East Antrim Hockey Club

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Stephen Boyd (Film)
Paul Acheson (Radio)
Paul McDowell (TV)

 

1902
Club Formed
1924
Senior League Champs
1933
Kirk Cup Winners
1996
Web Site Online

 

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East Antrim HC
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story of the club

Andy Burney The club was formed in 1902 by Mr. Andrew George Burney (right) after he had experimented with a mixed team at Fortwilliam in the latter years of the 19th century. His name has been perpetuated by the trophy he presented in 1920 for Ulster Schools competition.

The inaugral meeting of the club was held at Thompson's Place, Hydepark on 3rd October 1902 with the following members present: Andrew Burney, Gibson Barron, Dawson Quern, Hugh Suffern, Arthur McBride, Herbert Pullan and Hugh McMeekin, whose name also lives on through the trophy he presented in 1920.

The club fielded one team in 1902-03, playing friendly games only - the first recorded match being against Cliftonville at Hydepark in December 1902. In 1903-04, the club was accepted into the Junior League and in 1904-05, a 2nd XI was formed and entered in the Minor League.

The 1st XI had their first success when they won the Junior League in 1905-06, winning all 12 games. In 1911-12, the League title was won again, but the Irish Junior Cup Final was lost to Trinity College. During this period, 4 Lyle brothers - John, Sam, Hugh and William - all played for the club and were the cornerstone in the early days.

In the early years all home matches were played at Ballyclare Road, Glengormley. In 1912-13, East Antrim were playing in the Senior League, but with the outbreak of the First World War, all hockey ceased. When the War ended, the club re-formed and played on the Hightown Road, Glengormley. The Club was determined, however, to return to the ground it had played on since 1907. During 1921, money was raised and the ground at Ballyclare Road was purchased for 400, thus making East Antrim the first club in Ulster to own its ground.

The Twenties were quite succesful for the Club, winning the Senior League in 1924 and also reaching the Ulster Final of the Irish Senior Cup (only to lose to Banbridge after a replay). In 1925, the 2nd XI lost in the Semi-Final of the Irish Junior Cup and the 1st XI lost to Lisnagarvey in the final of the Kirk Cup - a feat later repeated in 1928 when losing to Banbridge.

In 1932, East Antrim unsuccessfully contested the Kirk Cup but returned the following year to beat Banbridge 3-0. The winning team included no less than 8 Ulster players, 2 of whom, Hugh Leeburn and SJ Courtney, also played for Ireland.

During the Second World War, hockey continued on a friendly basis until 1942, when competitions were re-introduced. One of the main problems at this time was travel as petrol was rationed. However, thanks to Andy Hayes' apparently unlimited petrol allowance, the Club was able to fulfill all its fixtures!

The Club continued in the Senior League, but the War had taken its toll and decline was setting in. When the Senior League and Qualifying League were reconstituted in 1951, East Antrim was placed in the Qualifying League. This was the turning-point in the Club's history. Until then, it had been a powerful club and, although not the most successful, it had always played in the top grade, producing quality players for Ulster and Ireland.

During this period, the 5 Alexander brothers played for the club, with four of them together on the 1st XI - a unique record for Ulster Senior hockey at that time.

The Fifties was a decade of struggling to keep the Club alive and, again, a strong family connection came to the fore - The Archbolds - Hugo and Wilson - virtually ran the Club at that time.

Stephen Boyd Despite the gloom, there were some highlights. Although he did not achieve glory on the hockey field, East Antrim's most famous personality played during the early Fifties. He was a local lad called Billy Millar, who went on to gain world-wide fame as the film star - Stephen Boyd (starred in "Ben Hur" and pictured, right). Tragically, he died in 1977, at the early age of 49. Andy Hayes, a club stalwart, became President of the Ulster Branch in 1956-57, a year in which the Club supplied no fewer than 9 umpires to the Branch.

The end of the decade brought the bitterest blow to the Club. A court case over road repairs to the adjoining Hillview Drive was fought and lost. In order to pay the debts, the Club was forced to sell the ground at Ballyclare Road. Relegated twice in quick succession, 1962-63 saw the Club playing in the Intermediate League at a ground on the Hightown Road.

This was another turning-point brought about by a nucleus of enthusiastic hard-working players. These included Jim Strange, Billy Williamson, Ken Skelton, Max Abbott and Derek Reade. At the same time the Club moved to a new all-weather pitch at Whitewell and this led to an immediate improvement in the standard of hockey.

The year 1965-66 was very successful and the Club easily won the Intermediate League. Andy Hayes was also elected President of the Irish Hockey Union. The following year saw the Club back playing at its old ground on the Ballyclare Road, which had been re-laid as an all-weather pitch by Newtownabbey Borough Council. This was such an encouragement that the Club was able to field 3 teams with the 1st XI again winning the League and gaining promotion to Qualifying League 'A'.

During this successful run, the 1st XI remained unbeaten at home for just over 3 years. Consistency was elusive and again in 1972-73, the Club suffered relegation to the Intermediate League. At least there was consolation for five Club members who were selected to play for Junior Ulster. At this time, the Club made its first visit to the Whitsun Festival in the Isle of Man - a tradition which still continues.

In 1974, the Club was playing in Senior League II and performed there as a 'mid-table' Club for the remainder of the decade. The 75th Anniversary was celebrated in 1977-78 and the culmination of these celebrations was a game against the full Ireland team. A crowd of several hundred enjoyed the game in which East Antrim lost 4-0 to a team just returned from the World Cup in Argentina. In 1979, a Constitution was produced and Jim Strange was elected the first Chairman of the Club.

The early Eighties saw the familliar picture of relegation followed quickly by promotion. In 1983 the Club's first Continental tour to Holland took place and Billy Williamson became the President of the Ulster Branch. The Club suffered a double tragedy in 1986 with the deaths of Andy Hayes and Billy Williamson, two real sportsmen and stalwarts of East Antirm. Both had been committed players and outstanding administrators in Ulster and Irish Hockey.

From the mid-Eighties until the mid-Nineties, the Club played in Senior League II and whilst results were not outstanding, 5 teams were being fielded consistently.

Whilst results on the field have been mixed, the Club has vigorously pursued the social side. Always a Club which looks to the future, it became the first Hockey Club in Ireland to have its own Web-Site on the Internet! With this forward-looking attitude, East Antrim faces the future with confidence.