Why are you seeing this website?
Updated: Oct 12, 2021
I'm now in my seventies and over the last few years I have thought back to matches and occasions in my earlier years. Sometimes I could remember results but not the scores, the occasion but not the result or else the score but not the date. Out of interest I would look online expecting to get all the answers only to be disappointed and frustrated. After all if you wanted to know past facts about Manchester United or Liverpool you can find them with ease. Why can't you do it for Linfield or Glentoran (or any other team in Northern Ireland?) I decided to do something about it. I wanted to build an archive of ALL the results for ALL the senior teams in ALL competitions since football began here in 1881.
Where to start?
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" said Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. Well I wasn't planning to go that far but I knew that this project was going to take some time. Exactly how much I didn't know but I was now retired and so I had the time. In addition the COVID-19 lockdown had just started and so I really didn't have too many places to go! In the end it's probably taken the best part of 18 months to get to publication. I identified three main parts to the project. The first was to find all the data, the second was to compile that data into meaningful formats and the third was to put that data out onto the Internet.
Why I thought that I could do it?
I spent the last forty years of my career working in Information Technology. The last several years of that time saw me specialise in data. A lot of that work was of a forensic nature since the data was incomplete, in more than one place, in different formats or whatever. So collecting data and getting it into a meaningful format would not phase me. In addition I had also created websites at various times. Creating websites is much easier nowadays because of some brilliant tools that are available. So that didn't phase me either. I was up for the challenge.
Where was the data?
Quite surprisingly a considerable amount of the data was already online or in books. However it wasn't in one place, nor easily found, and therefore I had to track it down. Online was the natural starting point and first of all I tried to identify all the competitions. Of course I remembered the old ones like the Ulster Cup, the City Cup and the various cross-border ones like the Blaxnit but how many were there? Fifteen perhaps? Surely no more than that. Try 39! Yes there really are 39 competitions in which Irish League teams have completed. I couldn't believe it. Wikipedia has very good articles on most of those competitions and therefore that gave me a starting point for when they commenced, when they may have been suspended and when they ended (if appropriate.)
Some people had made very reasonable efforts of putting data together but for various reasons the efforts have come to a premature end. What was there helped me a lot in putting together a framework for the format of the various competitions. A big issue was the time in the season when a certain competition would occur. Older readers will remember that the Ulster and City Cups usually took place at the start of the season before the Irish League. But when, for example, did the County Antrim Shield start? Well my research shows that it could have been any time within the season!
I purchased a book entitled 'Northern Ireland Football League Tables and Results' by Alex Graham. This shows all the results for the Irish League and Irish Cup from 1881 until 2014. It subsequently turned out that a tiny handful of the results and tables were incorrect. However the book was a massive help although I had to enter all the content manually into my database. Whilst I had the results and the final League tables I didn't have the dates of the matches nor the venues, with the exception of cup finals. To get these I needed other sources.
The actual post-match reports would, of course, be the best source of information. For these I needed access to the newspapers. Fortunately the 'British Newspaper Archive' and 'Irish Newspaper Archives' online resources came to my aid. Both of these are subscription-based with the Irish one being substantially more expensive than the British one. Luckily I only needed the Irish one for a short time. If the 'Ireland's Saturday Night' had have been available I would have been in heaven but it wasn't there. However the local newspapers like the Belfast Telegraph, Newsletter and Northern Whig carried most of what I needed. A myriad of other, more obscure newspapers contributed as well.
Once I had gone through all of the above resources I was left, much to my amazement, with only a few dozen outstanding issues. I had dates and no results, results and no dates etc. My next port of call was the microfilm collection my local library in Bangor. What I had found with the newspaper archives online was that occasional issues were not available. The library filled in some of the holes. Subsequent visits to the libraries in Bangor together with Belfast, Lurgan and even Larne left me with only seven outstanding issues. I was surprised but delighted. Eventually I tracked down all the outstanding issues.
I didn't leave this part of the project to the end. Whilst compiling the results I investigated the available website-building tools and decided on a product called Wix. With the results I had put together at the time I started the build of the website to give me experience of the tool and also to ensure that it would do would I needed it to. Wix is free to use up to the point where you need to use a suitable domain name and have your website picked up on Google searches. If you are thinking of building a website I would certainly recommend it.
It's been an experience, that's for sure. However I just felt that it was something that was missing for Irish League fans. I enjoyed doing it all and I hope that you will enjoy using it.