Despite two brilliantly taken goals the main talking point after Monday’s Big Two clash was the red card meted out to Shay McCartan.
The Glentoran midfielder received a second yellow card, unapparent at the time, and consequently a red for allegedly making a gesture towards opposition fans, presumably in the South Stand, after ten-man Glentoran equalized.
Who knew? Obviously Mr Davey the referee did. Yet it remained a mystery to many until reports emerged the following morning.
I assume McCartan was told to leave the Glentoran bench, although whether he did or not, this is not clear either.
It further emerged the offence was spotted by the 4th official who alerted the referee.
I’m unsure what McCartan actually did, there’s been varying reports but ‘showing a middle-finger’ to the crowd seems to be the consensus.
I suppose then by the letter of the law, the second yellow-card was deserved. Except I wonder what the offence was... Incitement? Making an obscene gesture? Antagonizing the crowd? Ungentlemanly conduct (which would cover a myriad of things)?
Anyway I have to assume it fell under at least one of the above. Fair enough...
But weren’t more obvious examples available during the game? And unlike the McCartan incident, caught on camera and in full sight of the referee?
Christy Manzinga dancing in front of opposition fans when Linfield took the lead, Jay Donnelly gesturing to opposition fans at the Kop End after he had equalized, and most pertinent of all considering McCartan’s punishment, Matthew Clarke’s own unfriendly gestures to opposition fans in celebrating Linfield’s goal.
But what are we trying to do? Remove the passion, extract emotion and chill the Big Two derby?
Feelings always run high when these two meet, with Monday’s intensity cranked up more than usual, the clubs neck and neck in the title race. There needed to be some leeway.
Of course there’s always flash-points, but ask the fans of either club if they were offended by any of the events described. It’s expected of the occasion. For ninety minutes they can’t stand the sight of each other. Let’s get on with it. A quiet word of warning perhaps, but there’s no need for a rash of yellow cards for this type of incident unless it extends beyond reason.
Should they proceed, Glentoran won’t win their appeal. They shouldn’t. ‘Receiving sustained abuse’ is not a defence. It’s part and parcel. Taunting is expected from a football crowd, even if religious or racist behaviour no longer is...
One thing the referee certainly did get right was the red card given to Conor McMenamin, whose challenge on Jimmy Callacher was reckless rather than vicious. It had been a frustrating afternoon for Glentoran’s #24 who failed to get the better of Trai Hume throughout.
Hume even lost him when steaming in to claim the opening goal, a carbon copy of the young Linfield defender’s effort at the Oval earlier in the season, with the Glentoran winger left in his wake on that occasion too.
The Glens were second-best for long periods, but will take heart from their resilience displayed. They’ll clearly see it as a point gained, and Linfield probably two lost.
If Chris Shields dictated the tempo and pace of the game then Jay Donnelly, once again, popped up to provide its most telling moment. Fitting indeed, as for me both these players have been the most outstanding in Irish League football this season.
The National Stadium stalemate provided a chink of light for Cliftonville of course, whose own derby with Crusaders was postponed. The Reds can now go back to the summit should they prevail in their game in hand.
It’s long shaped-up to be an intense title-battle this season. Let’s hope passions and emotions are allowed to flourish and not be hi-jacked by over-officialdom or inconsistency.