Distillery Football Club, or Lisburn Distillery Football Club as they are known these days, boasts a proud history and can list themselves as being one of the oldest football clubs in Ireland, founding members of the Irish Football Association, founding members of the Irish League and founding members of the County Antrim FA.
Since being formed in 1880 the Whites, as they are known due to the colour of their playing kit, have won amongst other trophies 6 Irish League titles, 12 Irish Cups, 1 League Cup, 14 County Antrim Shields and 5 Gold Cups. In 137 seasons the club has also seen relegation, historic European matches, a decade as Irish League nomads when ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland saw them forced to leave their home on the Grosvenor Road in Belfast before moving to their current ground near Lisburn, and regrettably in recent years financial issues have seen The Whites slide down the divisions and at one point almost go out of existence entirely.
Lisburn Distillery have also been true pioneers in Irish football and beyond with the ‘firsts’ achieved by the club including – the first club in Ireland to erect a wooden stand (1887), first team to win a floodlight match in Ireland (1889 against Cliftonville), first Irish team to beat ‘foreign’ opposition away from home (1889 against Newton Heath, now Manchester United), first hat-trick scored by Ireland in an international match was scored by Distillery player Olphie Stanfield (1891 against Wales), the first goal scored direct from a free-kick in Ireland was scored by Distillery player Joe Burnison (1903 against Bohemians), first £1000 player in Irish League football was bought by Distillery (Gerry Bowler from Derry City in 1943), first officially approved competitive match under floodlights in the British Isles took place at Grosvenor Park in March 1953 when Distillery Seconds played Ballymena United Reserves in the George Wilson Cup and the first floodlight league game in the British Isles took place at Grosvenor Park on the 24th December 1953 when Distillery played Coleraine – it wasn’t until Portsmouth played Newcastle in February the following year that a floodlit match took place in England.
As you can see, Lisburn Distillery have a truly remarkable history and in this series of articles we will be delving deeper into this history and revisiting some of those historic moments in the clubs history. Hopefully Whites fans will enjoy reliving those incredible highs and lows and those of you who are hearing about Lisburn Distillery for the first time will hopefully enjoy learning more about a remarkable club.