Thousands of football fans across Northern Ireland find themselves in a severe quandary today as their two favourite sides prepare to meet in a Champions League qualifying match.
“There’s a real cross-over in the fan-base of both clubs,” we were told by Scottish football pundit Jocky Fullerton. “It’s true you get the odd Linfield fan who supports Rangers, and maybe the occasional Celtic supporter who prefers Cliftonville, but generally it’s hands across the North Channel for these two clubs.”
“Even that famous Irish song, the Sash, that’s about a guy from Belfast going over to Glasgow to watch Celtic, I think.”
Many fans we spoke to still have no idea who they’ll support tonight.
“I grew up steeped in the history of Celtic and Linfield,” revealed Lisburn Road man Andy Row. “My da was always telling me stories about the Lisbon Lions and all that, so it’ll be a real struggle to take sides. Lot’s of the lads I spoke to on the Twelfth are feeling the same way.”
Falls Road native Conway Mills is similarly torn. “I’ve supported the Blues since I was a kid,” he told us, “I’ll never forget the first time I walked into Windsor Park, it was like a religious experience for me, except with Buckfast instead of Communion Wine.”
“To be honest it’s just as well Celtic didn’t take up their allocation of tickets, there’d be no point as half the Celtic fans in Belfast are season ticket holders at Windsor anyway.”
The first ever meeting of the two clubs is at five o’clock tonight, with an early kick-off arranged to allow Linfield fans from Dublin to catch the last train home.