOS call from Camogie players of St Mary's university college.

"They were preparing for a big game and they weren't able to get a grass area to train," Jeffrey told UTV.

"They said is there any chance of using Windsor? And I couldn't see any reason why not. You know it's about sport and helping people out and it was more than a pleasure. It certainly wasn't any publicity stunt. It sort of got out inadvertently."

"When I said what I had to say, he just burst out laughing and within literally 20 seconds he said: "you've got it", the former manager of St Mary's Camogie, Nel O'Neill recalled.

"We didn't win but I think we did win something. It opened up a whole new opening in sport."

Lifelong Linfield fan Alan Simpson, who coached the club's goalkeepers from 2005 to 2009, is now working with Down's Gaelic footballers.

"I was born and reared in the Sandy Row area of Belfast. At a very young age I was brought to Windsor Park and that's where I first got my Linfield roots", Alan Simpson told UTV.

"I never really associated myself with getting involved in GAA. From a sporting point of view, I think it's absolutely brilliant that GAA have brought me on board to actually work with their goalkeepers."

"I have been treated with nothing but respect and just the way they look after me is unbelievable."

Linfield legend Glenn Ferguson strongly believes local football can benefit from their new found association with gaelic games.

"Both sports need supporters through the gate and we would certainly welcome GAA supporters to come to the football games. Likewise I am sure they would like us to go to their games. The more spectators the more atmosphere there is and a better day all round for everyone," he told UTV.

On Wednesday, the Ulster Council of the GAA and the Irish Football Association joined forces to support the Unite Against Hate Campaign.

"I have been surprised at how important that symbolism has been", said GAA analyst Joe Brolly.

"Obviously sport has always tried to do that. Look at recent developments: Gregory Campbell coming to open our place, or Edwin Poots' excellent attitude towards the GAA in particular. This is part of that normalisation, and everyone is much more happy and relaxed with society as it stands now."

© UTV News
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