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
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
Crusaders Football Club is a Northern Irish semi-professional football club, playing in the NIFL Premiership. The club, founded in 1898, hails from Belfast and plays its matches at Seaview. Club colours are red and black, the current manager is former player Stephen Baxter, who is the clubs longest serving manager, having been appointed in 2005. Crusaders played intermediate football until 1949, and during time they were one of the top non-league teams in the country. The withdrawal of Belfast Celtic from the ranks in 1949 resulted in Crusaders being elected in their place in time for the start of the 1949–50 season. The clubs fierce rivals are Cliftonville, matches between the two clubs are known as the North Belfast derby. Rivalries also exist with other Belfast sides such as Linfield and Glentoran, Crusaders Football Club was formed in the year 1898, with the exact date unknown. Many names were suggested for the club, including Rowan Star, Cultra United, Mervue Wanderers, Moyola, and others such as Queens Rovers, thomas Palmer felt that a name of more international significance should be adopted and he suggested Crusaders, after the medieval Christian knights. Initially the club was able to undertake friendly fixtures until it was admitted to one of the local junior leagues. Players were compelled to pay a fee of two pence before they could take the field. It was strictly no pay-no play, the very first competitive game of which there is any existing record was on 10 December 1898. It came in the North Belfast Alliance against opponents named Bedford at Alexandra Park and reports state that, in addition, the side were very successful in the top junior cup competition, the Steel & Sons Cup, winning the competition on seven occasions as a junior side. The side also reached the Irish Cup semi finals three times in the 1920s, the first came in the 1923–24 season, where they were defeated by that seasons Irish League champions Queens Island in a replay at Pirrie Park. In the 1924–25 season the Crues knocked out senior sides Larne and they reached the semi-finals once again in 1927, losing 2–4 at home to derby rivals Cliftonville. The Crues also reached the final of the Belfast Charities Cup in 1923, also an achievement as the competition was open to all senior clubs in Belfast. Despite these feats, all applications for entry to the senior Irish League were turned down, the frustration was such that consideration was given to making application either to the Scottish Football League or to the League of Ireland. The Second World War meant that there was no football played by the Crues between April 1941 and September 1945, Crusaders began competing once more in the Intermediate League after the war, beginning with the 1945–46 season. Morrison would also go on to be the top scorer of their first senior season with 11 goals in all competitions
Newry City F.C.
Newry City Football Club was a Northern Irish football club founded in 1918 and dissolved in 2012. It was based in Newry, County Down and played its matches at the Showgrounds. Club colours were blue and white, the formation of a new club called Newry City Athletic was finalised in March 2013, with the club starting life in the Mid-Ulster Football League for the 2013–14 season. The club was known as Newry Town - it was renamed in 2004. The club was formed in the autumn of 1918 and played its first season in the Newry and District League, the following season, Newry finished second in the league and joined the more competitive and higher standard Portadown and District League in 1921. In 1923, the applied to join the Irish League and on 20 July 1923 the club was admitted on a unanimous vote. The club played originally at the Marshes until the 1946-47 season, when a factory was built on the site, the club used this money to develop a new ground - the Showgrounds - adjacent to the Marshes, which opened at the start of the 1948-49 season. The Irish League was suspended because of the Second World War in 1940, when the Irish League resumed in 1947, it was with twelve rather than fourteen members, Newry and Larne losing their places. Newry played instead in the Irish Intermediate League until 1954, when the league folded due to the loss of members to the Irish League B Division, Newry, along with Dundela and Carrick Rangers failed to be accepted as B Division members and instead joined the Irish Alliance League. Newry were Alliance champions for the three seasons, before eventually securing admission to the B Division in 1957. In 1957-58, the Intermediate Cup was won for the first time, a feat repeated in 1966-67, in 1963, Pat Jennings was sold to Watford for £5,600. Newry won the Southern section of the B Division in 1974-75, a double was achieved in 1980-81, when Town won the B Division and the Intermediate Cup. On the back of this success, the applied to join the Irish League in 1981. The clubs most successful period was the late 1990s, after winning the First Division in the 1997–98 season, the club managed to finish fourth in the Premier Division, thus qualifying for the Intertoto Cup. In this, their first ever appearance in European competition, Newry Town were drawn against the Croatian side Hrvatski Dragovoljac, a 1–0 defeat in Croatia was followed by an historic 2–0 win at home to send the club into the second round. There they met Bundesliga side MSV Duisburg, again, Newry were drawn away in the first leg, coming away with a respectable 2–0 defeat to the German professionals. A 1–0 win at home was not enough to force extra time, since the 1999–2000 season, the club went into decline, culminating in a last-place finish in the league in 2002–03. However, thanks to the restructuring of the Irish Football League they were given the chance to avoid relegation, a 0–0 away draw and a 2–1 home win kept the club in the top flight
Portadown Football Club is a semi-professional, Northern Irish football club which plays in the NIFL Premiership. The club was founded in 1887 as a team looking to participate in the Mid-Ulster Cup. They eventually joined the Irish League with the help of local clubs in 1924. They are based in Portadown in County Armagh and play their games at Shamrock Park. The clubs colours are red and white, their home kit consists of red shirts, red shorts and red socks with white trim on all, the clubs main rivals are Glenavon with their derby game being known as the Mid Ulster Derby. The league fixtures are compiled each season so that one of their league meetings always takes place on Boxing Day, the club is also bitter rivals with Glentoran. Ronnie McFall served the club for 29 years as manager from 1986 to 2016, in 1887 the Mid Ulster Football Association was established and in Portadown a young group of men set about creating a football club to participate in the Mid-Ulster Cup. Early meetings of the committee were held in a dimly lit room for the Young Mens Institute in Edwards Street in Portadown where club secretary William Mullen would read the minutes by candlelight. Early games were played at Tavanagh and Ripleys Field, Armagh Road and Old Shamrock Park, among the early names to turn out for The Ports were Val Wilson who would later become High Sheriff for County Armagh and Harry Bell, whose father owned brickworks on the Armagh Road. They won the Irish Junior Cup beating Larne at Grosvenor Park on 18 March 1899 and that same season The Ports won their first ever cup double by bringing home the Mid-Ulster Cup for the first time. Portadown retained the trophy the following season and the five seasons before the outbreak of World War 1. The junior game was strong in the town at the time and The Ports had to compete for talent with teams such as Edenderry Arrows, Greenview from Edgarstown, Portadown Celtic. Portadown is the one of those clubs that remains today. In 1916 the new Irish Intermediate League was formed and Portadown were selected as one of the clubs for the new competition. However, they were forced to withdraw due to the number of players who had gone off to fight in the Great War. With the return of the men from the war the clamour for senior football was growing. The many junior clubs in that area put aside their rivalry with The Ports to back the bid to join the Irish League. This was in a time of expansionism in Irish Football with the league keen to take the game beyond the boundary of Belfast, the only team who were in the league at the time were bitter rivals Glenavon
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