Clones Town FC HISTORY
Clones Town FC was founded in 1878 and established into the League structures in 1885 and is the oldest club in Ireland. The club is a County Monaghan football outfit that competes in the Monaghan/Cavan League and is the most successful club in the North East of Ireland. Their new grounds at Carn, Clones is the highest level football grounds in Ireland at 85m above mean sea level.
Short History of Clones Town FC
Association Football (soccer as we know it), first came to Clones in 1876 but according to records, there were no league structures to affiliate to in the area and Clones looked to Fermanagh, Tyrone, and Armagh for friendly games. The actual formation of the club is believed to have been through workers from the Great Northern Railway which arrived in Clones in 1858. It is therefore ironic that if those same workers could come back today and look up to the hill behind the site of the former Railway Station, they would see their club now has two playing pitches on top of it. Clones affiliated to what we now know as the ‘Northern Leagues’ in a properly structured club fashion in 1885.
Today the Football Association of Ireland has recognised the club as the oldest existing club in Ireland and it seems even back in 1885 Clones were winning games. During that late 1800 period, they also had inter-county tournaments with one early record and picture showing a ‘Monaghan County’ team made up entirely of Clones players. These were Molloy, Michael Elliott Knight, Donnelly, Parke, Cole, William Lendrum, James Lendrum, Johnston, Luke Patrick Knight (Captain), Lowe, and Whitsitt. This team beat an Armagh County team 3-1 before 4,000 spectators in Monaghan on the 15th of April 1887. As Clones played in numerous league structures because there was no league structure in the North East region, its name, as was not uncommon at the time, was changed as it entered the different leagues. Just as Manchester United evolved from Newton Heath L&YR (which stood for “Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway”) so too Clones Town FC has evolved over the years since its inception with the names Clones FC, Clones Eire Ogs, Clones Red Hands, Clones Celtic, Clones United , Clones Town FC, and many other names used. Indeed the Fermanagh and Western League Mercer League Division 1 records in 1910/11 season show a team called Clones Celtic winning that competition.
Whilst the club undoubtedly had many successes over the years unfortunately through the passage of time and the loss of records it is not possible to record them all. However, from the 1970’s to date, it seems the club has gone from strength to strength. The Northern Standard of the 13th of August 1971 shows that Clones beat Lisnaskea United 2-0 in the final of the Coffey Cup. In the 1973/74 season Clones won the Cavan/Monaghan League, the Top 4 competition, The League Cup, The Steadfast Cup (Carrickmacross Tournament), the Drifter Cup (Cootehill Tournament) and the Coffey Cup. Success also followed in 1975 when the club entered the Leinster Senior League and won the Louth and District League in 1977 and 1979. In 1980/81 the club entered and won the Ulster Cup beating Quigley’s Point Swifts in Letterkenny in a replay after the first game finished 2-2. The second game also finished a two all draw but Clones won it on penalties when Fintan Flynn smashed the ball to the net. In 1982 the club reached the quarterfinals of the FAI Junior Cup where they were beaten by St Francis FC who went on to win it. Also in 1984 the club hosted the first ever Reavey Challenge Cup competition in memory of club stalwart James Reavey who had passed away the previous year. Clones beat Coolock Celtic 2-0 in the final which was played before a large crowd at the Monaghan Road grounds (now LargyCollege). The Coolock side were being mentored at that time by former Clones star Leo ‘Pop’ Flanagan. Ever mindful to play quality opposition the Club entered the Longford and District League in 1984/85 and won it and then went on to win the FAI Midlands Area Cup with Mickey Dowds scoring the winner (1-0) in the final against Edenderry from Offaly which was played at Portarlington County Laois. That team went on to win the Longford League for the following three years. In 1989/90/91 the club won the Meath and Louth District Division 1, League Cup and Challenge Cup (‘91- treble) and then returned to the Cavan/Monaghan League and in 1991/92 which they won once again.