Lurgan is one of the oldest Rugby Clubs in Armagh and indeed Ireland; celebrating its 125th anniversary in this the 2005 – 2006 season. Lurgan first fielded a team in 1880. The only surviving records from those early years of Lurgan’s history are two framed photographs of the teams from 1880 and 1900.
In those early years Lurgan played at Soye’s Folly in the town before moving to Annaloiste and then to Toberhewny and the Tandragee Road.
The Great War saw the playing of rugby suspended. In 1919 the Club was reformed and rented the showground in Lurgan Park as a playing pitch. It also obtained the use of changing facilities, including the famous sunken bath, and an entertainments room at Brownlow Castle.
The 1919-20 season saw Lurgan fielding a 2nd XV for the first time. The following season saw the 1st XV appear in their first Cup Final when the met Queen’s University in the final of the Junior Cup. Although beaten in that final the next season heralded a period of great success for the Club.
The 1921-22 season saw the 1st XV win the Past Players’ Cup (Junior League Championship) and the Provincial Towns’ Cup. In the 1924-25 season the 1st XV achieved a remarkable treble of winning the Past Players’ Cup (Junior League Championship), the Provincial Towns’ Cup and the Junior Cup. It is a record that can not be beaten and, to date, has not been equalled. Success continued the following year when the Provincial Towns’ Cup once more returned to Lurgan.
In the 1926-27 season, at the invitation of the IRFU (Ulster Branch) Lurgan entered the Senior League where they acquitted themselves well for 7 years. Retirement of star players made matters difficult for the 1st XV and they re-entered the Junior League in 1933.
The advent of the 2nd World War again saw the suspension of rugby in the town. With the cessation of hostilities rugby once more resumed. Trevor Pollock, the Club’s first Patron, was one of those involved in the re-formation of the Club. Remarkably he had also been involved in reforming the Club at the end of the 1st World War as well.
The Club were soon fielding two teams again and in the 1948-49 season the Club began make an impact in competitive rugby when the 1st XV reached the semi-final of the Past Player’s Cup. The period between 1948 and 1964 was, undoubtedly, the Club’s most successful period. During that time the 1st XV won three Junior League titles, won the Provincial Town’s Cup three times and the Junior Cup once. Additionally they were beaten in four Provincial Towns’ Cup Finals and one Junior Cup Final. The 2nd XV also won the Harden Cup (Minor League Championship) in the 1963-64 season.
The Club entered a 3rd XV in competitive rugby during the 1953-54 season and added a 4th XV in the 1961-62 season. 1964 also saw the Club become landowners when they purchased 6 acres of ground at Toberhewny. Eventually to be named Pollock Park in honour of Mr Trevor Pollock, the ground has seen considerable development over the years. Pollock Park now comprises a Clubhouse, three rugby pitches (one of which is a sand carpet pitch), a floodlit training area, an International class cricket wicket and two artificial cricket wickets.
Lurgan had the foresight to introduce Mini and Youth Rugby in the 1970s but, as with any long-term project, it was to be 1980 before tangible results were felt.
In 1980, to celebrate the Club’s centenary, Lurgan embarked on a major European Tour to Italy. Hosted by the Treviso Club (now Benneton Treviso) the tour to the Rome and Venice areas was a huge success. Lurgan also became the first touring side, from any country, to have visited Treviso. The benefits of the tour in gelling the team became obvious on the Club’s return. The 1st XV gained promotion to Junior League Division 4.
Lurgan’s foresight in introducing Mini and Youth Rugby really began to pay off in the mid 1980s. In the 1983-84 season, with the bulk of the 1st XV drawn from the Club’s successful Under 20 XV of the previous season, Lurgan were narrowly beaten in a play-off for the Junior League Division 5 title. The Club also embarked on their second major International Tour, this time to Canada. Lurgan have continued to tour and be ambassadors for the Armagh area by taking teams to England, Scotland, Isle of Man and the Republic Of Ireland. In 2004 Lurgan undertook a tour to Sweden where they competed in the Stockholm International 10s Tournament where they acquitted themselves well against senior and international touring teams.
The 2002-2003 season also saw tangible success for the Clubs Youth Rugby section with the Under 14s reaching the final of the Youth Plate competition.
Throughout the years Lurgan has very much been a cross-community Club with players from all sections of the community represented in its teams. There has also been a significant Gaelic Football influence at the Club, some players having enjoyed considerable success in both codes.
For a number of years the highlight of pre-season training was a Rugby/Gaelic match. This match was formalised with the introduction of the Silverwood Cup, played for annually between Lurgan and St. Patrick’s GFC, Magheralin. In recent years this fixture has fallen into abeyance due to community tensions in the area in which the club is situated. The club has retained informal and social links with St. Patrick’s GFC and hopes to revive the fixture in the near future.
Lurgan is also a very cosmopolitan club. Along with its home grown Armagh talent the Club has also fielded players from England, Scotland, Wales, America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden.
In 2005 Tag-Rugby was introduced to the club with both males and females participating. This mixed form of rugby proved successful with the team winning cup and league in their first competitive season. This success led to the team being invited to compete in the All-Ireland Finals in Dublin.
At the start of the 2005 – 2006 season Lurgan hosted the Junior Interprovincial match between Ulster and Connacht.
In 1922 Lurgan Cricket Club was formed by the amalgamation of Brownlow and Lurgan YMCA Cricket Clubs. The inaugural President was H C Malcolm, and Leo Donnelly was the first Captain. Until that time Brownlow had played on the ground in Lurgan Park, beside which the Jubilee Fountain now stands, and the YMCA Club had used a field behind Brownlow House. The newly formed club moved to the pitch in the centre of Lurgan Park, where they laid a square and built a wooden pavilion and continued to play (except for a short break) till they joined with Lurgan Rugby Football Club and moved to Pollock Park in 1975. The break was during the Second World War, when so many members joined the services that the club was unable to function properly.
The club was reformed in 1945, and starting from the bottom soon rose to the Senior Qualifying League. Although winning the league several times, there being no promotion or relegation at that level, it was 1952 before they returned to the Senior League, maintaining that status ever since.
Although reaching the final of the Senior Cup on a number of occasions, it was not until 1972 that the 1st XI came out winners. Since then they have repeated that three times, the last being in 2002, as well as being victorious in the All-Ireland Cup three times and sharing the league championship.
Pollock Park is recognised as one of the top grounds in Armagh and Irish Cricket. Many visiting players have commented favourably on the quality of the wicket. Typical of these is the famous South African cricketer Johnty Rhodes, who, playing with a touring party, said it was one of the best strips he had ever batted on. International matches and Cup Finals have been staged at Pollock Park.
For many years the club has had a very positive youth policy. Under an excellent Professional, and with the help of past and senior team members, the club has been able to produce players of quality with bat and ball, some of whom have gone to represent Ireland at International level.
The cricket section not only attempts to help boys and girls to fulfil their potential and become good cricketers but, by example, encourages good sportsmanship on and off the field. This aspect is of prime importance in an age when the attitude of ‘win at all costs or by any means’ is being promoted in so many quarters and has, unfortunately, infiltrated the world of sport.
To the best of their ability the Cricket Section uses the sport to further cross-community harmony. For many years the club has hosted a ‘Kwik Cricket’ competition between all the Primary Schools, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, in the area. This has proved to be a most popular event. During the school summer holidays the club provides coaching sessions for boys and girls each weekday morning. Many young people attend these sessions. While a mixed-sex team has been fielded it is the club’s ambition to field an all girls team. This year the club’s Under 13 side reached the final of their cup while the Under 17 side reached the semi-final.
The senior office of the club is the honorary one of President, supported by a Vice-President. Next to this is the role of Patron, an honorary position bestowed upon a long-serving member in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the club. The current incumbent is Mr Joe Smylie, an octogenarian and a Past President of the club.
The club as a whole is governed by the General Management Committee. This consists of a Chairperson, Honorary Secretary, Honorary Treasurer, 6 elected members and two members nominated from each of the sporting sections. Other than the nominated members all positions on the General Management Committee are subject to election at the club’s AGM.
Each sporting section (Rugby and Cricket) has their own general committee, elected at their AGMs to manage the day to day business of their respective sporting activity. These committees are answerable to and report to the General Management Committee.
Each of the sporting committees has a number of sub-committees dealing with matters affecting youth, sporting, house and ground activities. The committees meet on a minimum of once a month.