David Healy’s festive goal as Linfield make Boxing Day trip to Glentoran

Linfield manager David Healy is hoping to hit the New Year with a festive derby boost - even if he admits the ‘Big Two’ clash on Boxing Day offers little cause for Christmas cheer.

By Patrick Van Dort
Thursday, 26th December 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 27th December 2019, 1:13 am
Linfield boss David Healy. Pic by Pacemaker.
Linfield boss David Healy. Pic by Pacemaker.

The Blues head to the Oval today aiming to grab the bragging rights on top of cementing a spot at the head of the Danske Bank Premiership standings.

It may prove the most anticipated fixture for many fans of both Linfield and Glentoran but Healy views the date with a degree of caution given the high stakes.

“It’s not a game you enjoy, Boxing Day,” said the Linfield boss. “I always remember reading quotes from David Jeffrey going back years talking about Boxing Day.

Glentoran head coach Mick McDermott. Pic by INPHO.

“On Christmas Day your whole concern is about will you enjoy it at 5 o’clock on Boxing Day, are you going to be on the right end of it?

“I’ve got a lovely wife and children so we can enjoy Christmas Day, of course.

“But I’ll go from the Linfield Swifts game (Steel and Sons Cup final) on Christmas morning then eat with the family but after that it’s on to Boxing Day in your mind.

“There’s always a fear of losing any game and you certainly don’t want to be losing a ‘Big Two’ game on Boxing Day.

“I don’t think form matters going into any game with Glentoran.

“A few years ago people were saying we were facing the worst Glentoran team in the club’s history and they turned us over.

“I think there will be a bigger crowd this year and a red-hot atmosphere but our players should be used to it having been on the end of cup finals and European games.

“We should go in and embrace it then, come 5 o’clock on Boxing Day, we can enjoy it.

“Christmas Day will have been and gone by then but, off a win, you can sit down and relax and enjoy the festive period a little bit.

“It’s okay having games on paper but when catching up it’s an extra game and someone like Jamie Mulgrew has played over 33 or something this season.

“I’ve been on record praising the staff, supporters and, most importantly, the players as it’s hard.

“My players probably looked a bit jaded today and probably Crusaders towards the end (following Saturday’s 1-1 draw).

“Then there’s not much preparation going into Boxing Day.

“It’s not just our players, across the league there are various competitions.

“At this stage we’ve played 19 league games, plus the eight in Europe and the two against Dundalk so 10 more than this time last year.”

Glentoran head coach Mick McDermott is relishing the key ‘Big Two’ test.

“Thursday is my first home ‘Big Two’ match - and they don’t come much bigger than Boxing Day,” said McDermott on the official Glentoran website. “Despite the disparity in our league positions in recent years, I know the intensity of the rivalry and the anticipation of matches between ourselves and the Blues has never diminished.

“I also know our club won the most recent home Boxing Day game and a few of the players who did so well that day are still with us, so they know what works in fixtures like this.

“Plus, the players we’ve added this season and lads like Paul O’Neill who have come through the youth system here, have the spirit, resolve, fitness and most importantly, playing ability to enter today’s game with enthusiasm and confidence.

“We know this is like a cup final for both sets of supporters and the players get that.

“But we prepare the same way for every game, irrespective of the size or reputation of the opposition.

“It’s vital that we focus on ourselves and our own game, rather than be distracted by the occasion.

“For all that, I’ve been really looking forward to Boxing Day.

“We’ve had a run of tough fixtures against strong opposition recently, but so have Linfield.

“Obviously, they’re a good side and last season’s champions - but we’re a good side and we know that days like Thursday mean so much to our supporters and everyone around the Oval.

“So, get behind us as you have done week in week out all season and we’ll give everything for you.

“Here’s to a great day in a packed Oval, and here’s hoping we go home happy, with the performance and result we all want.”