Very good piece,db. Thanks for posting.
Things change slowly but they do change.
A few factual inaccuracies. Linfield are based in south WEST Belfast , not EAST Belfast . So they were cheek by jowl geographically with Belfast Celtic whose ground was on the Donegall Road ( incidentally the first greyhound track in Ireland , north or south ). Distillery were 'in between '.
Linfield did not have a policy of exclusive employment of protestants , while their supporters may have aspired to that sentiment . A family connection friend ( who taught me the rudiments of soccer betimes ) famously jumped ship and joined 'the Blues' from Belfast Celtic . Daily communicant was Tommy , and lived on the Falls Road. My wife's boss before we were married also wore the Linfield shirt , again a respected member of the catholic community , he wouldn't have got his job had he not been ( PP was chairman of the school of which he was principal ) .
Belfast Celtic had no qualms about employment of anyone , irrespective of religion , football ability was the only criterion , but their directors were notoriously tight fisted despite the huge income they must have derived from such a successful and well supported club . Plus their 'greyhound income ' , Celtic Park hosted 42,000 paying patrons at a greyhound meeting in the thirties , second biggest attendance anywhere in the world , EVER, for a greyhound meeting . Hundreds of bookies on the 'outside' at those meetings .
Soccer in Northern Ireland died largely that day in Windsor Park , attendances at lots of matches up to then were 30,000 plus regularly , from the seventies onwards there would be fewer and fewer regular supporters at local matches , the sectarian support nature involved being but one of the major factors ,other attractions being the main culprit.
Took my kids to see Northern Ireland play Holland at Windsor in the seventies , just the once , terrace behaviour was diabolical , mainly directed at the (Linfield) stewards by the Glens supporters I was told when I queried what was going on . Northern Ireland people ( a lot of them anyway ) have to have someone to hate , religion is often a convenient method .
Things have changed a bit , one of the 'senior' clubs with a thriving 'junior' section ( subsidised largely by the tax payer unlike GAA ) had to postpone a match a while back because 7 of the 11 first picks were otherwise engaged playing Gaelic football ( wife' nieces son one of those involved) .
It will take a long time though before 'normality' sets in .