History & Honours

The incredible 100 year journey of Newry Town/City/City AFC
By Jim Campbell
The Early Years

During the autumn of 1918, Newry Town FC was formed and gained entry to a Newry and District Football League that had just been reformed. The new League was comprised of the following clubs: Bessbrook Athletic, Newry United, Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry (Dundalk), Warrenpoint Celtic, Dundalk Town, Damolly Juniors, Warrenpoint United, Royal Field Artilery( Dundalk), and Newry Town.

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.
Newry Town got away to a very poor start in the newly reformed League and a League Table published by The Newry Reporter on Saturday 1st February, 1919 shows the club isolated at the bottom, gaining only one point from their opening six games. They also had suffered a very embarrassing 8-1 defeat against The Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry based in Dundalk.
This poor run of results caused major concern to The Management Committee and steps were taken to strengthen the team.
The steps taken certainly improved the team and the results, so much so, that The Town won their first trophy at the end of that first season, defeating the well established Damolly Rovers, after a replay in the Newell Cup Final.
The following season Newry Town FC was runners up to Bessbrook Athletic in the League Championship and quickly established itself as a major force in local football.
The club showed its ambitions by joining the more competitive and higher standard Portadown and District League 1st Division in 1921.
The other teams comprising this League were Lurgan Distillery, Lurgan Celtic, Bessbrook, Lurgan Rangers, Edenderry Arrows, Glenavon Reserves, Portadown Olympic, Tandragee Rovers, Portadown Celtic, Sunnyside, Donacloney, Gilford Crusaders, and Armagh United.

You often hear of the term ‘double-jobbing’, and during those early years, quite a few Newry Town players did exactly that by dividing their time with The Town and Dundalk GNR AFC (Forerunner of Dundalk FC) who played in the Leinster Senior League.  Names like Francis McAvoy, Hugh Tumelty, Terry O’Neill, Willie McKeown , Robert Stanley, Thos Hamilton, and J O’Neill come to mind.

Entry to the Irish League
After a couple of seasons in the Portadown and District League, the Town Management Committee made a momentous decision in 1923, to seek entry to the Irish Senior League.

Their application to join the Senior League came before the Irish League, at a meeting of that body, held in the offices at College Street, Belfast on Friday evening the 20th July, 1923.
After much debate, it was unanimously decided on the motion of Mr Patterson (Distillery) seconded by Mr Mehaffey (Glentoran) that Newry Town FC should be admitted to The Irish Senior League.

Newry Town’s inaugural meeting of management as a senior club was held in The White Cross Hotel in Margaret Street, close to the town centre. That important meeting was presided over by Mr JJ Synott.  The first Secretary/ Manager of the new senior club was Mr Charles Smyth. Other very prominent names on the legislative side connected with The Town in its formative early years, were John Murphy, Joe Boden, Frank Gallagher and James Fleming.

Newry’ s first match in The Irish Senior League was against Larne, at The Marshes, a ground situated close to the club’s present stadium at The Showgrounds, on Saturday 25th August 1923. Gate receipts at the game totalled £18 and ten shillings. Big money by the standards of that time.
The Town made a very slow start to life in The Senior League, but after a few seasons they  became quite a tough combination, especially at the Marshes, producing some top class performances and many brilliant individual players.
Probably among the the best remembered players of that senior era from 1923 to 1940 were Jimmy Chambers (capped by Ireland at senior International Level on twelve occasions), John McCaw, Mickey Short, Eddie and Frank Carroll, Jimmy Twomey, Tommy Breen, Bob Hamilton, Bob Turley, Albert Hughes, Neil McIvor, Eric Cassidy Sam Roberts, Arthur Peters, Bill Sydall, Willie Lyness, Paddy Duffy, Bob Bryson and the magical Bill Redfern.
Redfern’s scoring exploits are legendary in Newry, particularly those during the The 1935-36 season, when he finished top scorer in the Irish League with the proud total of 49 goals.

There is very little doubt that Newry Town were a very attractive side in many of those pre World War 2 days but unfortunately only managed to win one trophy in senior soccer – the Mid Ulster Senior Cup in the 1936-37 season.

Post World War two
From 1940 to the end of World War 2 in 1945 the Newry club became practically dormant.

With the return of of normality to the province the club was admitted to the Irish Intermediate League in 1946.
The Town continued to produce some excellent players in the Intermediate grade, names like Brendan McManus, Alex Reid, Jimmy Hooks, George Chambers, Seamus McStay, Seamus ‘Darcy, Stanley Kidd, and Pat Curtis.
The Irish Intermediate League ceased to operate at the end of the 1953-54 season and Newry, after failing to gain admittance to The Irish B League Championship, were forced to make an application to join the Irish Alliance League.
At the AGM of the Irish Alliance League, held on Friday 18th June 1954; three Intermediate clubs i.e. Newry Town, Carrick Rangers and Dundela were elected to membership.
The Town’s first season in the Alliance was a real roaring success and they finished as undefeated League champions and went on to retain the title for the next two seasons.
Never before in the long history of the Irish Alliance League had a club won the title in three consecutive seasons.
During their membership of The Irish Alliance League Newry continued to seek Co-option to The Irish Senior League or The Irish B League.
The club was finally rewarded for its persistence in the summer of 1957, with the news that it had been elected to The Irish B League.
Prior to their promotion to the B League, the Town had enjoyed a fantastic season in 1956-57. The team won its way into the Irish Senior Cup for the first time in seventeen years and was drawn at home against a powerful Glenavon side that included all their super stars Roy Rea, Jimmy Jones, Wilbur Cush, Joe Elwood etc. The attendance at The Showgrounds for this intriguing Cup tie was an astonishing 8,000 fans, which was a club record. A new gate receipts record for a game at the Showgrounds was also established.
Newry’ s team panel for that historic occasion was: Jim Parkhill, Albert Black, Teddie Harte, Stanley Kidd, Jimmy McKinvin, Jackie Bowers, Gerry Robinson, Jimmy Gallagher, Billy Hewitt, Jimmy Edgar, Pat Curtis, Stevie Mallon, Derek O’Brien and Eddie McGivern.
The match itself was a thriller, despite the 4-1 margin in Glenavon’s favour. Newry took the lead in the 20th minute with a fantastic goal from Pat Curtis that gave the diving visiting goalkeeper Roy Rea absolutely no chance. The homesters continued to create chances but unfortunately were wasteful in front of goal. This allowed the masterful Glenavon side to battle their way back and Jimmy Jones showed the way with some great strikes as the Town tired somewhat in the closing stages.
The 1956-57 season also saw the local club win The Mid Ulster Cup, before winning the Irish Intermediate,Cup for the very first time in 1957-58, beating a fancied Glentoran 2nds after a replay in the final. The Intermediate Cup Final and the replay attracted massive attendances and large numbers of Newry fans travelled by bus,train and car to support their heroes in Belfast. This magnificent cup triumph was a signal honour for a great Town formation.
Further honours continued as The Frontier side won the Irish B League Championship in 1959-60.
As that B  League Championship was clinched in 1959-60 some new stars like local boy Jim Coghlan and Jimmy Hasty had emerged.
Jimmy Hasty had lost an arm as a teenager, but that handicap didn’t prevent him scoring 38 goals in that 1959-60 championship triumph. He was with the Town for a little over a calendar year, from October 1959 to November 1960, registering a total a total of 55 goals and creating many more. During November 1960, Jimmy nicknamed “The One Armed Bandit” by the appreciative Newry supporters was transferred to Dundalk FC and he went on to become an absolute legend at Oriel Park.
The early sixties were very much a re-building period for the Town and were notable for the substantial transfer fees received by the club. Peter Watson joined Aston Villa for a fee of £1500.00 and the great Pat Jennings went to Watford FC for a fee of £5600.00.
The Irish Intermediate Cup was won again in the 1966-67 season with Jackie Millar, a former Cliftonville player, at the managerial helm. Local lad Tommy Markey scoring with a fantastic header in that Cup Final against top amateur league team RNAY FC at a packed Solitude.
The onset of “The Troubles” and civil disorder in 1969/70 was making it difficult for the club to attract players and a very lean period was experienced until Sandy Shields was appointed player/manager at the start of the 1972 season. Sandy turned things around and the club reached the final of The Mid Ulster Cup. A local teenager, Mickey Keenan, made an appearance as Goalkeeper in that Cup Final.
During 1974-75, the Town, inspired by manager Jackie McCullough and talented footballers such as Alan Flavelle, Maurice McAnulty, Willie Forbes, Matt Laverty, Marty Mulloy and George Burke won the Mid Ulster Cup and The Irish B League Championship (South Section).
The club had also established a flourishing Social Club and in a real red letter landmark move had purchased the entire complex at the Showgrounds, including the “Back Pitch” from the Kilmorey Estates.
The 1974-75 season was also noted for the tremendous goal scoring exploits of striker George Burke, a player plucked from the obscurity of The Mid Ulster Football League by manager Jackie McCullough.
Burke had pace and a brilliant educated left foot and is the proud holder of the club’s all time goal scoring record for a single complete season with 53 goals notched during that exciting period.
When Jackie McCullough moved on at the end of the 1975-76 season, long serving player Tom McAteer (Now Rev. Father Tom) was appointed manager.
Tom was one of the few managers in the history of the club to hold a position on the Management Committee at the same time, and under his leadership the club won The Mid Ulster Cup  on two occasions.
In February of the 1978/79 season, former Carrick Rangers boss Jimmy Brown was appointed manager and he quickly revitalised a struggling all local side that was languishing near the bottom of the B League Championship, so much so, that within a couple of months, the team had shot up the league table to a respectable position.
His inspirational style of management at that time guided the club to a magnificent triumph in The Mid Ulster Cup.
This Cup success was unusually termed as magnificent because for the first time in many years the two senior clubs Glenavon and Portadown were back competing in the competition that was generously sponsored by Golden Cow Dairies. Newry shocked a full strength Glenavon in the semi final and amazingly defeated a full strength Portadown in the final at Shamrock Park, just a few days after the Ports had played Cliftonville in the Irish Cup Final.
Just a week after those two superb performances, Brown led the side to victory in The Radcliffe Cup against Dungannon Swifts.
Jimmy Brown’s brilliant transforming work at the Showgrounds had not gone unnoticed in senior football circles and just after a couple of months at the beginning of the 1979-80 season he was head hunted to fill the vacant managers position at Cliftonville.
Roy Welsh was quickly chosen to replace Jimmy Brown as team boss at the Showgrounds and the former Distillery star immediately began to prepare our club for that long awaited return to the higher grade of senior soccer. What a fantastic choice he turned out to be. Roy had two and a half tremendous seasons at Newry, capped by that wonderful double triumph in 1980/81 when the B League Championship and the Intermediate Cup came back again to the Frontier Town.
At the end of the 1980/81 season all seemed set at the Showgrounds for that long awaited return to the senior ranks, a move that on merit, a highly successful Newry would have richly deserved. The club management committee was ready, the playing squad was ready, The Town fans were ready, the national press and media pundits were fully behind the club, but the Irish League sensationally chose to reject Newry’s application and continue its “closed shop policy” as regards admittance to the Senior League. The response from the club was absolute shock, tinged with sheer disappointment and the management committee reacted and retaliated by placing an immediate embargo on any further ground improvements at The Showgrounds.
The great team that Roy Welsh had built and achieved that fantastic double, began to break up, as a direct result of that unfortunate rejection. All the players had been prepared to stay with the Town, if the club’s application for senior soccer status had been successful.
That rejection by the Irish League had thrown Newry Town into some disarray during the 1981-82 and the 1982-83 seasons, but the almost unbelievable happened at the end of the 1982-83 season when the club was dramatically and sensationally co-opted to membership of the Irish Senior League. The closed shop policy of the Irish League, that had repeatedly blocked Newry’s yearly applications for membership of the senior set up since 1947, had at long last been shattered. A proposal from Linfield FC that Newry Town and Carrick Rangers should be co-opted was accepted by the Irish League. Why oh why, Newry hadn’t achieved that co-option a couple of years earlier, nobody seems to know.
That two year delay however caused problems for the club as it attempted to establish itself in the senior league. The Town were faced with the daunting task of building a new team that would hopefully hold its own in the higher grade, within a three month period, and were also forced to spend thousands of pounds on upgrading security measures at the Showgrounds. This unfortunately meant that manager Barry Brown had little cash available to improve the side with an input of new players. He did make a landmark signing when he persuaded the highly talented striker Ollie Ralph to join The Town in August 1983, despite fierce competition from Glenavon. Ollie, with his pace and great finishing ability, made an instant impact in the senior league and went on to score a magnificent career total of 305 goals for the club.
Newry battled bravely and courageously in the senior grade until 1985 when Matt Bradley arrived as player manager.
Bradley worked absolute wonders on a shoestring budget to keep the club in a challenging position throughout the Mid-to-late eighties. He guided the team to an Irish Cup semi final against red hot favourites Glentoran at Windsor Park in 1987. Newry took the Glens to a replay and in that replay were leading the Belfast club by a single goal with just fourteen minutes left on the clock. The big crowd at Windsor Park were bracing themselves for a massive cup shock. Then came disaster when team boss Matt Bradley, who like the rest of the team had put in a terrific performance, made a mistake close to the half-way line. Matt could have planted the ball anywhere, but he chose to be skilful and tried a long back pass to Goalkeeper Brian O’Shea and it fell short. The inrushing Gary McCartney couldn’t believe his luck and the Glens snatched a vital equaliser. Their tails were up and inevitably got the winner with a few minutes of the ninety remaining.
The bearded Bradley had become known to Newry fans as “The Great Messiah” and there is no doubt that he motivated and spearheaded some fantastic performances during those years. He parted company with the club in the early nineties, but returned to the Showgrounds for a second spell as manager during 1994, which proved to be short lived.
At the beginning of the 1996 season Newry were facing some serious financial circumstances, when a local businessman Joe Rice joined the Management Committee.
Joe re-energised the ailing club, so much so, that before the end of 1996, Newry Town FC, despite struggling at the bottom of the then 1st Division, were able to announce that Trevor Anderson was taking up a new position as Director Of Football at the,Showgrounds.

Anderson, who only the season before, had managed Linfield to a great Irish Senior League triumph, was amazingly walking away from Windsor Park to join lowly Newry Town. His decision to do this had shocked local football.

The European adventure
Anderson, in his capacity as Director Of Football along with Ollie Ralph and Harry Fay in a joint managerial role, proceeded to pilot the club to an excellent 1st Division Championship success in 1997-98. Newry achieved another utopian dream when qualification for The European UEFA Inter Toto Cup was earned at the start of the 1999- 2000 season.
The Town were drawn to meet Croatian side Hrvatski Dragovljac at Zagreb in the first round, and put in a marvellous performance, just losing by a 1-0 margin. In the return game at the Showgrounds, Newry put on an amazing show to win by a 2-0 margin and proceed with pride into the next round.

In the 2nd Rd. (1st Leg) The Town lost 2-0 away at Duisburg in Germany, but at the Showgrounds, Newry were again superb in the return leg beating Duisburg by 1-0 but lost the tie on goal aggregate. Particularly against the German Premier League Bundesliga side, this Newry formation had covered itself in real glory.

The new Millenium 
The first couple of seasons in the new Millennium saw battles against relegation and this period culminated in a relegation/ promotion play off tie against Bangor in May 2003. The 1st Leg was drawn 0-0 at Bangor but in the 2nd leg at the Showgrounds with just nine minutes remaining the Town were level at 1-1. Had this scoreline remained until the final whistle, Newry would have lost the overall tie on the away goals rule and the club would have been relegated. Robbie Brunton however scored from a 81st minute penalty and preserved the club’s place in the top grade.
Roy McCreadie was appointed manager very early in January 2004 and it was during his reign that the club historically decided to change its name from Town to City. The Town of Newry had been accorded City status in 2002 and pressure came to bear on the club’s board of management from sponsors and other commercial sources to make the change. The change was perhaps almost inevitable, but it was a move that wasn’t universally popular with all the fans.

McCreadie departed from his position during September 2005 and was followed by Paul Millar and Roy Coyle, both of whom held the managerial reins for relatively short periods.
A young ambitious manager in the shape of Gerry Flynn was appointed by the City directors, early in 2007. Flynn, after a slow start showed an excellent work ethic and developed a good relationship with players and fans alike.
During his tenure the Mid Ulster Cup was won and the final of the Co-Operative Insurance Cup was reached during during February 2009, only to lose 1-0 to Portadown.  Just when the club and Gerry seemed to be performing very well, the completely unexpected happened during September 2009 and he rather dramatically and surprisingly, just minutes after his team had defeated Coleraine in a thrilling Carling Premiership match at The Showgrounds, resigned from his post.
The club directors, spearheaded by Chairman Paul McKenna wasted no time and quickly appointed former Newry player/manager Johnny McDonnell to the vacant role. Uncharacteristically however,, McDonnell had a spell of poor and average results and tendered his resignation during the month of March 2010, with Gerry Flynn once again returning to the position
Flynn was dismissed by the club directors early in the year 2011 and former player Robbie Casey took over as temporary boss, before Pat McGibbon was engaged as manager, during February 2011. McGibbon’s appointment didn’t prevent the club’s relegation to Championship 1 at the end of the 2010-11 season.
During the close season he released almost all of the senior squad, with the exception of three local players and proceeded with Robbie Casey and reserve team manager Darren Mullen, to build a complete new team at the Showgrounds to compete in Championship 1 for the coming 2011-12 season. The new team exceeded all expectations, by winning the Irish Intermediate Cup, the Mid Ulster Cup and finishing runners up to Ballinamallard United in the Championship.
They were also unlucky not to have beaten Lisburn Distillery in a two leg promotion play off, losing 3-2 on aggregate. Just a few weeks before the start of the 2012-13 season, Pat McGibbon shocked everybody connected with the club when he tendered his resignation, citing personal reasons.
A major ominous black cloud was also rapidly developing in the background, with former manager Gerry Flynn, who had taken legal action against  Newry City FC Ltd. for wrongful dismissal and breach of contract regarding his sacking. This claim and the refusal of Newry City FC Ltd. to pay damages and compensation resulted in the club’s membership of the IFA being terminated during September 2012.

A new dawn

Fortunately, after a few months, a group of dedicated city people, with the club’s interests in their hearts held a couple of public meetings and the club was reformed with a new name — Newry City Athletic Football Club– during March 2013.
In July 2013, the club was accepted as a member of the Mid Ulster Football League -Intermediate B.
Promotion to Intermediate A was gained and the MUFL Premier Cup was won in 2015. Promotion to The Premier Intermediate League was next followed by a promotion to the Championship.
The amazing run of success under manager Darren Mullen continued last season with City winning a promotion play off with Carrick Rangers on a aggregate score of 6-3
The club was now back in the Danske Bank Premiership after four incredible promotions achieved under the magnificent leadership and guidance of an outstanding manager Darren Mullen.


Senior honours (As Newry Town/City)
Irish League First Division (Tier 2): 1
County Antrim Shield: 1
Mid-Ulster Cup: 14
1936–37, 1956–57, 1963–64, 1966–67, 1968–69, 1974–75, 1977–78, 1978–79, 1984–85, 1986–87, 1989–90, 1999–00, 2006–07, 2011–12

Intermediate honours (As Newry Town/City)
Irish League B Division: 2
1959–60, 1980–81
Irish Intermediate Cup: 4
1957–58, 1966–67, 1980–81, 2011–12
Bob Radcliffe Cup: 2
1978–79, 1984–85

(As Newry City AFC)
Mid Ulster Intermediate A: 1
Mid Ulster Intermediate B: 1
Premier Cup: 1