Blast from the Past: The Town’s first ever trophy triumph

This Friday (2nd November) marks exactly 100 years to the very day when Newry Town FC played their first ever competitive fixture. To help mark this hugely significant landmark occasion, club historian and long-serving supporter Jim Campbell will delve into the archives and also recall some of the stand-out moments – ranging from the joy of success to the depths of despair, on this incredible one hundred year journey from Newry Town to City to City AFC.

In our first edition of the series, Jim takes a look back at the club’s first season which, incidentally, yielded Newry Town’s first ever trophy in the Newell Cup…

Newry Town FC was formed during the autumn of 1918 and immediately gained entry to the Newry and District football league that had been reformed after the end of World War One.

The other competing teams in the new nine club league were: Bessbrook Athletic, Newry United, Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry (based in Dundalk), Warrenpoint United, Royal Field Artillery (based in Dundalk), Warrenpoint Celtic, Dundalk Town, and Damolly Juniors.

The Town played their first League game on Saturday 2nd November 1918 against Newry United as World War 1 was coming to a close. At the same time a terrible Spanish Flu epidemic was raging through the Town Of Newry causing several tragic deaths.

The Town got away to a very disappointing start and a league table published by the Newry Reporter on Saturday 1st February 1919 shows the club isolated at the bottom having gained only one point from their opening six games.

The town’s management committee took swift action to strengthen the team and results quickly improved.

This improvement led to the club reaching their first ever Newell Cup final against the well-established Damolly Rovers.  Damolly Rovers, whose reserve team Damolly Juniors also played in the league, had entered the Newell Cup through special invitation and were favourites to win the coveted trophy.

The cup final staged at the Marshes ended in a scoreless draw and the replay was staged a week later on Tuesday, 20 May, 1919, at the same venue.

The Newry Reporter dated Thursday, 22 May 1919, carried a detailed match report of the cup final replay as under:

Newell Cup final replay

This important cup tie was replayed at The Marshes before a huge attendance. Referee Anderson had charge of the following teams.

DAMOLLY ROVERS: Jones, McCann, Kinney, Thompson, Truesdale, McKinley, Rafferty, F McCann, J Bradley, Calwell and Bradley.

NEWRY TOWN: Sweeney, Kavanagh, Coleman, Chambers, Carroll, McQuillan, Donellan, Devine, Rice, Dale and McStay

The Town team guessed the spin of the coin and Bradley kicked off for Rovers who at once made tracks for Sweeney but Chambers relieved. Good work by Devine and Rice nearly brought a score but Jones saved at the expense of a fruitless corner.

The Town were pressing McCann and Kinney very hard and for an infringement a penalty was awarded. McQuillan was entrusted with the kick and gave Jones no chance. Damolly from the kick off seemed to waken up and Truesdale was prominent in an attack but Rafferty when well placed was slow, with the result that Kavanagh was allowed to clear and a splendid chance was lost.  Dale was playing a splendid game for The Town and he and Rice at times played havoc with the Rovers defence and only for the fine tackling and kicking powers of Kinney a score must have come.

At the other end Sweeney came out to save at the expense of a corner. Bradley placed the kick nicely but Chambers was handy with his head and cleared. After this the pressure on the Damolly defence was bound to tell and Rice scored no2,  Jones making a brilliant save but Rice getting on the rebound gave him no chance.

Give and take play followed and Dale got settled down and passing to Rice that player scored no3.  The Rovers now attacked in spirited fashion and Sweeney was brought to his knees with a good shot from the foot of Truesdale.  Assisted by a free kick well placed by Thompson, matters looked promising for The Rovers but Chambers, who was a tower of strength to the Town team relieved and at the other end Rice beat all opposition and performed the Hat trick.

Not downhearted, the Factory Boys attacked and Truesdale gave Bradley a lovely pass but nothing resulted, Sweeney clearing.  Matters were inclined to be rough but Referee Anderson had a firm hold of the players.  Dale was cautioned for forcible play and from the kick Kinney placed well to his forwards but Chambers nipping in cleared.  At the other end in a scrimmage, play was stopped and a foul awarded to The Rovers but nothing resulted.  Chambers who had been playing finely, was ordered to the pavilion.  With ten minutes to go, Damolly were playing gamely and forced a corner and Bradley placing well but McCann sent over the bar.  A free to Damolly outside the 18 yard line looked promising, McKinley placed hard into goal but the ball was cleared and danger averted.  The turf was now very slippery and the players were finding it hard to keep their feet.  Encouraged by the cries of “COME ON THE TOWN” Rice receiving beat several opponents and punting to Dale he had a great shot at Jones who cleared well at the foot of the post.   Still pressing, The Town gave Kinney no rest and when all seemed lost, McKinley nipped in to clear.  Matters never slackened and with only a few minutes to go Devine almost scored No 5, the ball striking the upright and going past.  Dale and Donnellan had a good understanding and the latter player got across a lovely centre, McStay catching the pass banged in a hard shot but Jones again cleared.  Play was in midfield when the final whistle sounded and on the run of the play the better team won.

Result: Newry Town 4 – 0 Damolly Rovers

Photo: Newry Town FC players and management with The Newell Cup at the end of the Club’s First Season in Football, 1918-19.