Saturday 16th January 2016 ko 13.45
Scottish Junior FA West Region Superleague First Division
LARGS THISTLE 0
MAYBOLE JUNIORS 1 (Riley 7)
I’m fortunate that I have friends dotted all over the place, but the downside is the gargantuan driving stints to visit them all! Regular readers will recognise Iain’s name from us visiting a steady succession of Scots football grounds such as Irvine Meadow and Falkirk. It’s fair to say that whilst the 6 hour drives between our two towns mean we don’t spend as much time as we’d like together, but we’re fortunate that it’s the kind of friendship that we can pick up where we left off.
The only difficulty on this visit was the weather! We’d planned on doing possibly the most visceral derby in the Juniors, Auchinleck vs Cumnock, but with overnight temperatures dropping to minus 6 that game was soon postponed.
We still had options, Kilmarnock for example play on 3G but I do like the Scottish Juniors. No they are not age-based, see the competition as being parallel to the SFA, and their are some truly magnificent grounds, who could forget Benburb’s former ground Tinto Park? And that is what eventually led us to Largs and Barrfields Stadium.
The North Ayrshire town is best known for tourism, including the the Scottish National Football team who use the SFA’s Centre Of Excellence here. The facility under the guidance of Andy Roxburgh was responsible for setting the likes of Jose Mourinho and David Moyes on the early road to management. Barrfields is altogether a humbler edifice although the reason Iain, his son Ross and I were there is quite a story.
The pitch here is state-of-the-art 3G and was donated in 2012 by local couple Colin and Chris Weir at a cost of £750,000 after they won £131 million on the Euromillions lottery. It really is a fantastic surface but for the lovers of the traditional Junior ground, the wonderful barrel roofed stand and bench seating is still in situ. It really is a wonderful case of old and new co-existing.
We were fortunate to have seen a completed game too. The early start meant that when the snow came and settled, the game was in its last 10 minutes, a 3pm kickoff would surely have been abandoned. The conditions were appalling and the spectacle suffered for it. Bottom of the table beat top, and I’m sure Largs will write the whole afternoon off to the freezing winds and snow. Alloa on 3G was abandoned, and even Premier Division Kilmarnock took until 5.15 to complete their 3pm kick off due to delays sweeping snow from the lines.
But for me the afternoon was about far more than just the game itself. There were two notably friendly clubs playing at a wonderful ground, and time spent with a good pal. And that dear reader is close to being the elixir of life itself.