| 8.3°C Belfast


Billy Weir

How Distillery's League Cup win nine years ago today was the last of the good times at New Grosvenor

Billy Weir



Close

Celebrations: Scott Davidson and David Cushley on a glory day for Lisburn Distillery

Celebrations: Scott Davidson and David Cushley on a glory day for Lisburn Distillery

Paul Kirk, Gary Browne and Curtis Allen celebrate their win at Windsor.

Paul Kirk, Gary Browne and Curtis Allen celebrate their win at Windsor.

Celebrations: Scott Davidson and David Cushley on a glory day for Lisburn Distillery

Nine years ago, Lisburn Distillery fans cheered from the rafters of Mourneview Park as they beat Portadown to win the Co-operative Insurance Cup final.

No, this is not a cruel April Fools joke a day late, this red letter day for the Whites came on April 2, 2011 but it is fair to say that life for the Ballyskeagh club has been no laughing matter since.

As we stand, and may well be for some time, the club is languishing in eighth spot in the Bluefin Sport Premier Intermediate League - effectively the third division of local football.

The memories of that League Cup success are still the stuff of folklore down Drumbo way, when Tommy Wright's side recovered from a Matthew Tipton wonder strike (that's what the report says, he may have written it himself) to turn the game on its head with goals from two super-subs - Scott Davidson and David Cushley.

It was fairytale stuff, Cushley winning it with what was to become a trademark solo effort and helping bring the curtain down on 41-year-old Glenn Ferguson's career with yet another trophy - the 30th of his extraordinary glittering glory-laden story.

Back then, Distillery doing rather well was quite a common occurrence, Wright taking up the amazing job started by Paul Kirk, who had a rather annoying habit of giving the 'big boys' a bloody nose.

The previous season, the first of the new all-singing, a wee-bit-of-dancing NIFL Premiership, Kirk guided the Whites to fourth place.

Included in that was a memorable win over champions Linfield at Windsor Park, thanks to goals from Gary Browne and Curtis Allen.

Close

Paul Kirk, Gary Browne and Curtis Allen celebrate their win at Windsor.

Paul Kirk, Gary Browne and Curtis Allen celebrate their win at Windsor.

Paul Kirk, Gary Browne and Curtis Allen celebrate their win at Windsor.

What they wouldn't do to have talent such as those two at their disposal now.

And they were just a brace of a team brimming with quality and potential but, and it opened the floodgate on a tsunami of cock-ups, it was to end suddenly and controversially.

Kirk was told at the end of the season that he was surplus to requirements, just as he was readying himself to begin preparations to take the Whites into the Europa League.

Yes kids, you read it right, into Europe.

"I am shocked at being sacked. To qualify for Europe and not get the opportunity to take the club into Europe is a bitter blow," Kirk said at the time.

"I felt we were building a team capable of winning a trophy," he added and he was right, only he wasn't at the helm.

After 13 years at the club, Jimmy Brown was the person who was tasked with an impossible mission, trying to replace a man who was part of the furniture at Ballyskeagh.

I bumped into 'Kirker' a few years ago and he reminded me of a tale when he was shown the door with a director saying that they 'wanted to take the club in a different direction'.

Well, they certainly succeeded!

Brown, despite all his experience and nous, was on a hiding to nothing and wisely got out of Dodge City, with Wright coming in.

His tenure was to end abruptly too, when he went to become Steve Lomas' assistant at St Johnstone - I wonder what Tommy is doing now?

John Cunningham was the new man at New Grosvenor and he kept the Whites in the Premiership, but at the end of the season the board again felt that another new direction was needed. That man was Tim McCann, but the rot had well and truly set in and he couldn't save them, eventually tumbling out of the Premiership thanks to a goal from one of their own, Gary Liggett, in a 2-0 defeat at Ballymena United.

McCann was sacked and the managerial revolving door has been going round like a hyper-active hamster on a wheel ever since.

Nine years on since that trophy win and things aren't good. Stephen Hatfield was dispensed with after a horrendous run and former player Johnny Clapham appointed.

But, and it just seems to be the way of things at Distillery, he has yet to meet, let alone work with, his new players because of the coronavirus.

It is yet another extraordinary twist in the rise and catastrophic fall of one of our grand old clubs.

They have been around in various guises and locations since 1880, the former workers of the Dunville Distillery starting a team and thus Distillery was born.

It has been a long and at times tough journey, highlights such as European games with Benfica and Barcelona, but now rubbing shoulders with Banbridge and Bangor.

Clapham is a highly-rated coach who has served his time working his way up. Let's hope that he is the man who can help write some new and happier history for the Whites.

Belfast Telegraph