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Sunday, 05 July 2015

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PHOTOS AND VIDEO: Downies clinch first game of series

A missing ball, a man in a wetsuit and freezing weather made for a controversial first game of the 2013 Uppies and Downies in Workington.

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READY TO GO: Billie Saffill, left, who will start the game, and Isla’s mother Kelly Holliday, right, with Billie’s niece Darcie and Kelly’s son Isaac

The Good Friday opener of the traditional no-rules Easter mass football series looked like it was going to be over in a flash.

After the ball was thrown off by Billie Saffill, 20, of Town Head, at The Cloffocks, it was devoured in a scrum that did not move very much.
But then, after about 15 minutes, the Downies made a break for it and it looked like the game would be one of the quickest in its history.

Michael Pickering, of Northside, grabbed the ball and ran - but then disappeared for almost three hours.

He did not make it to the harbourside hailing point until about 9.40pm, when his best friend Alan Abraham hailed the ball.

The pair had spent three hours hiding in bushes at the Port of Workington, waiting for the crowds of people to go home, so they would have a clear run at the hailing point.

Michael wanted Alan, 41, of Burrow Walls, Northside, to hail the ball in memory of his dad, also Alan Abraham, who died recently.

Alan said he felt "brilliant" hailing the ball and Michael said he had to let Alan hail it because he was his marra.

The temperatures dropped to almost freezing during the three-hour wait, but players were prepared for the elements.

Downie Dean Askew, who last hailed the ball in 2008, wore a wetsuit under his clothes, just in case he had to take a dip in the River Derwent as part of the game.

The ball was dedicated to Workington toddler Isla Holliday, who died in November.

Her mum Kellie and around 20 family members and friends attended the game and Kellie said she hoped whoever hailed the ball at the end of the match would donate the ball to the family.

But, she said, that was probably unlikely as they would want to keep the ball themselves as a momento.

The next game will be held on Tuesday.

Join us here for all the action, from 6pm.

See below for our minute-by-minute coverage of the Good Friday game.



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