It is known that if you want to become a successful footballer you ought to not have something in common with cigarettes, alcohol or drugs. But what would you do if you play at a squad that has a name that breaks one of those rules above? It happened in North Ireland, where in 1880, Lisburn Distillery, a team from the suburb of Belfast, was established. Why did they receive this name you should ask. Well, that is quite simple, because the main founder, Robert Baxter, was helped by some employees of the nearby Royal Irish Distillery, to form, in the sumer of 1879, V.R. Distillery Cricket Club, the ancestor of the football team, which appeared one year later. Also, the headquarters of the team maintained on Distillery Streer until 1971.
A strange name for a football team which now has a semi-professional status. But Distillery isn’t an average team in its country, simply because they won six national titles during history. Five of them between 1895 and 1906, but that has less importance. Still, the last of them, came in 1963, but after the achievement, Distillery met its’ biggest performance in European football. Actually, in 1963 they marked their first ever participation in the continental competitions with a sensational 3-3 home draw against Benfica. Yes, that Benfica which won two Champions’ Cups in those years. A team at which Eusebio was playing and even scored the late equalizer in the 88th minute of the game I am talking about. But that score was no accident, despite Benfica won in the second leg with 5-0. Distillery was ahead in all three occasion tanks to Kennedy, Hamilton and Ellison, the first of them shocking by opening the score from the first minute.
And in that Irish team was playing Sir Tom Finney, who reentered on the football pitch, in 1963, just to taste the atmosphere of the most prestigious club competitions of all: The Champions’ Cup. He was 41 at the time and he left the field three years earlier after playing 15 years for Preston North End in 473 games in three competitions: first league, second league and FA Cup. He also scored here 210 goals, but without winning any trophy. He compensated this deficit by gathering 76 caps for English national team, in which he scored 30 goals, thanks to his capacities to control the ball as well with his right and left foot. And if you think that this result against Benfica isn’t so big, you have to reconsider your opinion when you will find out that Distillery played only once more in European competitions. In the first preliminary round of Europe League in 2009, when they were crushed by Georgian side Zestafoni with 5-1 and 6-0!
It isn’t one of the biggest football clubs in the world, but it used to be one of the greatest from Northern Ireland in the late 19th century and early 20th century, period marked also by 10 Irish Cups. Also, in 1889, Distillery managed a prestigious 2-1 victory in front of Newton Heat. I’m sure that this name doesn’t sounds familiar for you, but you should know that this was the former name of Manchester United, until 1902!
If you think that the story of this team isn’t interesting enough, imagine how would be for our first division to have a team called Distileria Bucuresti or something like Fabrica de Bere Bucuresti. And at such a team the players might have stipulated in their contracts not to drink alcohol…