Beeb bring out the big hitters for a very big day indeed
IT was a big day, and there was no way BBC Northern Ireland were going to let the viewing public forget it.
The Tennent's Irish Cup final, Coleraine against Linfield, town versus ‘country', David taking on Goliath. It doesn't get any bigger, apparently.
“Welcome to the grand old occasion of the local game, live from Windsor Park, or the new national stadium if you prefer,” said host Mark Sidebottom, who, as you would expect for a grand old occasion, was joined in a ridiculously small studio by “three legends of the local game”.
The legends in question were former Coleraine boss Marty Quinn, ex-Linfield manager David Jeffrey and what I thought was Joe Wilkinson (from 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, but turned out to be Gary Hamilton, who because of the sardine tin proportions of the studio looked like he actually was in dictionary corner.
“Biggest day out in the calendar,” claimed Hamilton, with ‘DJ' itching to agree.
“It's the biggest game of the season,” said the Ballymena boss.
Quinn was more focused on talking about how you win the biggest game of the season.
“If you don't take your chances you don't win cups,” he pointed out.
“It's very much about taking your chances when you're dominattttting,” concurred big Davy.
With that insight out of the way, we were treated to an interview with Liam Beckett, who recalled scoring with a slide tackle on the biggest day of the year when Coleraine saw off the Blues in 1977.
Any contribution from the Ballymoney man is a welcome one, right down to the revelation he was still wiping brown sauce off his moooth when he got on the team bus to go to the final 40 years ago.
“It's the biggest day of the season. To find the old onion bag is really special.”
Then it was down to pitchside, where roving reporter Cian Murtagh was waiting with his lilting brogue (brown ones, with a blue suit, which seemed to be the uniform for the day) alongside Jody Tolan, the last man to score a winning goal in a cup final for Coleraine.
“It'll be 2-1 to Coleraine. I have to go for the local team,” said the north Belfast man. Geography isn't his strength.
After a couple of interviews with the managers for the biggest game of the season, David Healy and Oran Kearney, and a revelation from Quinn that the Coleraine boss has “been neutering a lot of these young players” – that's one way to ensure their focus doesn't stray – it was time for kick-off as commentator Thomas Kane and analyst Chris Morgan took over.
“There's 12,500 people confirmed in the stadium,” said Kane.
I doubt that many of them have been confirmed, and certainly not at Windsor, even if it is known as ‘the Shrine'.
And that's more or less where the entertainment was parked for a couple of hours as champions Linfield toyed with the Bannsiders, and there was nothing even a frustrated-looking James Nesbitt in the crowd could do about it.
His boys had got Cold Feet on the biggest day of the year, and Andy Waterworth took full advantage, scoring all three as the Blues ran out 3-0 victors.
Big Davy was impressed with the fluiditttty of the Linfield attack, and happy to see Waterworth take the limelightttttt.
“Absolutely delighttttted on a personal level for Andrew Waterworth,” said the big man.
And the delight didn't end there.
“Absolutely delighttttted for David Healy.
“I've known him for many years and known him as The King. I'm delighted for The King.”
It's only right that The King should take centre-stage on the biggest day of the year after all.