Loughgall Football Club

Hilbert Willis with his son at Loughgall Football Ground in 2013

Hilbert Willis with his son at Loughgall Football Ground in 2013

Loughgall Football Team in mid 1900s

Loughgall Football Team in mid 1900s

Loughgall   Football Club dates back to the late 1880s. We are told by G. H. Bassett in   his book ‘County Armagh’ that in 1888 a football club had already been   established for three years, had thirty members and ‘flourishes upon a   subscription of two shillings per member’. Mr S. H. Orr was the captain. The   club has flourished over the years, with their highest accolades being   achieved in the 2003/04 season when they were promoted to the Premier League.   Although this success was short lived and in the succeeding years the club   experienced tragedy and disappointment, Loughgall still has a loyal core of   supporters, none more so than its oldest and longest serving supporter,   Hilbert Willis. By 2013, Hilbert, almost 90 and pictured here on the pitch   with his son, had missed no more than five or six games, home or away, in   over 40 years. During all of that time he devoted time and energy to the   cultivation of the Lakeview Park playing surface. When he started, the place   was little more than a field and a set of posts. Hilbert has been awarded   honorary life membership of the club, the first person to be given this   honour. He considers his commitment to the club as a small payment in return   for the hours of enjoyment provided by the ‘Villagers’ as the team is locally   referred to. Hilbert’s son Leslie has now taken over the reins under the   ‘very watchful’ eye of his father, and has obviously been trained well as he   was awarded the Championship Groundsman of the Year in 2013, an award won by   his father on two occasions. An amusing tale from the 1970s, but perhaps not   considered amusing at the time, was the ‘cow pat’ saga. The club had been   using the field during the football season for generations in partnership   with first the Copes and later the Ministry of Agriculture who both used it   for grazing out of season. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Agriculture, who   disputed ownership, did not take the cattle off in time for the football   season. It brought a whole new meaning to ‘a sliding tackle’, and troubled   waters were only calmed when the Minister of Agriculture, Harry West, himself   came down from Stormont. It was later determined that the ground had been   gifted by the Copes and thus belonged to the village.
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