During the autumn of 1918, Newry Town FC was formed and gained entry to a Newry and District Football League that had just been reformed. The new League was comprised of the following clubs: Bessbrook Athletic, Newry United, Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry (Dundalk), Warrenpoint Celtic, Dundalk Town, Damolly Juniors, Warrenpoint United, Royal Field Artilery( Dundalk), and Newry Town.
You often hear of the term ‘double-jobbing’, and during those early years, quite a few Newry Town players did exactly that by dividing their time with The Town and Dundalk GNR AFC (Forerunner of Dundalk FC) who played in the Leinster Senior League. Names like Francis McAvoy, Hugh Tumelty, Terry O’Neill, Willie McKeown , Robert Stanley, Thos Hamilton, and J O’Neill come to mind.
Entry to the Irish League
After a couple of seasons in the Portadown and District League, the Town Management Committee made a momentous decision in 1923, to seek entry to the Irish Senior League.
Newry Town’s inaugural meeting of management as a senior club was held in The White Cross Hotel in Margaret Street, close to the town centre. That important meeting was presided over by Mr JJ Synott. The first Secretary/ Manager of the new senior club was Mr Charles Smyth. Other very prominent names on the legislative side connected with The Town in its formative early years, were John Murphy, Joe Boden, Frank Gallagher and James Fleming.
Probably among the the best remembered players of that senior era from 1923 to 1940 were Jimmy Chambers (capped by Ireland at senior International Level on twelve occasions), John McCaw, Mickey Short, Eddie and Frank Carroll, Jimmy Twomey, Tommy Breen, Bob Hamilton, Bob Turley, Albert Hughes, Neil McIvor, Eric Cassidy Sam Roberts, Arthur Peters, Bill Sydall, Willie Lyness, Paddy Duffy, Bob Bryson and the magical Bill Redfern.
There is very little doubt that Newry Town were a very attractive side in many of those pre World War 2 days but unfortunately only managed to win one trophy in senior soccer – the Mid Ulster Senior Cup in the 1936-37 season.
Post World War two
From 1940 to the end of World War 2 in 1945 the Newry club became practically dormant.
The Irish Intermediate League ceased to operate at the end of the 1953-54 season and Newry, after failing to gain admittance to The Irish B League Championship, were forced to make an application to join the Irish Alliance League.
The early sixties were very much a re-building period for the Town and were notable for the substantial transfer fees received by the club. Peter Watson joined Aston Villa for a fee of £1500.00 and the great Pat Jennings went to Watford FC for a fee of £5600.00.
During 1974-75, the Town, inspired by manager Jackie McCullough and talented footballers such as Alan Flavelle, Maurice McAnulty, Willie Forbes, Matt Laverty, Marty Mulloy and George Burke won the Mid Ulster Cup and The Irish B League Championship (South Section).
Roy Welsh was quickly chosen to replace Jimmy Brown as team boss at the Showgrounds and the former Distillery star immediately began to prepare our club for that long awaited return to the higher grade of senior soccer. What a fantastic choice he turned out to be. Roy had two and a half tremendous seasons at Newry, capped by that wonderful double triumph in 1980/81 when the B League Championship and the Intermediate Cup came back again to the Frontier Town.
That rejection by the Irish League had thrown Newry Town into some disarray during the 1981-82 and the 1982-83 seasons, but the almost unbelievable happened at the end of the 1982-83 season when the club was dramatically and sensationally co-opted to membership of the Irish Senior League. The closed shop policy of the Irish League, that had repeatedly blocked Newry’s yearly applications for membership of the senior set up since 1947, had at long last been shattered. A proposal from Linfield FC that Newry Town and Carrick Rangers should be co-opted was accepted by the Irish League. Why oh why, Newry hadn’t achieved that co-option a couple of years earlier, nobody seems to know.
Newry battled bravely and courageously in the senior grade until 1985 when Matt Bradley arrived as player manager.
At the beginning of the 1996 season Newry were facing some serious financial circumstances, when a local businessman Joe Rice joined the Management Committee.
Anderson, who only the season before, had managed Linfield to a great Irish Senior League triumph, was amazingly walking away from Windsor Park to join lowly Newry Town. His decision to do this had shocked local football.
In the 2nd Rd. (1st Leg) The Town lost 2-0 away at Duisburg in Germany, but at the Showgrounds, Newry were again superb in the return leg beating Duisburg by 1-0 but lost the tie on goal aggregate. Particularly against the German Premier League Bundesliga side, this Newry formation had covered itself in real glory.
The new Millenium
The first couple of seasons in the new Millennium saw battles against relegation and this period culminated in a relegation/ promotion play off tie against Bangor in May 2003. The 1st Leg was drawn 0-0 at Bangor but in the 2nd leg at the Showgrounds with just nine minutes remaining the Town were level at 1-1. Had this scoreline remained until the final whistle, Newry would have lost the overall tie on the away goals rule and the club would have been relegated. Robbie Brunton however scored from a 81st minute penalty and preserved the club’s place in the top grade.
Roy McCreadie was appointed manager very early in January 2004 and it was during his reign that the club historically decided to change its name from Town to City. The Town of Newry had been accorded City status in 2002 and pressure came to bear on the club’s board of management from sponsors and other commercial sources to make the change. The change was perhaps almost inevitable, but it was a move that wasn’t universally popular with all the fans.
During his tenure the Mid Ulster Cup was won and the final of the Co-Operative Insurance Cup was reached during during February 2009, only to lose 1-0 to Portadown. Just when the club and Gerry seemed to be performing very well, the completely unexpected happened during September 2009 and he rather dramatically and surprisingly, just minutes after his team had defeated Coleraine in a thrilling Carling Premiership match at The Showgrounds, resigned from his post.
Flynn was dismissed by the club directors early in the year 2011 and former player Robbie Casey took over as temporary boss, before Pat McGibbon was engaged as manager, during February 2011. McGibbon’s appointment didn’t prevent the club’s relegation to Championship 1 at the end of the 2010-11 season.
A major ominous black cloud was also rapidly developing in the background, with former manager Gerry Flynn, who had taken legal action against Newry City FC Ltd. for wrongful dismissal and breach of contract regarding his sacking. This claim and the refusal of Newry City FC Ltd. to pay damages and compensation resulted in the club’s membership of the IFA being terminated during September 2012.
A new dawn
Fortunately, after a few months, a group of dedicated city people, with the club’s interests in their hearts held a couple of public meetings and the club was reformed with a new name — Newry City Athletic Football Club– during March 2013.
In July 2013, the club was accepted as a member of the Mid Ulster Football League -Intermediate B.
The club was now back in the Danske Bank Premiership after four incredible promotions achieved under the magnificent leadership and guidance of an outstanding manager Darren Mullen.
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