At the end of the season, the champion club is presented with the Gibson Cup. The current Premiership format was introduced for the 2008–09 season after the League system for Northern Ireland was re-organised. The top flight was reduced in size from 16 to 12 clubs, included on the not only of their performance in the 2007–08 season. Finance – based on solvency, debt management and cash-flow projection, the Premiership remained under IFA control for five seasons until the creation of the Northern Ireland Football League in 2013, when it became the NIFL Premiership. Each team plays a total of 38 fixtures during the season, each team initially plays every other team three times for a total of 33 fixtures per team. The post-split fixtures are usually arranged in such a way as to result in the teams in each half playing each other twice at home and twice away. After the split, teams in the top six cannot finish lower than 6th place, the League campaign begins in August and continues until late April or early May. Most fixtures are played on Saturday afternoons, with fixtures on Friday evenings. Traditionally, there are Bank Holiday afternoon fixtures on Boxing Day, New Years Day, three points are awarded for a win, and one point for a draw. No points are awarded for a loss, points can be deducted for breaches of rules e. g. fielding an ineligible player. The teams are first and foremost ranked by number of points, the team with the most points at the end of the season wins the championship. A tiebreaker other than goal difference has not been required since the 1961–62 season, the league champions qualify for the following seasons UEFA Champions League, with the league runners-up and Irish Cup winners qualifying for the UEFA Europa League. If, however, the Irish Cup winners have qualified for Europe by finishing as champions or runners-up in the league. In order to compete in any of these European competitions, however, in the event that a team qualifies without such a licence, lower-placed teams may take their place. A new method of Europa League qualification was introduced for the 2015–16 season, the play-offs are seeded, with the two higher-placed qualifiers given home advantage when facing the two lower-placed qualifiers in the semi-finals. The two semi-final winners then meet in the final, if, however, the Irish Cup winners finish lower than seventh in the league, all five teams that finish in third to seventh will qualify for the play-offs. This will require an additional match to be played by the two lowest-placed qualifiers in sixth and seventh, with the winner joining the other three clubs in the semi-finals. Additionally, the two highest-placed teams in the Premiership also qualify automatically for the next seasons all-Ireland Setanta Cup, the third and fourth-placed teams may also qualify if either or both of the winners of the Irish Cup and League Cup have qualified via the League
Glentoran Football Club is a semi-professional football club that plays in the NIFL Premiership. The club was founded in 1882 and plays its games at the Oval in east Belfast. Club colours are red, green and black, Linfield and Glentoran are nicknamed Belfasts Big Two, as they have traditionally dominated local football in Northern Ireland since the demise of Belfast Celtic. The two play a match on Boxing Day each year, which regularly attracts the largest attendance of the Irish League season. George Best watched Glentoran with his grandfather as a youth, but was rejected by the club for being too small, however, Best did make one appearance for Glentoran, in the clubs centenary match against Manchester United. In 1964–65, Glentoran faced Panathinaikos in the European Cup and drew 2–2 at home, in the following seasons Fairs Cup, they faced Antwerp resulting a 1–0 defeat away and 3–3 draw at home. The Cup-Winners Cup in 1966–67 saw Glentoran draw 1–1 with Rangers in front of a packed Oval before losing the away leg 4–0, Glentorans finest hour came in a European Cup encounter with Benfica in 1967. The tie was played two legs, the first being at the Oval. Glentoran scored a penalty early on and held out for nearly sixty minutes until football great Eusébio equalised, the return tie was at Benficas Estádio da Luz. Part-time Glentoran were expected to crumble under the pressure of the occasion, Benfica advanced to the next round on the away goals rule. Glentoran were the first team to lose out to this rule, in 1967, the club ran the Detroit Cougars football franchise in the United Soccer Association. The two leagues would merge and form the North American Soccer League the following year. In 1973–74, Glentoran reached the quarter-finals of the Cup-Winners Cup and they faced Borussia Mönchengladbach in the quarter-finals and were beaten 2–0 and 5–0. Four seasons later they faced Juventus in a European Cup match and lost 1–0 at home, in 1981–82, Glentoran reached the second round of the European Cup and faced eventual semi-finalists CSKA Sofia. After a 2–0 defeat away, Glentoran went 2–0 up in the leg to force the game into extra time. The final result was 2–1, Glentoran going out 3–2 on aggregate, the 1985 Irish Cup final between the big two saw another famous incident. Glentoran supporters brought a cockerel, the emblem, to the match and a pig, painted in royal blue colour. The two animals stayed on the sidelines for the duration of the match and this run of 5 victories over Linfield in post-war finals which started in 1966 continued until Glentorans defeat in the 2006 final
Belfast Celtic F.C.
Belfast Celtic Football Club was a football club in Northern Ireland that was founded in 1891, and was one of the most successful teams in Ireland until it withdrew from the Irish League in 1949. The club, formed in 1891 simply as Celtic, was named after Celtic Football Club of Glasgow, upon incorporation as a limited company in 1901, however, the club adopted the name Belfast Celtic, the title Celtic Football Club Ltd already being registered by the Glasgow club. Their home from the year was Celtic Park on Donegall Road in west Belfast. Celtic won their first league title in 1900 after beating fierce rivals Linfield by a single goal, Celtics support base was strongly Irish nationalist. Despite this, the club went from strength to strength and the years proved to be Celtics strongest. The club also produced some of the greatest players of their generation, charlie Tully of Celtic, learned how to kick a ball with Belfast Celtic. The end came on Boxing Day 1948 at the annual Linfield-Celtic game at Windsor Park, Celtic were winning for most of the match but Linfield equalised in the last minute. Linfield fans invaded the pitch and attacked several Celtic players including centre-forward Jimmy Jones who suffered a broken leg, soon after the club decided to withdraw from the league. After the 1948-49 season Belfast Celtic went on a tour of America from which they returned amidst internal wrangling over flags, at a meeting of the board it was decided that Celtic would temporarily leave the league until such matters had been resolved. They were not resolved and the internal wrangling at boardroom level continued until Celtic Park was sold to developers, a final match was played away to Coleraine on June 24,1960. The ground continued to function as a greyhound stadium until the 1980s when it was bulldozed and replaced by the Park Centre, today, a small plaque reminds shoppers a football team played here. A small museum has since opened in the Park Centre. Belfast Celtic were one of four clubs that made the biggest crowds in the Irish League, the other three being Linfield, Distillery, and Glentoran. C
Cliftonville Football & Athletic Club is a Northern Irish semi-professional association football club playing in the NIFL Premiership. Founded on 20 September 1879 by John McCredy McAlery in the suburb of Cliftonville in north Belfast, it is the oldest football club in Ireland, since 1890, the club has played at Solitude. Cliftonville contests the North Belfast derby with nearest rivals Crusaders, and also has rivalries with Belfasts Big Two clubs, Glentoran. The club has won the Irish League championship four times outright and once shared, the Irish Cup eight times, the newly formed club, however, was beaten 2–1. In its first match against the Scottish club Caledonians, it fared worse, in 1880, it was again John McAlery who was the moving spirit in the formation of the Irish Football Association. He issued an invitation to interested parties in Belfast and district for a meeting to be called, the first meeting took place on 18 November 1880 at Queens Hotel, Belfast, presided over by John Sinclair, from which the Irish Football Association was formed. While Major Chichester was appointed president, McAlery became the secretary of the association. This meeting also paved the way for the Irish Cup, the first Irish Cup final, played at Cliftonville on 9 April 1881, saw a 1–0 defeat against Moyola Park, an opponent that was well known for rough and brutal play. In the following year Cliftonville lost again in the Irish Cup final, in 1883 Cliftonville won the cup for the first time with a 5–0 win over Ulster. During the 1880s Cliftonville also played in the English FA Cup, competing in the competition proper in 1886–87, in 1886–87 they finally lost in the third round 11–0 at home to Partick Thistle after beating Blackburn Park Road 7–2 in an earlier round. In 1887–88 they scratched their match with Church, the match lost to Linfield 7–0 in 1888 is the only FA Cup match to be played on Christmas Day. The inaugural meeting of the Irish Football League was held on 14 March 1890 in the Belfast Estate Office of the Marquess of Dufferin, eight clubs agreed to participate, Cliftonville, Clarence, Milford, Oldpark, Distillery, Glentoran, Ulster and Linfield. In the 1905–06 season Cliftonville won the League for the first time, in 1891 Cliftonville became the first Irish football club to use floodlights at games. Kick-off in each case was at 8 pm with lights suspended across the pitch and these were dismantled later with the announcement that spectators found it difficult to follow the action and that the player seemed to have all the fun in the middle. It had been an experience, but not a highly successful one with the public skeptical. In 1897 Cliftonville won the Irish Cup after a 3–1 win over Sherwood Foresters, a quite unusual protest was launched by Cliftonville after being beaten by Belfast Celtic in the 1900 Irish Cup competition. The Celtic goalposts were eventually measured and it was out that they were much too short. A replay took place, in which Cliftonville reversed the 4–0 defeat in the earlier match, subsequently they won the Cup that year, after beating Bohemians 2–1 in the Final
Lisburn Distillery F.C.
Lisburn Distillery Football Club is a Northern Irish, intermediate football club based in Ballyskeagh, County Down. The club, founded in 1880, originated in west Belfast, after sharing Skegoneill Avenue and Seaview for some years the club moved in 1980 to a permanent new home at New Grosvenor Stadium, Ballyskeagh, County Antrim, on the southern outskirts of Belfast. The club was known as Distillery until 1999, when it changed its name to Lisburn Distillery in an attempt to itself more closely with its adopted borough of Lisburn. The club, a member of the Irish League in 1890, was relegated in May 2013. Note, Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules, players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality. Jimmy McIntosh Maurice Tadman George Eastham, Sr
Linfield Football Club is a semi-professional football club based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The club was founded in 1886 as Linfield Athletic Club, and in 1905 moved into the current home of Windsor Park, the club plays in the NIFL Premiership – the highest level of the Northern Ireland Football League. Linfields main rival is Glentoran – the other half of Belfasts Big Two and this rivalry traditionally includes a league derby played on Boxing Day each year, which usually attracts the largest league attendance of the season. The Blues are managed by former Northern Ireland international and record goalscorer David Healy, Feeney resigned in order to become assistant manager of Newport County. Historically, as the most dominant club in Northern Irish football, Linfield holds several domestic records, Linfield won a clean sweep of all the trophies in a single season in the 1921–22 season and again in 2006. They narrowly missed out on claiming 7 trophies in a season in 1961–62 season only failing to win the North South cup. Glenavon won the trophy for the 1961–62 season, similarly due to fixture congestion the final for that season was played at the start of 1963, Glenavon to this day still hold the trophy as it was never competed for again. Linfield won all four domestic trophies to achieve a quadruple. The club has lifted the Irish Cup a record 42 times, the League Cup a record nine times, the club has never won a European trophy, but did reach the quarter-finals of the 1966–67 European Cup. The club was founded in March 1886 in an area of south Belfast known as Sandy Row by workers at the Ulster Spinning Companys Linfield Mill, originally known as Linfield Athletic Club, the team played on ground at the back of the mill known as the Meadow. However, success on the field meant that the club had to accommodate bigger crowds, in 1890, Bob Milne signed for the club from the Gordon Highlanders. The Scot would soon become a key member of the team, the club stayed at Ulsterville for five years before housing development on the ground in 1894 meant that the club had to move on once again. However, this was temporary home. The club stayed here until 1905, when moved into Windsor Park. The clubs first silverware at Windsor arrived in the 1906–07 season and this would be the first of a trio of league titles, with the 1907–08 and 1908–09 league titles to follow. In 1910, team captain Bob Milne left the club with a legacy as one of Linfields best ever players and he had amassed nine Irish Cups, eight league titles, and had earned 27 international caps for Ireland during his time at the club. Another Scot, Marshall McEwan, joined Linfield in 1911 at the age of 26 and he had previously played for Blackpool, Bolton Wanderers and Chelsea. McEwan is perhaps best remembered for his performance in the 1913 Irish Cup final, McEwan retired in 1916, but remained in Belfast and later opened several businesses