Tomorrow sees the NIFL Charity Shield take place at The Oval, home of Glentoran Football Club, the beneficiaries this year being Action Mental Health. Whilst perhaps not the most highly anticipated game of the year and be many may not even be considered a competitive fixture it does make a change from the more mundane pre-season friendlies we have been used to watching over recent weeks.
This year’s Charity Shield match sees the league and Irish Cup double winners Linfield take on Coleraine, who are participating by virtue of the fact that they were runners up in last year’s Irish Cup. This will be the first time either side will have participated in the Charity Shield since its 2014 revival, in fact, it is Coleraine’s first time participating in the Charity Shield at all.
Coleraine impressed in the league last season finishing 3rd and qualifying for Europe but disappointingly went down rather easily against Linfield in the cup final, 3-0 the final score, so no doubt Oran Kearney and his players will be keen to set the record straight. Having won well 100 trophies and being the most successful club in Northern Ireland, Linfield and David Healy will also be hoping to set themselves off on another successful season.
Both Coleraine and Linfield go into this on the back of relatively strong pre-seasons results wise, Coleraine lost heavily in their Europa League tie against Haugesund but in terms of their other friendly fixtures, they have only lost against their fellow north west side Limavady United. Linfield fared slightly better in Europe defeating La Fiorita from San Marino before valiantly losing their second round tie against Glasgow Celtic. In pre-season Linfield have also defeated their local rivals Glentoran in the ‘Big Two Cup’ game, winning on penalties with a 1 (yes 1!!!!!) -0 scoreline, they also beat Bangor and Newry City convincingly and perhaps most impressively defeated a Sheffield United’s U23 side 5-1.
Both sides have strengthened their squads over the summer with Linfield bringing in former Glentoran winger Jordan Stewart, who returns to Northern Ireland after a spell with Swindon Town, central midfielder Robbie Garrett has returned to the club after suffering relegation with Portadown last season, eventually Linfield were able to confirm the controversial signing of former Crusaders defender Josh Robinson, the IFA ruling in Linfield’s favour after both Linfield and Crusaders announced his signing and Andy Mitchell has also joined Linfield from Crusaders.
Coleraine have added Josh Carson and David Kee to their squads, the latter having spent last season on loan at Linfield. Carson may be a familiar name to some having played for Ipswich Town and York City in England, as well as making a handful of Northern Ireland appearances. Injury has seen Carson make only a limited impact at Windsor Park but he’ll be hoping to prove a point this season for Coleraine. Also joining the Bannsiders is left back Aaron Traynor, a NIFL Championship winner with Warrenpoint and Carrick Rangers, Stephen O’Donnell joins up from Championship side Institute and striker Joe McCready, who made an immediate impact last week with two goals on his ‘debut’ against Portstewart before coming off injured, joins from Premier Intermediate League winners Limavady United.
Hopefully, tomorrow will prove a good spectacle for all in attendance and if not we can always console ourselves with the reminder that it’s just another week until real football returns.