Espial U19 v Collingham U19

7.45pm  29 October 2014

North Midlands Development League
Espial U19 4 Collingham U19 1 (att 47)

Not the sort of fixture that I'd normally consider, but new grounds midweek are few and far between these days, and the under 19 side is the most senior that Chesterfield-based Espial have, having formed two years ago as a academy for young players.

According to the match programme (included free with the £3 admission they charge) Espial was set up "when it became clear there was a demand for high quality football coaching within an academy framework but without the constraints of a football club academy structure".

I've no idea what the "constraints" of a club set up might be, but on the evidence of the 90 minutes I watched Espial have players capable of performing to a good standard. They had this game won by half time, scoring three first half goals without reply. Collingham had their moments, but the biggest difference was finishing.

The second period brought just a goal apiece, Collingham's consolation in the closing moments thanks to a howler by the Espial keeper.

Espial's home venue for under 19 games, and the reason for my visit, is Chesterfield Panthers rugby union ground. It's newish, with a nice clubhouse and a main, floodlit, pitch that's fenced on the near side, with dugouts opposite and some grass banking. The football goals are placed in front of rugby posts for Espial games,

As for the name, my dictionary defines as Espial as "the act of being seen or discovered". Whether any local professional or semi-professional clubs notice Espial's youngsters remains to be seen.

Espial FC in a larger map

Westland Sports v Weymouth reserves

3pm  25 October 2014

Dorset Premier League
Westland Sports 1 Weymouth reserves 1 (att 38)

I was heading to Parley Sports after the morning game at Bristol Rovers training ground, but the city's traffic was crawling so I opted instead for a closer destination, in Yeovil.

I last visited Westland Sports, at Alvington Lane, in May 2012. At the end of that season they were, in effect, evicted from the main pitch by Yeovil Town, who wanted to have it exclusively for first team training.

As a result, Westland were forced to drop out of the Dorset Premier League, but two seasons later they have returned to step seven football and have turned their current pitch into a acceptable venue.

That said, it's crazy that to get from the changing rooms to the pitch players have to cross an immaculate enclosed ground, that's not used for matches.

The surface on Westland's new pitch isn't quite as good as their former one, but it's still decent. The playing area is enclosed, there's dugouts and a few pitch-side advertising hoardings.

Back in May 2012 I watched Westland score 18 times against a hapless Swanage side, but there was far less goalmouth action this time.

In a largely scrappy game Westland went ahead in the first half. It looked as if the one goal would win it, especially when Weymouth were reduced to 10 men following a straight red card with about 15 minutes remaining. But sloppy play by the hosts allowed Weymouth to level with six minutes to go. Overall a draw was probably a fair result.

Westland Sports FC in a larger map

Bristol Rovers U18 v Cheltenham Town U18

10.30am  25 October 2014

Football League Youth Alliance, South West Conference
Bristol Rovers U18 1 Cheltenham Town U18 1 (att 47)

Luckily I'd phoned Bristol Rovers on Friday, otherwise I wouldn't have known that this fixture wasn't being played at their regular Youth Alliance venue for this season, an outside pitch at Hallen FC, but instead at their Golden Hill training ground in Horfield.

I'm not sure if they're now playing all games here or if this was a one-off, but either way it was a new ground for me. When not occupied by Bristol Rovers it's the sports ground of a girls' school, with a small car park, space for several pitches, and a pavilion.

The main pitch was roped off along the one touchline where spectators were permitted, and on small pitches close by some of Rovers' youngest players were involved in seven-a-side matches in front of parents.

Whether any of those children go to to graduate to the under 18s remains to be seen, but based on the game I watched I doubt many of the current under 18 crop, for Rovers or Cheltenham, will step up to their first teams.

Both sides were poor, with too many stray passes and wayward attempts at goal. Cheltenham had the better of the first half, and led 1-0 at half-time. Rovers equalised just three minutes into the second period, and were on top for the second period but couldn't score again.

Killester United v Bluebell United

2.30pm  19 October 2014

Leinster Senior League, Charlie Cahill Cup, First Round
Killester United 0 Bluebell United 1 (att 75)

The Charlie Cahill Cup is, I think, reserved for teams in the top two divisions of the Leinster Senior League. Killester and Bluebell are both in the top tier, the Senior Division, and it was a close encounter at Haddon Park.

Not quite close enough for me though, with a late flight home and the prospect of too much time to kill I was hoping for extra time.

Killester had chances to equalise, but were unable to do so and Bluebell's early goal proved enough to win the tie and move into the second round.

Killester is a suburb in north Dublin, and Haddon Park is so well-enclosed it's tricky to find, hemmed in by houses. The pitch is railed off down both sides, with car parking, changing rooms and a clubhouse behind one goal.

Killester United FC in a larger map

St Mochta's v Broadford Rovers

11am  19 October 2014

Leinster Senior League, Senior Division One
St Mochta's 2 Broadford Rovers 0 (att 55)

First part of a Sunday double in the Leinster Senior League, and these two sides did well to put on a decent display in very windy conditions.

The home side always had the edge, and won the game thanks to a first half penalty and a second goal in second half stoppage time.

We even had a brief, and speedy, pitch invasion ... by a hare.

St Mochta's are one of a seemingly endless number of clubs in the Dublin suburbs that have decent set-ups with an emphasis on providing football for youngsters.

Their senior side now plays in the Leinster Senior League's second tier, and use a fully railed off pitch at their Clonsilla base.

There's a grass bank along one side, plenty of car parking, and club buildings, including a snack bar, behind the goal nearest the entrance. The club's under 18s side were playing on a second pitch, also railed off and parallel to the main one.

St Mochta's FC in a larger map

Mullingar Athletic v Castle Park

7.30pm  18 October 2014

Leinster Senior League, Major Division One
Mullingar Athletic 1 Castle Park 2 (att 30)

I've seen lots of matches in the Leinster Senior League over the years, but this was the first time I've dipped as low as "Major Division One", the league's sixth tier.

The reason was an unusual Saturday evening kick off, although it was an effort to get to Mullingar by kick off from Belfast, and I arrived with less than 10 minutes to spare.

It was a good job I wasn't late, as both teams scored in the opening minutes. Mullingar going ahead before Castle Park levelled. After that bright start the entertainment dipped somewhat, until it picked up again when Castle Park scored what proved to be the winner in the second half, setting up a decent finish.

Both clubs looked better than I'd expect for such a lowly division, and with Castle Park unbeaten in the lead I wouldn't be surprised to see both sides win promotion.

Mullingar Athletic are based a few miles south of the County Westmeath town, in the village of Gainstown. They have good facilities, with a railed of pitch, one of three, floodlights and a two-storey clubhouse.

Queen's University v Dollingstown

3pm  18 October 2014

Northern Ireland Football League, Championship Two
Queen's University 1 Dollingstown 2 (att 40)

Dollingstown are newcomers to the Northern Ireland Football League (previously called the Irish League) and gained three more points as they continued their solid start to life in the competition's third tier.

They played well to establish a two goal lead by half time at Queen's, one a penalty. The home side were better in the second half, and had a lifeline thanks to a penalty of their own. It was saved, but Queen's reacted quickly and scored from the rebound.

It set up an exciting finale to the match. The students probably deserved a point, but Dollingstown held firm, at times with luck and at times thanks to good goalkeeping.

Queen's University have competed in lower division of the NIFL, and its predecessors, over many years. After a spell sharing a PSNI they're now back at their own university sports facilities, which are modern, impressive, and in Dub Lane, just off the Upper Malone Road a few miles from the centre of Belfast.

Football is played on "pitch one", a one-sided venue for spectators with a seated stand and a open standing area. On the opposite side of a clubhouse is a similar, but bigger, venue which looks to be used for rugby and/or Gaelic sports.

Unusually for a Northern Irish League venue, and despite the ground having turnstiles, there was no admission charge for spectators, but then the students don't get many fans.

Limerick v Sligo Rovers

7.45pm  17 October 2014

League of Ireland, Premier Division
Limerick 1 Sligo Rovers 0 (att 600)

First game of a busy football-filled weekend in Ireland, and I took the chance to recomplete the Republic's two-division league with a visit to the impressive Thomond Park rugby stadium in Limerick.

Not my first trip to the city, this was the fourth different home ground I've seen Limerick play on. It was, apparently, their last game here, so when the new League of Ireland season gets underway next spring yet another trip will beckon.

As a rugby ground, Thomond Park Stadium is great. A pair of modern seated stands, both with terraced paddocks in front, face each other on opposite sides of the pitch. Both ends are shallower and uncovered.

As a football venue, with just a few hundred fans inside, it's a strange experience. Sligo had no more than 30 travelling supporters, yet they were housed in a stand of their own, opposite the home supporters.

I had low hopes for an end-of-season fixture with nothing at stake, but it wasn't a bad game. The first half wasn't the best, but it livened up after the break, helped by what proved to be the only goal, in the 52nd minute.

Limerick had chances to score more, and really should have done, but I guess they were happy enough to sign off their home campaign with three points. I was happy enough to have been in the stand during a mid-match torrential downpour with abated before it was time to walk back to my hotel.

Limerick FC in a larger map