Barry McElduff plans to appeal his straight red card after a tempestuous politicians’ Greens v Blues charity game ended a draw this morning in Stormont gardens. Greens captain, Gerry Adams, was also yellow carded late on for a late tackle on Peter Weir despite denying venomously that he wasn’t even in the vicinity at the time of the alleged attack.
Windy conditions and a mudbath pitch greeted the small crowd in attendance as respective captains Adams and a fit-again Peter Robinson exchanged gifts before the kick-off, refereed by ex-politician Basil McCrea. Robinson set the tone for the game by breaking in half Adams’ present of a Clontibret shillelagh.
It was Robinson who opened the scoring for the Blues with a towering header from a Mike Nesbitt corner. The two celebrated in front of the partisan crowd by playing mock flutes whilst Jim Allister marched behind banging on an imaginary drum. Arlene Foster, who didn’t start the game, spent the entire first half trying to warm up along the touchline.
A stern half-time talk by joint-managers Martin McGuinness and Alex Maskey appeared to work wonders as the Greens stormed out of the blocks in the second half with a previously ineffectual Colum Eastwood rattling the crossbar and an offside goal ruled out, initially finished by Michelle O’Neill who was causing big problems for the Blues up front.
O’Neill was not to be denied after curling a splendid free kick inside the near post after Alex Attwood was fouled by Gregory Campbell. Campbell was booked for using inappropriate language to ref McCrea for the free. O’Neill was also yellow carded for taking her top off in celebration which proved to be a popular decision by both sets of supporters.
Despite Foster, sufficiently warmed up at this point, bolstering the Blues attack in the last ten minutes with her bulldozing approach-play, the game remained devoid of goals but not action as McElduff received his marching orders for a scything tackle on Sammy Wilson whose shorts were completely torn off in the incident, exposing his backside again to the crowd.
The final whistle was greeted by a free-for-all with Michelle Gildernew and Jo-Ann Dobson pulling the hair off each other whilst Jonathan Bell, who played as a lone striker, was booked for firing what looked like small wooden sticks at his team-mates.
Peter Robinson received the player of the match award for his long punts up the field to Dodds.