Glentoran 2 v 3 Ards
Irish League Championship at the Oval, Belfast
Saturday, 10 January, 1987
By Adrian Monaghan
Under the guidance of boss Jimmy Todd, Ards in the mid to late 1980’s were renowned for
their attractive style of football. They never went out defensively minded, this game
epitomised their style of play at that time.
The Red and Blues started the game brightly and should have taken the lead with decent
opportunities for both midfielder Ricky Simpson and wide man Philip Maxwell. Ards were
well on top, winning the crucial battle in the middle of the park against a strong home
midfield which had Irish internationals Jim Cleary and Billy Caskey pulling their strings.
Glentoran had all the flair whilst Raymond Hill and Ricky Simpson provided Ards with an
industrious rather than a flamboyant midfield.
Although Ards controlled the opening exchanges it was Glentoran who took the lead when
ace marksman Gary McCartney scored after twenty minutes of play. Cleary picked the ball
up on the left of the Ards area and swung in a tantalising cross. Trevor McDowell in the
Ards goals came out to punch clear but under pressure from Gary Blackledge he could only
fist it as far as the edge of the box, where McCartney picked it up and lobbed a super effort
over the keeper and into the top corner.
Any thoughts that Ards were about to crumble after this setback were soon banished as
they went straight back on the attack again, and Tommy Kincaid should have had them level
seven minutes later, but his side-footed effort cleared a post by a few inches. The visitors
were playing a very patient game built on possession and a high work rate, and wingers
Kincaid and Maxwell were starting to get in behind the Glens’ defence and sending over
some menacing balls.
The momentum continued, but Kincaid’s effort direct from a corner kick, and captain
Damien Byrne’s header grazed the post and crossbar respectively. With all this pressure
Ards had to score, and this they did on thirty-five minutes when Hill headed home a left-
wing corner from five yards.
A minute later and Ards had it all to do again as Glentoran went back in front. A lack of
concentration in the eighteen yard box allowed Blackledge all the time in the world to
swivel and hammer an unstoppable shot past McDowell.
No panic though, as the visitors continued their neat passing game. Two minutes before the
interval Simpson went on a surging run. He found Jim Campbell with a great threaded pass,
Campbell in turn laid off a neat ball into the path of Simpson, who had continued his run,
and the east Belfast man slotted home with ease to bring parity to the contest.
Glentoran tried to play their way back into the game in the new half but Caskey, Cleary and
the normally tricky Pat McCoy were somewhat anonymous. For all their natural flair they
could not match the energy shown by Hill, Simpson, Kincaid and Maxwell in the decisive
midfield contest. Frustration was creeping into the Glentoran play as Caskey was booked
for a rash challenge on Byrne. Ards continued to dominate proceedings, but their efforts to
take the lead were thwarted by a combination of poor finishing and inspired goal minding
by Dean Smyth.
Encouraged by a good travelling support that never stopped singing all afternoon, Ards
continued to press for the winner. The Glentoran Gazette at that time lauded the Ards
support for getting behind their team from the first whistle.
Efforts from Marty McCoy and Maxwell were squandered and the Ards faithful must have
thought that it was not going to be their day, until the inspired Simpson fired off a shot
which took a deflection and there was Raymond Hill, totally unmarked, to push the ball
home to put his team in front for the first time with seven minutes still on the clock.
With a famous victory in sight Ards at this juncture might have been forgiven for hoofing the
ball up the park, but boss Todd was having none of it. They continued with their on the deck
passing game and in fact could have increased their lead, but Jim Campbell’s first-time effort
went wide of Smyth’s goal.
With the game now entering stoppage time the visitors did have a bit of a sweat when
keeper ‘Towser’ McDowell went down in a heap after a dangerously high challenge from an
evidently frustrated Gary Blackledge. McDowell was in agony and had to be stretchered off.
Jim Campbell went into goals and had to put his own shirt on inside-out as McDowell was in
too much pain to relinquish his jersey.
“It was a bad challenge alright. I actually had the ball in my hands when he came in with his
feet up and caught me on the top of the thigh, I went down in agony.”
“I don’t think Blackledge went in to intentionally do me harm, it was more from frustration
as we played well that day and beat the Glens easily enough. Thankfully I wasn’t too badly
Byrne was furious that Blackledge’s assault on the keeper went unpunished and gave the
lanky striker a piece of his mind. Thankfully McDowell’s injury was not as bad as first feared
and as he made his way to the changing rooms prostrate on the stretcher he knew that the
roar from the city end of the unreserved stand was the signal for a famous Ards victory.
“I remember the win well. We had a good side back then with players like Damien Byrne
who was a class act. We gave Glentoran a lesson and their fans let them know that at the
finish. If memory serves me right Billy Johnston, their manager, was fired the next day.”
Glentoran- D.Smyth, A.Stewart, D.Keery, T.Connell, T.Moore, J.Cleary, R.Craig, B.Caskey,
G.McCartney, G.Blackledge, P.McCoy. Sub J.Jameson for Craig.
Ards- T.McDowell, N.McGreevy, T.Pearson, D.Byrne, R.Dornan, R.Simpson, T.Kincaid, R.Hill,
J.Campbell, M.McCoy, P.Maxwell. Subs- G.Best for McGreevy and P.Campbell for McDowell.
Referee- Ronnie Ross (Carrickfergus)
Attendance- (2,000 Estimate)