A night of celebration


Burnley's squad, I was excitedly told, was staying at a hotel in Coleraine while touring Northern Ireland - before the internet it was difficult finding out about the Clarets in the north.

Armed with this information I scoured the fixtures for August 1, 1996, eager to see if this tour would be continuing in my home town, but all I found was "Glentoran friendly tonight".

A quick call to the Oval confirmed Burnley would be the opposition - an away game at home.

The two clubs that share such strong links would meet again the following year and on July 28 this year met for the first time in more than a decade.

It was a night of celebration with Jimmy McIlroy at the centre. He had appeared on local television in the build up to the match, he was a topic of conversation for both sets of fans outside the Oval and was later guest of honour ahead of kick off.


The mere mention that McIlroy was in the ground brought tears to the eyes of some supporters with fond memories of the legend.

Jimmy Mac received a standing ovation as he stepped onto the pitch followed by Burnley's talent spotter in Ireland, Billy Bingham, another former Glen man.

On the pitch, two more recent Northern Ireland internationals were given starting roles, with the lively Steve Jones fittingly the best player on the night.

Starring on the right wing, Jones tormented each of the three different full backs he faced.

The Glens, focusing more on an important European tie, made seven substitutions within the first 30 minutes of a scrappy game.

The home side had the first chance but Jensen made a good save with his legs from Michael Halliday.

There followed chances for Jay Rodriguez, who shot wide and then had a goal-bound effort saved at point blank range after good work on the wing by Jones.

Trialist Aleksandrs Solovjovs headed over from another good Jones cross, before himself crossing for Rodriguez who opened the scoring shortly after half an hour.

Alan Mahon had a good run but shot over.

After the break, the action was limited, despite four more goals.


Solovjovs had a shot saved at the near post shortly before Akinbiyi scored by tapping in a cross from substitute Berisha.

Paterson, also brought on, scored a scrappy third, while Alexander scored the fourth from the penalty spot after Jones was scythed down.

There was even time for a fifth goal by one-time striker Owen Coyle.

It was a comfortable work out and there were impressive performances by Jordan, Gudjonsson and Mahon while Solovjovs also showed some promise.

Fans from both clubs, founded in the same year and who have shared so many great players, hope the wait for another encounter is short.

Burnley team: Jensen, Duff, Caldwell, Carlisle, Jordan, Gudjonsson (Coyle), Mahon (Alexander), Jones, Solovjovs (Berisha), Akinbiyi (Paterson), Rodriguez (Blake)