CARRICK RANGERS F.C. - A BRIEF HISTORY
In 1939, a group of young men met to discuss forming a new football club for the town of Carrickfergus. After agreeing that there was enough interest for the club to be constituted, there was further debate about the name of this new team. In the background of the room they met in, hung proudly on a wall was a picture of Glasgow Rangers. When this was noticed and suggestion made that the new club be called Carrick Rangers there was immediate consensus.
Entry to the Minor League was approved, and although the slight distraction of a World War interrupted things a bit, a first title was won in 1941/42 season. The step up to the Amateur League was a natural progression for this progressive club, and soon further honours arrived – two Amateur League titles and a McKelvie Cup.
It wasn’t too long before the ‘B’ Division beckoned, and in the 1960’s Carrick became something of a cup specialist with two Steel & Sons victories to go along with two Louis Moore triumphs. A League title win was also secured in 1961/62.
Carrick’s halcyon period, however, was between 1972 and 1977: three ‘B’ Division titles, two Intermediate Cup victories, an Irish Cup win and four matches with Europe’s finest in the European Cup Winners Cup. Of course, one year in that glorious spell stands out – 1976, when that Irish Cup triumph over Linfield, secured by two Gary Prenter goals, and the subsequent run in the ECWC was supplemented with a League title and the Intermediate Cup.
Surely the Irish League would see the potential of this wee club and elect it to its Senior ranks? (in those days there was no promotion & relegation). This elevation, however, was to be delayed, for reasons better known to the authorities at the time, until the start of the 1983/84 by which time another ‘B’ Division title had been secured at a canter.
The initial season was a mixed bag. An unbeaten start to the season which lasted for four games, with a famous 1-0 home win against Crusaders in the inaugural Senior Fixture, courtesy of a Paul Rogers goal direct from a corner, and a 3-0 win at Windsor Park, when a Marty Bell hat-trick killed off the Blues, among the highlights.
This, however, was a false dawn and although Carrick reached another Irish Cup Final at the end of that season, losing 4-1 to Ballymena, the League campaign left the club anchored to the foot of the table, a position they were to become familiar with over the next ten years, bar a couple of notable exceptions.
After several seasons of ignominy, and a flurry of managers, Carrick turned to former player, ex-Northern Ireland International and local sports shop proprietor, Jimmy Hill to lead the team. In his first full season in charge, Carrick finished mid-table, playing some terrific football in the process. The momentum, however, could not be sustained and it wasn’t until the appointment of a largely inexperienced Kenny Shiels that the fans finally had something to cheer about.
King Kenny developed a style of play that wowed the fans and the pundits. Attacking, free-flowing, entertaining. The Co. Antrim Shield winged its way to Taylors Avenue in 1993 and mid-table League position was achieved with some aplomb. When Kenny eventually left to take over the reins at Coleraine in 1995, the squad was sufficiently strong to reach another Irish Cup Final, again against Linfield but this time the fairytale ending was not there as Carrick lost 3-1.
To compound matters, this was the season that the Irish League split into two Divisions and another abysmal League campaign saw the club drop into the lower tier. During that close season, the squad was decimated through a combination of players moving on to clubs in the top flight and others retiring on a high.
The club took some considerable time to recover from this setback, going through managers at a rate of one per season, with only a Daily Mirror trophy in 2003/2004 added to the Roll of Honours. It was only with the appointment of another untried manager Stevie Small, likened in enthusiasm and knowledge of the game to Kenny Shiels, that there appeared to be light at the end of the tunnel. Steady progress under Small has seen Carrick challenging for promotion and reaching the final of the Steel & Sons Cup in 2008.
2010/2011 season will join the heydays of the mid 1970s as a highlight in the club’s history. A terrific campaign from start to finish resulted in promotion secured to the Premier League, courtesy of winning the Championship1 Title, and the icing on the cake was to secure the Intermediate Cup as well.
More uniquely, both were secured within 60 seconds of each other.
On May 2, Carrick took on Harland & Wolff Welders at Dixon Park in the final of the Intermediate Cup. With the game scoreless and heading into injury time, news filtered through that Limavady, the only remaining League challengers, had faltered at Ballymoney handing the Championship1 title to Carrick Rangers. Simultaneously, mercurial winger Paul Heatley collected a Paul Penter through ball to stroke home the winning goal to clinch the double to the jubilation of the Amber Army.
On the 3 August 2011, Carrick Rangers returned to top flight football after a sixteen year absence, at the home of Cliftonville, but the day did not end as intended as a dubious disallowance of a goal for offside left Carrick at the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline.