Lisbellaw United FC

 

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History

The first records of football being played in Lisbellaw seem to have commenced around the 1920s when they were know locally as "Rock Rovers", appropriately named after the obscene number of stones in this area. The first mention of sucess came in the mid-1940s when Lisbellaw won the Mulhern Cup in 1947, defeating RAF Castdle Asrchdale 4-2.

In 1960 Lisbellaw were accepted into the Fermanagh and Western League officially and eventually settled at Kerr's Fields' at Cloghcor Road, Lisbellaw. Amongst the young players then and still live in the villaghe today include Sammy McFredrick, Henry Savage, Jim Lindsey, Johnny Elliott and Mervyn Gamble.

Throught the late '60s and '70s Lisbellaw went from strength to strength, building up a great squad of young, gifted players who by now were under the management of Sammy McFredrick. This culminated in Lisbellaw's finest hour in May 1978 when Lisbellaw won the Irish Junior Cup.

In the 1980s a major new phase in Lisbellaw's history was unfolding when the team moved to new grounds at Drumad, Lisbellaw although owned by Fermanagh District Council, the club bought the pitch in 1990 for £18,000 for a 99 year lease. With the now our own and Drumad being one of the best pitches in the league, a new club house was built with facilities bigger clubs are envous of.

In early 2000 the club progressed further when they developed a second pitch across the road from Drumad, named Taylor Park after the great Bobby Taylor, a legend in Lisbellaw footballing circles, who was associated with the club for over 50 years. The opening of the second pitch enables two the senior teams to play at once at home as well as junior teams.

In the 2004/05 season, one of the best seasons the club has had over the years, the firsts and seconds gained promotion with the thirds finishing strongly. With this and the current setup of players, managers and staff the club can only gain in strength.

(*Taken from the Easter 2003 Bielefeld, Germany Youth Football Booklet )

Fermanagh and Western History

The Mercer Cup, which was put forward by Enniskillen businessman T. A. Mercer, was first played for the in the 1904/05 season and was won by Enniskillen Celtic who were formally known as St. Michael's Hall Celtic and it is that name which adorns the original cup which is still presented today.

The first games for the Mercer Cup in the 1904/05 season were played on Saturday, October 8,1904 and included such local derbies as Enniskillen Moonlighters v Enniskillen Celtic and Enniskillen United v Enniskillen Corinthians and were played under the auspices of the new Fermanagh and South Tyrone League which had been formed the week before under the chairmanship of Viscount Corry D.L.

Other teams in the inaugural league included Lisbellaw, Fintona, Tempo, Derrygonnelly, Fivemiletown and Fusiliers. Omagh F.C. joined after the first round of games.

If you thought that it was friendly old banter and a bit of crack in those days with long shorts down to your ankles and footballs more akin to medicine balls then you would have been mistaken.
Indeed, the first round of matches were not without their controversy and the Impartial reported that Fintona had lodged a protest with the referee following their defeat to Tempo. No change there then with the right of protest still a popular tool.

What's more Lisbellaw pulled out of the league later in the season following an incident but despite these teething troubles the Mercer Cup was up and running and soon was going from strength to strength.

Local football historian and current President of the Fermanagh and Western, Roy Cathcart, shed more light on the early days of the Mercer Cup and organised football in Fermanagh.

"At the time," revealed Roy , "the GAA in Ireland was growing rapidly and the Irish Football Association was keen to promote the game in the west of Ireland and helped the Fermanagh and South Tyrone league financially to promote football in the area. This ultimately led to the formation of the Fermanagh and Western District Football Association in 1907 which went as far as Sligo and Mayo with local teams commuting by train."

The Mercer Cup was not played for during the Great War with Omagh Wanderers winning in the 1919/20 season with Enniskillen Corinthians winning the year after that.

Partition eventually resulted in the league playing within its current jurisdiction and the Fermanagh and Western League has evolved with the times and now plays host to 36 first teams with three divisions of reserve teams as well.

The Mercer Cup has remained the one they all want to win though and has been witness to some cracking teams such as Enniskillen Corinthians, Enniskillen Rangers, Lisbellaw United and Shelbourne who have all been multiple winners.

The 2000/01season cup was not completed due to the foot-and-mouth crisis and recent seasons, like the very first, one hundred years ago, have not been without their controversial moments.

Despite the many changes over the past one hundred years in local football, and the growing emergence of intermediate football, the Mercer Cup has remained the constant and the one that they all want to win.

Rock Rovers
Association Football

Soccer has been played in and around Lisbellaw for the greater part of this century. Lisbellaw's recent success has been achieved in a field rented from Samuel Carrothers. Over the years, particularly between the wars, several other grounds were used on a temporary basis including Faughard, Drumad, (on the field presently in use), and Drumcrin.

We are first made aware of footballing activity in the area by a rather unsavoury incident which occurred after a match at Lisbellaw on 27 th February 1905 when Enniskillen Celtic were the visitors. Mr John O'Kane, a referee from Omagh, was severely assaulted by some members of the crowd while on his way to the station despite efforts from members of the Lisbellaw team to save him. The case ended up in the Petty Sessions Court when charges were brought against two persons, one from Lisbellaw and one from Maguiresbridge.
The first records of football show that the earliest teams were known by the name of Rock Rovers and they were founded by Mr Bleakley – the local schoolmaster – in the early 1920's. The first evidence of success came in 1926 when we won the Fermanagh Shield with two outstanding team members, Williams and Johnston, who went on to achieve representative status with the Fermanagh and Western league team in 1927

There then appears to have been more than a decade of footballing dearth before the team was reborn early 1940's and this revival culminated in the high quality team which won the mulhern cup in 1947 defeating R.A.F. Castle Archdale, 4 –2, and also winning the Coffey Cup in that same year.

Members of this team included;

Walter Fallis Goalkeeper

Tommy Corrigan Right Back

George Nawn Left Back

Kenneth McBrien Right Half

Willie Foster (Capt) Centre Half

Bertie Irvine Left Half

J Lester Outside Right

R Kennedy Inside Right

J Keenan Centre Forward

Ernie Brown Inside Left

J Hill Outside Left

Many modern young footballers will be surprised to know that the foregoing information that there 5 forwards or strikers as they are called nowadays, but that was the way soccer was played until well into the 1960's.

This successful wartime team faded out of existence a year or two after their 1947 exploits and we hear no more of local soccer until 1958 which witnessed the third phase of footballing history, continuing right to the present day. A family's name of McFrederick is a name that remains with the club right up to present day. The inspiration behind the '58 revival was Mrs Lavery, who with her husband Major Walter “Paddy” Lavery owned the public house which they had named the Wild Duck Inn. Many of the local lads used to kick an old ball about the street at the mouth of the Inishmore Road, annoying the locals and the custodians of law and order as well as shattering the odd window pane. They complained to Mrs Lavery that they needed a proper pitch and proper ball and then they could expend their energies elsewhere without getting up anybodies nose.

Mrs Lavery took up their case energetically and with the help of several footballing enthusiasts and past players such as Bobbie Nawn, the late Bobbie Taylor (before his death President of the club after a lifetime of service as a player, organiser and fund rasier) and Hubert Brown, set about the task of fundraising by organising dances, draws and jumble sales. The first bring-and-buy sale was well supported and raised £90.

By 1960 the team – now named Lisbellaw United but known locally as Lavery's Ducklings – had been accepted into the Fermanagh and Western League. Their first pitch was at Faughard on the right hand side of the old road to Maguiresbridge, but after two seasons they moved to David Carrothers Land at Cloghcor known as Kerr's Fields where they remained until 1986.

The players in that fist bunch of youngsters included Sammy McFrederick, Mervyn Gamble, Billy Taylor, George Taylor, Jim Lindsay, Willie McFrederick, Michael Lavery, Roderick Nawn, Colin Ellis, Harry Savage, Jim O'Donnell, Charlie Oldcroft, Denzil Piper, David Hetherington, Ronnie McVitty, Johnny Elliott, Sam Beattie, Jackie Bickerstaff, Harold Masterson, Ken Graham, Kenneth Masterson, as well as many others.

The youthful players did not at first make any great impression on the Fermanagh football scene but they were improving with each season that passed. Their first scent of regaining past glories coming in 1966 when they were runners up in the Lisbellaw Festival Competition being beaten 2-1 by Enniskillen Rangers on whom they gained sweet revenge in the following years' Clones Competition.

The Blues were now getting their act together under the management of Jim O'Donnell by winning the Mercer league in 1967/68 and 1968/69 together with the Mulhern Cup in '69 and the Coffey Cup in '69 and '70, not to mention several successes in the Clones Cup and the Fermanagh Cup.

Early in the 1970's Sammy McFrederick added thr role of manager to his playing responsibilities and he continued the clubs' winning ways with another Coffey Cup victory in 1972 – and even greater heights were yet to be scaled as the decade unfolded. Sammy took a firm managerial decision to concentrate on local talent as far as possible and the first fruits of this approach became evident in their reaching the semi-final of the Irish Junior Cup in 1974 before being beaten by a strong Moyola side, 5-1.

By 1975 a powerful, skilful young side had been welded together into a resolutely efficient outfit whom were confident in their own ability to handle any opposition that could be thrown at them. This confidence was well founded in the results from 1975 through the next eight years during which Lisbellaw had the finest period in its history clinching five Mercer League wins in 75/76, 77/78, 78/79, 79/80, 80/81, in addition to five Mulhern Cup victories in 75/76, 76/77, 78/79, 79/80 and 82/83. They also had much summer competition success winning the Coffey Cup in 75, 79 and 83 in addition to the Irvinestown Festival competition in 78, 79, 80 and 81.

We now move on to consider the competition which is the pinnacle of every junior clubs' ambitions – the Irish Junior Cup. In this yearly competition all the best junior clubs in the six counties compete on a knock out basis, and only once – in 1958 – the trophy come to Fermanagh through the exertions of Enniskillen Corinthians. However with the clogher side playing their best ever football with an almost entirely home grown squad it seemed only a matter of when, rather than whether, they would emulate the Corinthian feat.

In 1977 they served notice they were on their way be getting to the semi-final stage before being narrowly pipped by Lowe Memorial, 4-3.

The 1978 Junior Cup campaign commenced for its 2000 players and almost 200 teams in October the previous year with Lisbellaw playing host to Scarva Rangers on the 22 nd of Oct 1977 whom the demolished 5 – 1. Glyn Nixon scoring a hatrick and Eamon McPartland bagging a pair. Scarava's only reply coming from an Cadden own goal. This demlishion job was indeed an omuious warning to all other pretends to the trophy.

Round 2 again favoured them with home advantage against Demesne Strollers on the 19 th November and goals from Glyn Nixon and Alan McFrederick they emerged victorious 2-1.

The third round on the 17 th of December produced an away tie against County Down opposition Analong Rangers. The game developed into a real nail biter with the advance seesawing, the first one way then the other. Despite two goals from Eamon McPartland and one by Colin McFrederick, full time saw the teams locked at three a piece, but in extra time a each by James McGrath and Keith Elliot clinged the win 5-4 and eased into a fourth round home tie against Queens Graduates.

This game was twice proposed due to unplayable conditions at Clogher, but was played eventually albate on tricky conditions which made soccer difficult on February the 4 th 1978. Once more there was a bag full of scorers with McPartland getting three and McConkey, colin Mcfrederick and McGrath completing the half dozen whilts the defence only conceceded two.

As the tournament progressed the Blues were performing better in every department of their play, and now looked confidently to their 5 th round away clash against Rathfriland. The Co Down side were summarily despatched with a goal each from Alan McFrederick, McConkey, and Nixon without reply from the home side thereby gaining the Fermanagh men a place in the last eight.

The quarter final draw pitched them away against Orangefield Old Boys. The game was a tense, dour finely balanced struggle throughout but it looked like a certain Lisbellaw victory when Glyn Nixon scored with only seven minutes to go, but, agony of agonies, Orangefield equalised almost on the whistle throwing the game into extra time. Not to be denied at this stage, Lisbellaw slipped into a higher gear through a goal apiece from brothers Alan and Colin McFrederick without further reply from Orangefield.

They were now into the semi final for the third time in their history. The semi final draw brought Portstewart and the Blues to neutral territory at Stangmore Park, Dungannon. The resulting match was described as one of Lisbellaw's most sparkling performances giving them a 2-1 win courtesy of a goal each from McPartland and McGrath.

Six hurdles had now been cleared successfully with the final coming down for decision on Friday 12 th May 1978 at Stangmore Park against a formidable squad from Co Armagh – Loughgall.

Finals are quite often tense affairs with each side probing the other for weaknesses, and this was no exception taking a long time to settle down to some sort of rhythm. Lisbellaw were the first to show opening their account on the half hour when a long floating free kick from McGrath was flicked over the keeper's head by McPartland. Early in the second half Lisbellaw suffered a double blow in losing the talents of McConkey through injury and also conceding the Loughgall equaliser. Their confidence never flagged and they kept their heads up and the pressure on which brought its reward on the hour when Kieran Keenan was fouled in the box and Glyn Nixon hammered home the penalty which proved to be the trophy winner for the Hard Rocks Hero's. Sammy McFrederick received the Man of the Match award and Fermanagh District Council later paid tribute to the clubs' achievement by holding a civic reception in their honour.

The years immediately following the Junior Cup win were also successful and Lisbellaw went on to become the first Fermanagh club to enter the Intermediate Cup in 1979, being narrowly edged out on penalties in the first round. Also in 1979 their reserve team reached the quarter final of the Junior Cup and in the next season the first team went one better getting to the semi final before being eliminated.

After the '83 Mulhern and Coffey Cups victories, performances began to deteriorate and the team slid gradually into recession, although they were Top Four and McDaid Cup and Mulhern Cup semi-finalists in 1989/90.

In 1986, the team moved from the Clogher pitch to the District Council pitch at Drumad. It has been transformed to probably the best playing surface in the county and in 1990 Lisbellaw agreed to purchase the pitch on a 99 year lease.

Also in 1990 the infusion of some new blood was coupled with the appointment of a new player/manager in the person of Seamus McGinley, from Strabane. Mr Ginley had formly played for Ards as well as Omagh Town for several years and had been player/manager of University of Ulster soccer team. His stay at Lisbellaw was brief and he was succeeded in 1991 by Adrian Hopkins. “Hoppy” has had a hugely successful playing career stretching over many years although his managerial expertise is still unproven.

Results in the 91/92 season were in marked contrast to the glories of the past and the team only avoided the drop into division two in the 1992/1993 season, on a technicality.

*Taken from the book 'The Rock'

A gazetteer of Lisbellaw and Surrounding District by Joe Crawford

This recession was compounded in the 1998/99 season when the first team dropped out of the first division for the first time, finishing second bottom six points form safety. Alas the decline continued and in season 2002/03 the club fell to its lowest ebb with all three senior teams being relegated from Division 2, Reserve Division 1 and Reserve Division 2 respectively. Thankfully the slumbering gaint that is Lisbellaw United would soon awaken with two factors key to the recovery. First of all despite the lean years for the senior teams the club's youth set up had continued to prosper with regularly over 100 children being coached on Saturday mornings. By the start of 2004/05 season a plethora of young talent was becoming available, all enthused to play for the club. Secondly committed managers and assistants were appointed for the senior teams and their personal abilities, drive and knowledge proved crucial. In this, one person James McGrath, a lifelong member of the Club, deserves a special mention - a true inspiration. In 2004/05 the First and Second teams were champions of Division 3 and Reserve Division 2 respectively.

This success continued in the following season with the firsts winning the Second Division and promotion back to the top league, while the Seconds runners up in their division clinched the Reihill Cup for the first time. Season 2005/06 saw the Thirds promoted to Reserve Division 2 and now all three teams are in their highest possible leagues.

The 2007/08 has kept the success going with runner up spot in the Mercer League and athey suffered a 1-0 semi final defeat to Immaculata in the Junior, while the seconds reached the Reihill Cup final only to be beaten by Enniskillen Town reserves. In 2008/09 the firsts again finished runners up in the Merer league behind Enniskiilen Town, while the Reserves suffered the same fate in the Reserve Division 1. The Reserves however did manage to secure the Rehill Cup.

2009/2010 was the season that the club had waited all of 29years for, the Mercer League returned to Lisbellaw. In what was an extremely tight season throughout the first team went on 9 game winning run after Christmas which secured the title on a night of high drama in Lisbellaw on the 27th April 2010. Lisbellaw played Strathroy who had beaten them in the Mulhern Cup semi final the previous week knowing a win would secure the title. Strathroy on the other hand needed a win to secure there status as a Division One team next season. The Visitiors were awarded a penalty early on and our centre half, Ian Veitch was shown a red card for a last man tackle. Strathroy converted the penalty but Lisbellaw were awarded one which Darren Rogers dispatched shortly before half time. The Tyrone needing a win to stay up, hit the front again early in the second half. The night wasn't going to plan and the large gathering of supporter were looking like they were going to have to wait for another day to be crowned champions. With 18minutes remaining Paul McGrath advanced forward from right back and fired an unstoppable shot into the top corner from all of 40yards. This goal lifted the spirits and Lisbellaw began to apply pressure to the Strathroy defense. With only minutes remaining an Andy Reilly corner was met by the head of Raymond Carroll and the crowd went wild. Lisbellaw had hit the front and they were to hold out for a 3-2 win. After the final whistle the presentation of medals took place while Captain Glen McCleery became the first man to lift the Mercer League since 1981.

2010/2011 seen Lisbellaw retain the Mercer League 1st Division title with one game to spare following a 1-0 win in Ballamallard with Darren Rogers on the scoresheet from the penalty spot. The 1st team went through the entire league campaign with just one defeat, this defeat came on the opening day of the season to newly promoted Enniskillen Rangers at Drumad. It what was a tight league throughout you could point to the 3-2 win over Enniskillen Town in Lisbellaw on Tuesday 12th April as a crucal win. Paul McGrath, Glen McCleery and Lee Glass found the net in a game where Town drew level twice. This win meant Lisbellaw had destiny in their own hands. A 3-1 win in Beragh a fortnight later would rule them out of the running, Paul McGrath (2) and Alan Veitch got the goals that night. It all meant that a win against Ballinamallard would secure the title and they duly delivered. In terms of the Junior Cup, we reached the Semi Final for the second time in four years only to go down 4-3 on penalties to Bessbrooke after a 1-1 draw. Ian Veitch had given us the lead in extra time but within a minute Bessbrooke had an equaliser.

The Second team made history by collecting the Reserve Division 1 league title in a playoff win against Killen Rangers Reserves. Goals from Lee Glass (2) and Stuart Cochraine see Lisbellaw secure a 3-2 win. As a result of this win, Lisbellaw United joined a small group of clubs who have won both the Division 1 and Reserve Division 1 titles in the same season. The third team easily secured their status in Reserve Division 2 and this side continues to breed the youngsters into Adult football.

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