Monday 24th August 1998 – Newry Town welcomed the mighty Manchester United to the Showgrounds in a friendly fixture organised to help aid the funding of a new stand at the ground.
United had a vital Champions League preliminary round clash with FC Lodz in Poland two days after the game against Newry, so it was left to United’s fringe players and Reserve team to generate excitement amongst the 7,000 spectators who paid into the game. Incidentally, United won 2-0 on aggregate against FC Lodz to qualify for the group stages of the tournament that season. The rest as they say is history!
Back to the Showgrounds and Newry’s goalscorer supreme Dessie ‘The Hawk’ Gorman stunned United fans in the Showgrounds when he gave the Town an early lead after he was quickest to react in the six yard box following a flick on from Stuart McLean. Then on 21 minutes, McLean’s long free from his own half caught the United defence unawares and sent The Hawk through on goal and the Dundalk native calmly fired past Gibson to double the host’s advantage.
Paul Teather finally gave the United fans something to cheer about when he reduced arrears on 32 minutes, heading Michael Clegg’s pinpoint cross past Town ‘keeper Paul Straney.
In the 46th minute United striker Erik Nevland was pulled down in the box by a Newry defender and Northern Ireland International Philip Mulryne made no mistake from the resulting penalty kick to square the game up at 2-2.
Newry took the lead once more in the 59th minute. Left back Alan Hall broke forward and finished a terrific Newry move initiated by Alan Byrne. But just six minutes later, Chris Casper drew United level after he headed in a corner from Terry Cooke.
You could be forgiven for thinking United would kick on from here and win the match but this resilient Newry team had other ideas. Substitute Any Myler’s brilliant solo effort 16 minutes from time proved to be the winner for The Town. Myler battled his way past United defender Danny Higginbotham and ‘keeper Paul Gibson before slotting home to give his team an unlikely victory over their illustrious opponents and give the Newry faithful a night they would never forget.
Here are photos from the big match below. Click the thumbnails to view larger images.
Do you remember the match? Feel free to share your memories in the comment box below!