When Newry City Football Club was wound up in September 2012, a group of dedicated fans got together with the aim of providing Newry City with a football club again. Following the hard work of these suporters, Newry City Athletic Football Club was officially launched in March 2013.
The club was originally founded as Newry Town FC in 1918 and immediately gained entry to the Newry and District Football League, which had just been formed.
Three years later, in 1921, Newry joined the Portadown and District League 1st Division, before being accepted into the Senior Irish League in 1923, which the club played in until the outbreak of war in 1939.
The Town rejoined the Irish league after the war in an amateur capacity and enjoyed sporadic success over the next four decades – Two ‘B’ division titles, several triumphs in the Mid Ulster Shield and Intermediate Cup were the highlights for Newry until they regained their senior status over 40 years later.
In 1983, Newry and Carrick Rangers were the beneficiaries when the Irish League decided to increase membership to 14 teams. Newry held their own in the top flight for the first couple of seasons but it was introduction of player-manager Matt Bradley in March of 1986 that yielded Newry’s first notable success in senior football.
Helped by the clinical striking partnership struck up by Derrybeg man Marty Magee and Dundalk native Ollie Ralph, the man nicknamed by Newry fans as ‘Messiah Matt’ guided the club to the semi final of the Irish Cup, the Gold Cup final, victory in the Mid Ulster Shield and famously helped guide the club to their first major trophy in the 1987/88 season. This was achieved when goals from Marty Magee and Eamon Hawkins helped Newry defeat Ballymena United 2-1 at the Oval to lift the County Antrim Shield.
The following years drew a blank and Newry slipped into the doldrums of the First Division. But when local business man Joe Rice was appointed as chairman at the Showgrounds in October 1996, Newry Town re-emerged with one of the most successful periods in the club’s history.
Newry won the Irish League First Division in 1997/98 season and the following season the Town finished 4th in the Irish Premier League, thus qualifying for the Uefa Inter Toto Cup. During this tournament the Town beat Croation side Hrvatski Dragovoljac in the first round, 2-1 on aggregate following a 2-0 win at The Showgrounds. In the second round Newry met Bundesliga giants Duisberg FC, but were unlucky to lose 2-1 on aggregate.
Newry remained in the top flight in the years that followed, but struggled to reach the heights which they attained in their first few seasons back in top flight football. In fact, Newry finished bottom of the Irish Premier League in 2002/03. However, thanks to the restructuring of the Irish Football League they were given the chance to avoid relegation, with a play-off against Bangor over two legs. A 0–0 away draw and a 2–1 home win kept the club in the top flight.
Newry also won the Mid Ulster Cup in 1999/00 and more recently in 2006/07. City, as they were known by now (The name was changed to Newry City Football Club in 2004, two years after Newry obtained city status), then reached their first major final in over 20 years in 2008/09 season where they were defeated 1-0 by Portadown in Mourneview Park in the final of the CIS Cup.
The club were then relegated to The Championship in 2011 after finishing bottom of the Irish League Premiership. City were unfortunate not to get promoted back to the Premiership at the first attempt, after finishing runners-up in the league behind Ballinamallard United. Newry’s second place league finish was rewarded with a two legged play off with Lisburn Distillery, who finished second from bottom in the IFA Premiership. City gave a great account of themselves but alas lost out 3-2 on aggregate. However, silverware did return to the Showgrounds the same season as the club went on to win both the Mid-Ulster Cup and the Coca Cola Intermediate Cup.
Newry City Football Club folded in 2012, but thanks to the hard work behind the scenes of numerous people, Newry City Athletic Football Club began playing from the Showgrounds again from summer 2013 under the stewardship of local man Darren Mullen, and lifted the Mid Ulster Intermediate B league title in the club’s very first season.
Newry were subsequently promoted to Mid Ulster Intermediate A for the 2014-15 season, finishing in fifth position. But the following season proved to be much more successful as the club won the Premier Cup with victory in the final over Fivemiletown United in December 2015, before going on to clinch the Mid Ulster Intermediate A title in May 2016 – which secured Newry’s promotion back to the ranks of Irish League football in just three short years.
In August 2016, Newry City AFC proudly took their place in the newly formed NIFL Intermediate League, the third tier of Irish League football. Following a hard fought league campaign Darren Mullen’s side were unlucky to miss out on the Intermediate League title, finishing as runners up in the Division. But all was not lost as their second place league finish secured a Promotion/Relegation Play-Off with Armagh City, who finished second from bottom in the NIFL Championship. Over the two legs Newry proved too strong for the Orchard men, finishing up as resounding 7-1 victors and in the process clinching a place NIFL Championship.
The following year City’s meteoric rise from the ashes was complete when the club gained promotion to the Premiership at the very first attempt. For the second successive season Newry finished runners up in their division, thus securing another Promotion/Relegation Play-Off, this time taking on Carrick Rangers in the crucial two legged affair.
Newry fans feared the worst in the opening leg at a packed Newry Showgrounds when City fell 2-0 arrears early on, before a mounting a superb comeback to win the game 3-2. All the goals came in the first half with Carrick going 2-0 in front thanks to headed finishes from Darren Henderson and Paddy McNally. But Mark McCabe pulled one back and Stephen Hughes levelled, before Man of the Match Declan Carville hit the winner with a penalty.
Newry finished the job off in the away leg with a classy 3-1 win to prevail 6-3 on aggregate. Carrick again took the lead early doors but Newry soon hit back to level the score on the night when Stephen Hughes slotted home from the penalty spot. In the second half goals from Mark McCabe and Mark Hughes sealed the deal and in the process secured Newry’s place in the top flight of Northern Irish football.
Senior honours (As Newry Town/City)
Irish League First Division (Tier 2): 1
County Antrim Shield: 1
Mid-Ulster Cup: 14
1936–37, 1956–57, 1963–64, 1966–67, 1968–69, 1974–75, 1977–78, 1978–79, 1984–85, 1986–87, 1989–90, 1999–00, 2006–07, 2011–12
Intermediate honours (As Newry Town/City)
Irish League B Division: 2
Irish Intermediate Cup: 4
1957–58, 1966–67, 1980–81, 2011–12
Bob Radcliffe Cup: 2
(As Newry City AFC)
Mid Ulster Intermediate A: 1
Mid Ulster Intermediate B: 1
Premier Cup: 1
*As of December 2016, you can now download a comprehensive history of Newry Town/City/City AFC, which was excellently compiled by Newry stalwart Jim Campbell. To download the document, click the link below.