Saturday 6th October 2018
Steel & Sons Cup Fourth Round
Lisburn Distillery 1 Shankill United 0 HT: 0-0 Att: 70
from New Grosvenor Stadium
I woke up early to get the 07.00 train from Dublin to Belfast. I’d stayed in Dublin overnight following the evening game at historic club Bohemians’ wonderful Dalymount Stadium. The train journey took around two hours and was a scenic pleasant start to a Saturday. The fixture today was still undecided.
Originally it was meant to be the iconic Oval of Glentoran, but their fixture was moved at short notice to the Monday for the TV. I met Tom at Belfast Bus station, who was over just for the day. We discussed the options on a bench, They were Ballymena in the NI top flight, quite a way by train and meant not much flexibility with delays, in terms of getting back to the airport. There were also cup games at Dundela, Bangor and Lisburn Distillery.
Bangor’s ground looked quirky and is also shared with top club Ards, so that was a pull, but there was something about the history and name of Lisburn Distillery that tipped the balance.
Lisburn Distillery were founded in 1880 as just Distillery, east of Belfast in Distillery Street, off Grosvenor Road. They stayed here until 1971, then after sharing for years with first Brantwood and then Crusaders, moved to a permanent new home in Ballyskeagh, Co. Antrim, called the New Grosvenor Stadium. As this moved them further out of Belfast and towards Lisburn, the club added the prefix Lisburn to their name in 1999, to further associate with its adopted (now) City. Fans still tend to call it Distillery though.
The Whites have won the Irish League six times, the last being in 1962-63 and have won the Irish Cup 12 times. They have played in Europe 10 times, the last being in 2010 when they lost 11-1 on aggregate to Georgian side Zestaponi. They drew with Benfica 3-3 in 1963, losing 5-0 in Portugal and in 1971 played Barcelona, losing both legs, 1-7 on aggregate.
We got the local train from the central station in Belfast that goes by the name Lanyon Place. From here it was seven stops to Lambeg. From here it’s a pleasant, very rural, 40 minute walk along the river Lagan towpath and Lagan canal to the ground.
The ground was originally built as a trotting track but was updated for football in 1980. It is called New Grosvenor Park to reflect their former home in east Belfast that was damaged in a fire bomb attack in 1971 and subsequently demolished to make way for a motorway the following year.
This new venue was then also modified for greyhound racing in the mid eighties. The ground actually has a different name with regards the dogs – Drumbo Park. The two sports are run by separate bodies and there is no sharing of spectator facilities. This means that for the football it has a capacity of 7,000 with 540 seated in the main stand, and going round to the covered terrace on the other side. For Greyhound Racing they have the other newer stand, purpose built for greyhound racing, wth a glass fronted seated capacity of 250 and standing in the front paddock for a further 750.
Distillery have fallen down the leagues in the last decade being relegated from the top flight in 2010 and then the Championship in 2013. They now play in the Intermediate Premier league, which is tier three. Opponents today were Northern Amateur League Premier division team Shankill United, near neighbours from West Belfast.
It was an entertaining game but sadly devoid of may goals. Just the one separated the teams, a close range punt from Ferguson after 48 minutes put the hosts through to the fifth round. It was a very friendly club, whose club secretary kindly went out back to fetch me some old club badges and proudly asserted that they’d issued a programme for every match for about hundred years (or thereabouts, don’t quote me on that).