It feels like only yesterday that the 2017/18 season finished. Maybe that’s with the World Cup taking over my life for the last few weeks coinciding with the end of the school year meaning I briefly lost track of what day of the week it actually was. But with the new season getting underway, I made my now annual promise on Twitter…
Once again I’m going to keep up my tradition of posting a picture and short summary of every game I go to this season on social media. Longer reviews can be found on my intermittently updated blog https://t.co/nYjLtoO5UM #ASeasonInPictures201819
— Andrew Gillan (@andrewgillan) June 30, 2018
So I intend to keep to that promise (and a bit more frequently than last season, so I’m not frantically writing updates from February in the middle of June like this year. Things are going to be a bit different this time as I’ve left Huelva and the south of Spain behind and am swapping it for the bright lights of Madrid at the end of the summer. There’s going to be a lot more variety in my football watching this season, but it all starts off somewhere very familiar.
Game 1: Coleraine 0-1 Glenavon (The Showgrounds, Coleraine – 30.6.2018)
So it all begins with a game kicking off in the middle of the World Cup. Last time I remember this happening was way back in 2002 when Coleraine were playing Inter-Toto Cup (remember that?) matches against Andorran side Sant Julia while the final stages of the Japan/South Korea World Cup played out.
Getting ready for European commitments was the aim of the game here, Coleraine and Glenavon preparing to face Serbian side Spartak Subotica and Norway’s Molde respectively. Despite the first leg being less than a fortnight away, Coleraine weren’t quite at full strength, missing a few players and even manager Oran Kearney due to holidays. It was also an extremely warm day, unfamiliar conditions for Northern Ireland, which led to a lack of intensity from both sides. Glenavon scored the only goal of the game with practically the last kick, but very little else of note happened.
Not the most auspicious start to the season, but things will no doubt get better!
Game 2: Coleraine 2-0 Derry City (The Showgrounds, Coleraine – 7.7.2018)
One week later, it was back to The Showgrounds for another European warm-up match. A more recognisable Coleraine side took to the field against Derry City, who also had a midweek European tie coming up against Dinamo Minsk of Belarus. But as the League of Ireland runs through the summer, Derry had played a league game on Friday evening, and so only brought along a squad of recent signings and fringe players who needed minutes. In fact, they only brought ten players, which meant Coleraine’s Matthew Kirk had to guest in a green shirt for the afternoon.
The most notable of the players they did bring was Dean Shiels, former NI international, manager Kenny Shiels’ son and former Coleraine’s mascot from his Dad’s days as the Bannsiders’ manager in the 1990’s. Kenny also happens to be Oran Kearney’s father-in-law, but as he was still away on holiday there was to be no family reunion on the touchline.
A bit more happened in this game, as Coleraine made a fast start with two early goals. First up, Eoin Bradley channelled his Cup Final-clinching goal with a neat chip on 5 minutes, then two minutes later, Aaron Burns found the net with an excellent strike. At that stage it looked like it would just be a matter of how many Coleraine wanted to score, but things calmed down and there were actually no more goals in the game. All-in-all, a decent pre-season workout ahead of the big test on Thursday.