On the eve of our 30th season, a brief look back at the history of Lurgan Town…
On Thursday 9th June 1988 a notice in the Lurgan Mail read “New Club for Town – It Is hoped to form a new boys club in the Lurgan area to cater for the eight to 16 age group. A meeting has been arranged to take place in Lurgan swimming pool on Monday, June 13, at 8 p.m. Anyone interested in the new club should go along to this meeting”. At that meeting two local men, Brian Gordon and Junior Mercer put forward their vision for a new junior football club for the Lurgan area.
Brian said: “We (Junior and myself) set the club up because there was no youth teams in the Town. Players were having to go Lisburn and Belfast to get football. Both Junior and myself had sons who were looking to play so it made sense. The Craigavon League had been recently set up so we had somewhere to play. No one was turned away from either side of the community. It has always been our ethos to try and give young guys football. From the outside in it looks like we are a huge club. In terms of numbers we are, but the success of the club is down to hard working individuals behind the scenes. It is impossible to name everyone but those people know who they are”.
Junior also remembers the start with great fondness: “I can remember the first committee meeting and putting out our plans to go forward. Our meetings where always held in Maurice Houston’s house. The original name for the club was to be “Lurgan Athletic” but it was quickly realised that a running club of the same name existed so Lurgan Town Boys Football Club was put forward. We had a great help from local business in purchasing the new kits, and I’ll never forget Maurice Huston boiling one when he was washing it. To say it shrunk would be an understatement. I can also remember when we bought the famous “happy bus” and getting it fixed up and ready for action. We had some great times”.
Back in 1988, we started with 3 teams competing competitively in the Goodyear Craigavon League – U12, U14, U16 – with an U10 team playing in friendly matches. 7 men sat on the first committee; Junior Mercer (chairman), Maurice Houston (vice chairman), Ivor Wilson (treasurer), Jim Uprichard (secretary), Paul Best (PR Officer) Isaac Gilkinson and Brian Gordon and it is due the hard work of these men that Lurgan Town had a solid foundation to build on.
By November 1988, the now famous, yellow shirts had been produced (red was added to the kit a number of years later) and member numbers had swelled. It was an impressive start for the new Town and by Christmas both the U14s and U16 were sitting top of their league. By March 89’ the U16s had clinched the first trophy in the form of the league title. U13s and U15s were added to the club’s roster and the annual trip to Portrush brought the season to an end. The committee were delighted to hand out their first annual awards in Lurgan Town hall with guest of honour Dick Craig giving the boys “some sound advice and words of encouragement”. You may have got your hands on one of those big brown shields during your time at the club?
Now, on the eve of our 30th season, we are looking forward to our biggest ever season. Exciting plans are in place to improve the facilities at our home at the Arena, we have recently added a 3rd senior team to our playing list and our membership is set to reach the 600+ mark once again. This means that we will have 31 teams from Academy and Juniors to Ladies, Girls and Seniors playing across the whole country every week in 2018/19.
The past 30 years have seen huge changes for Lurgan Town. Most notably going from the nomad club playing in Lurgan Park, the Gordon Playing Fields, Dickson Primary School, Lurgan Junior High School and Ballymacoss Playing Fields in Lisburn to having the first class facilities that we have at the Arena now. A huge thanks must go to the local politicians and the ABC council who have backed us all the way to get us where we are now. Another huge change was the addition of a senior section in 1996. This allowed a progression from junior football at the Town into senior football. 3 years later and the demand for a starting position became so great that a reserve team was formed and of course now the new 3rd team has been added just a few months ago.
In 2012 “Boys” was dropped from the club name to reflect the addition of girls playing at the club and in 2016 we welcomed our first ever ladies team – who went on to complete the league and cup double in their first season.
We have a lot to be proud of at our wee club. Our ethos hasn’t changed in 30 years. We want to give as many players as much football as we can. We are also proud that we have sent numerous players across the water to professional clubs and we have also sent our fair share into the Irish League. We have a huge list of players to gain individual honours in the form of International Caps, County teams, league select teams and Milk Cup participation. We have produced thousands of talented players who have gone on to have great careers and we like to think they remember their time with us with great fondness.
Along the way we have won a few pieces of silverware. Our teams continue to compete with the biggest clubs in the country and that is reflected in our recent success in the Northern Ireland Cup competitions. We have too many to list in this article, but if you click here you can see just how successful we have been. Winning isn’t everything, however, and the thing that we are most proud of is bringing players together. We welcome boys and girls from both sides of our community and we will continue to break down barriers for another 30 years and more.
Chairman Nigel Johnston commented: “I have been privileged to have been Chairman of this club for over 8 years now, having started as a parent bringing my son to play, then helping the coach out, then coaching, joining the committee and stepping in ‘temporarily’ as chairman. Why do I do it? Why does anyone volunteer at the club whether it be as a coach, helper, committee member, whatever role they do? The answer for me, and many others, is it’s a great club, but for me especially it is when you see the kids getting out into the fresh air to play football. I believe that the friends made, the life lessons learned and the social interaction between the kids is invaluable in building tomorrow’s adults and leaders”.
Nigel continued: “Lurgan Town FC has developed into one of the most successful junior clubs in the country. We have come a long way since 1988 and I don’t think anyone could have foreseen where we would be now and the facilities we provide for our members and the wider community. There is a lot of envy out there from other clubs when they see the facilities that we have. We are always looking at ways to improve the facilities and we were recently awarded funding to upgrade the floodlights on the full size 3G pitch. Funding has also been gained to replace the older changing rooms and provide stores and office facilities.
We are having a 30th Anniversary dinner on 6th October in Edenmore Golf Club to celebrate. Tickets will be available from committee members and in the clubhouse. With the club growing to the size it is now we are always looking out for volunteers to help out so if you have a few hours spare why not get involved? We need volunteers, whether that’s helping in the clubhouse, coaching, maintenance or joining the committee to help run the club then let us know and get involved”.
And so to the new season that kicks off tomorrow. Good luck to all our players and coaches. Play the game with desire and determination and you won’t go far wrong. #heartonthesleeve