Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

Distillery's heroes of 1963 make a meal of celebrating title glory

1963 Distillery v Linfield
1963 Distillery v Linfield

Strong men could shed tears on Saturday night at a dinner in New Grosvenor social club at Ballyskeagh, when footballers of yesterday gather to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1962-63 season when Distillery won the Irish League Championship.

And here's a picture from the past, as captain George White lifts the Gibson Cup on high at the original Grosvenor Park in Belfast, where the club used to play, after The Whites clinched the title by beating Linfield 4-2.

Distillery went on to draw 3-3 with mighty Benfica in a European Cup tie, which had to be switched to Windsor Park to accommodate the 20,000 who turned up on the terraces, as I recalled a week or two ago.

In fact, it was this story that led to the discovery in old files of this vintage picture of White showing off the Gibson Cup to supporters in the stand at Grosvenor.

Benfica won the second leg of that European Cup tie in Portugal, but who cares, and, anyway, Saturday's nosh-up will be all about winning the league title 50 years ago – the last time Distillery topped the table.

The club is now known as Lisburn Distillery and play at New Grosvenor, and former players such as Joe Meldrum, who scored 49 goals that season, will be among the guests when the toast will be to the late George Eastham, who was the manager.

The dinner is taking place after the current crop of Lisburn Distillery players take on Portadown on Saturday afternoon and former goalkeeper Jack Kennedy and veteran team men from half-a-century ago – such as Syd Patterson, John Kennedy, Derek Meldrum, Phil Scott, Ken Hamilton, Gerry McCaffrey, Roy Welsh, John Anderson and Jim Burke – will be there at table, and probably in the stands for the game, too.

Sadly, captain White, who lives in Canada, can't make it home for the bash, and Billy Campbell, who lives in Motherwell, can't make the dinner either, but current club chairman Jim Greer is looking forward to the event.

He can remind me that Hamilton scored 27 goals that season and McCaffrey netted 13, with Welsh getting 12.

Distillery also won the City Cup in 1962-63 and nearly pulled off a great treble – only to be beaten in the final of the Irish Cup by Linfield.

The do is being organised by the Grosvenor Whites and Lisburn Whites Supporters Club, assisted by Terry Thompson, the current treasurer of the club.

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