By Jim Campbell
In this article I recall the day almost sixty three years ago, when Newry Town played an Irish Cup second round tie against a powerful Glenavon side at the Showgrounds, in front of a record breaking 10, 000 crowd. The gate receipts of £525 (worth £12075 in today’s money) was also a record.
The date was Saturday, March 2, 1957 and the memories of that historic cup tie became permanently engraved in my schoolboy mind at that time.
Newry had qualified to play in the Irish Cup for the first time since 1940 and the town was buzzing with excitement for weeks ahead of the game.
Could Newry shock the football world and beat this fantastic Glenavon team with all its superstars such as Cush, Jones, Elwood, Corr, Campbell and McVeigh?
I vividly remember standing outside Woolworths’ front door in the town centre with a dozen or so other students from Newry Technical School when town star Pat Curtis came along and we were literally over the moon when our hero took the time to stop and talk to us about the game. He told us that the team was confident of success and reminded us that another Alliance League club Dundela had beaten Glenavon in the final of the Irish cup just two years earlier.
The town had a pre match defensive problem with Jimmy McKinven doubtful on the injured list so an urgent transfer of Teddie Harte was arranged with Banbridge Town FC (There was no such thing as transfer windows in those days).
There was a severe shortage of petrol, particularly in the Newry area so dozens of town fans living in the outlying hinterland had to use bicycles to get to the game.
The huge contingent of Glenavon fans travelled to the Showgrounds by bus, car and train.
One of the entrance gates at the Showgrounds collapsed under the pressure from the huge crowd before kick off and I reckon a hundred or so fans got in free of charge before the town management got the situation under control.
The town opened brightly and took the lead in the 15th minute of the game. The home fans erupted when NI Junior International star Pat Curtis collected a brilliant pass from the diminutive Jimmy Gallagher and slammed a magnificent twenty five yarder into the top corner past Roy Rea in the Glenavon goal.
But thereafter this star studded Glenavon side upped their game and ran out 4-1 winners – although this match was much closer than the scoreline would suggest. The battle between the two hard men – Wilbur Cush for Glenavon and Gerry Robinson for Newry in the midfield area was a feature. The two of them kicked lumps out of each other for almost the entire 90 minutes.
Newry Town’s panel for the historic game was: Jim Parkhill, Albert Black, Teddie Harte, Stanley Kidd, Jimmy McKinvin, Jackie Bowers, Gerry Robinson, Jimmy Gallagher, Billy Hewitt, Jimmy Edgar, Pat Curtis, Stevie Mallon, Derek O’Brien, and Eddie McGivern.
Glenavon: Rea, Armstrong, Lyske, Corr, Davis, Cush, Wilson, McVeigh, Jones, Campbell, and Elwood.
Referee: Mr C Flanagan (Sheffield)