Dromore Amateurs FC are celebrating their 60th anniversary.
The club plays at Ferris Park in the town. The first team competes in Mid-Ulster Intermediate B while the second team plays in Mid-Ulster Reserve Division Four.
Dromore has competed in the Northern Amateur League (1958-1964); Lisburn League (1965-1972); Northern Amateur League (1972-2017); and Mid-Ulster Football League (2017-present).
Dromore Amateurs Football and Recreation Club held its first meeting on Tuesday, August 12, 1958.
This was effectively a reforming of an earlier Dromore Amateurs – which had competed in the Northern Amateur League from 1932 to 1937 – combined with another team, Dromore Recreation, who supplied the pitch, Mountview Park, and the bulk of the playing squad for the newly-established team.
At that first AGM, the following appointments were made: president - D J Kane;
chairman – James Kirkwood;
vice chairman – William Bingham;
secretary – Matthew Forsythe;
treasurer – James Fullerton; committee – Robert Cowdy, William Gourley, Willie Cargin, Willie Mulligan, Sam Wilkinson, Bertie Coulter, James Beattie, Jack Donaldson, Willie Murray.
It was a dream start for everyone involved with Dromore Amateurs when the newly-formed team took to the pitch on August 23, 1958 for their first competitive game.
On home soil, at Mountview Park, the Dromore men demolished their opponents, Harland and Wolff Staff, with an impressive 8-3 victory.
Fortune did, however, shine kindly on the Amateurs that day.
The Leader reported: “One knows that to record a victory in their first match is a morale booster and although the locals got off to a flying start they were somewhat fortunate as the visitors were three players short for the first 20 minutes, during which time Dromore knocked up four goals.”
The goalscorers were H McDonald (2), J Boyle (2), J Cunningham (2), J Mulgrew and C Donaldson.
It was a sensational first season for Dromore in the Second Division, C Section of the Northern Amateur League.
They went unbeaten in the league until March 28, 1959 when they lost 3-0 to Comber Rec Seconds.
The Amateurs played 13 games in the final four weeks and were crowned champions with a record of P43 W34 D4 L5 Pts72. Herbert (Hooker) McDonald was the leading goalscorer with 52 goals in 41 games, including seven hat tricks or better.
A restructuring of the leagues saw Dromore promoted to the Second Division, A Section for the 1959/60 season.
They might have been playing in a higher division, but the Amateurs were still a force to be reckoned with. Their fine form saw them progress to the semi final of the Irish Junior Cup. There were six rounds of competition before Dromore got to the final four. Along the way they despatched Ashfield (4-0), Rathfriland Strollers (4-1), Fivemiletown United (3-1), Lower Shankill OB (3-2), Broadway (3-0), and Sion Mills (3-1).
Dromore travelled to Mourneview Park, Lurgan on Saturday, April 2, 1960 for their semi-final showdown with Murray’s Recreation without their prolific goal-scorer H McDonald as it was his wedding day!
The Amateurs were firm favourites against opponents who played two divisions below them – but, according to The Leader, the occasion proved too big for Dromore, and Murray’s Rec won 3-2 after extra time (the Amateurs’ goalscorers were J Boyle and J Cunningham).
Dromore recovered from this disappointment to finish runners up in 2A, three points behind Ewart’s Recreation, who they beat 1-0 in the last game of the season with a goal from S Shields.
Ugly scenes led to withdrawal
A violent clash with Belfast Newsboys in 1964 was the catalyst for Dromore Amateurs to take the radical decision to immediately leave the Northern Amateur League (2A) on account of player safety.
At Mountview Park on September 26, the Amateurs were trailing 2-1 in the second half. The Newsboys were down to nine men, after two red cards.
“A rough element entered into the game and many of the Dromore team were roughly handled, resulting in injury in some cases,” reported The Leader.
John ‘Bronco’ Lane equalised for the Amateurs, and just when it looked like Dromore would grab a winner, “the Newsboys resorted to desperate tactics, a Dromore man losing two teeth in a melee”.
The game finished 2-2
with the Amateurs also
reduced to nine men.
Afterwards, at a special meeting, the committee decided the club would end its participation in the Northern Amateur League “as the safety of the players had to be the first consideration”.
The team on that fateful day was: R Lindsay, C Lindsay, A Brown, R McMurray, R Gracey, A Davidson, R Ervine, J Lane, C Donaldson, J Donaldson, C Bingham.
The next year, 1965/66, the Amateurs gained admission to the Lisburn and District Amateur Football League ‘A’ Section, winning the league and two other cups in their debut season.
Back-to-back league titles and a thrilling victory in cup final
It’s a era of the Amateurs which is still fondly remembered today – the early 1970s when Dromore was one of the top Junior teams in the country.
Having spent seven seasons in the Lisburn and District Amateur Football League, the Mountview Park men moved back to the Northern Amateur League, 2B, for the 1972/73 season.
It was to prove a successful switch – the Amateurs sweeping all before them in a devastating march to the league crown.
Goals, goals, goals ... the Amateurs knocked them in for fun and racked up some impressive scorelines: The Vale (5:1), Courtaulds (7-0), Blue Circle (8-2); Greenisland (8-1), Queen’s University Seconds (10-2), Courtaulds (6-0, J Lane scored 5), St Nicholas (6-2) and Michelin (11-1).
In February 1973, a 9-0 blitz on Loughview FC took Dromore’s goal tally to 150 with five games left. The team that day was: D Beattie, D Evans, D Hamilton, W Gamble, B Mulholland, J Cochrane, W McVeigh, J Gregg, J Lane, R McMurray, C Bingham. Sub: F Davidson.
With the 2B league title already secured, Dromore went on the hunt for more silverware when they travelled to Cliftonville on Wednesday, May 9, 1973 to take on 2A runners-up British Enkalon in the final of the Cochrane Corry Cup. It was an evenly matched contest, Enkalon going ahead before the Amateurs equalised through Ronnie McMurray. But Dromore hearts were broken when, in extra time, Enkalon snatched a decisive goal to win 2-1.
The Amateurs, however, were not to be denied the following year, and in the most illustrious season in Dromore’s history, manager Stanley Poots guided the team to a spectacular league and Cochrane Corry Cup double.
The key to their success during that 1973/74 season in league 2A was, once again, their ability to score goals ... and plenty of them!
The Amateurs banged in over 200 goals on their way to the league title, which was clinched on Monday, May 20, 1974 with a 4-1 victory over Holywood Town.
Forty-eight hours later, on Wednesday, May 22, 1974, Dromore lifted the Cochrane Corry Cup after beating Harland and Wolff Welders 4-3 in Comber.
The Welders proved formidable opposition with their physical approach and a well-drilled offside trap.
“However,” said The Leader, “the superior skill of the Dromore side plus the individual flair of some of the players proved decisive and left Dromore winners by 4-3.”
Stanley Poots’ double-winning squad that season was: Charles Waddell, Walter McVeigh, Davy Evans, Campbell Allen, Derek Corbett, John Lane, David Kernoghan, Jim Gregg, Clifford Bingham, Jim Cochrane, Will Gamble, Ronnie McMurray, Colin Shields, Brian Mulholland and Freddie Davidson.
The jubilation following their incredible trophy success was tempered somewhat over the summer when it was confirmed that Dromore would not be promoted to the first division because Mountview Park did not meet the required standard.
The Amateurs thereafter flitted between Divisions 2A and 2B until 1986 when their application for the newly-created Division 1C was accepted – the first time Dromore Amateurs Football Club took its place amongst the ranks of intermediate football.
In 2017/18, the club left the Northern Amateur League and now plays in the Mid-Ulster League.