Annagh United


Annagh United

Founded: 1963
Ground: Tandragee Road (built 1983)
Capacity: 1,500 (0 seated)
Admission: £3 – all sections of the ground. Concession: £2 OAP & children

Portadown (Irish: Port an Dúnáin, “port of the fortress”) is a town in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. It has a population of slightly under 30,000 which is roughly two-thirds unionist and one-third nationalist. Portadown is situated on the River Bann, in the north of County Armagh. It is part of the Craigavon Borough Council area.

Portadown has a manufacturing sector that has grown beyond its roots in linen production to include carpet-weaving, baking and engineering. These industries all thrive against a backdrop of the traditional rural economy, as witnessed on Fridays when a large cattle market takes place in the town. For decades it has been the home of the Portadown Festival, which brings in thousands of participants in amateur dance, theatre, music and song.

Although the town can trace its origins to at least the 17th century it was not until the Victorian era, and the arrival of the railway that it became a major town. Portadown is known as “The Hub of the North”, the origin of this phrase coming from its central position in Northern Ireland and being a major railway junction in the past, where the Great Northern Railway’s line diverged for Belfast, Dublin, Armagh and Derry.

Portadown was associated with the ancient and powerful local family of McCann who were among the area’s earliest settlers. The town was the scene of an infamous massacre during the Irish Rebellion of 1641, when the Catholic insurgents killed around 70 of the Protestant townspeople on the bridge over the river Bann.

The construction of the Newry Canal in 1740 and the later development of the railway lines to Belfast and Dublin, put Portadown at the hub of transport routes in Northern Ireland. There are many companies that have been a part Portadown’s history, one being W.D. Irwin & Sons Ltd (Irwin’s Bakery). Irwin’s was established in 1912 by the grandfather (William David Irwin) of the existing joint managing directors, as a grocery retailer. W.D. Irwin’s wife and sister-in-law were talented home-bakers, who began to bake cakes and bakery items for the shop. Soon additional bakers were employed to cope with the increasing trade, expanding the bakery out behind the shop. It moved to larger premises at Carn in 1994. The High Street Mall shopping centre currently stands in the place of the old bakery. Today Irwin’s bakery is the largest independent bakery in Northern Ireland. Its bakery products are supplied to supermarket chains such as Sainsbury’s, Asda and Tesco, and other grocery chains, right down to small corner shops.

With the establishment of the Millennium Court Arts Centre in 2002, the town has become improved since pre-Troubles times.

The controversial Orange Order was formed six miles away from Annagh at Dan Winter’s cottage. Today the Orange Order are trying to remarket to change its global image and regardless of the politics behind the order, this is a worthwhile place to visit.

Portadown (Irish: Port an Dúnáin, “port of the fortress”) is a town in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. It has a population of slightly under 30,000 which is roughly two-thirds unionist and one-third nationalist. Portadown is situated on the River Bann, in the north of County Armagh. It is part of the Craigavon Borough Council area.

Portadown has a manufacturing sector that has grown beyond its roots in linen production to include carpet-weaving, baking and engineering. These industries all thrive against a backdrop of the traditional rural economy, as witnessed on Fridays when a large cattle market takes place in the town. For decades it has been the home of the Portadown Festival, which brings in thousands of participants in amateur dance, theatre, music and song.

Although the town can trace its origins to at least the 17th century it was not until the Victorian era, and the arrival of the railway that it became a major town. Portadown is known as “The Hub of the North”, the origin of this phrase coming from its central position in Northern Ireland and being a major railway junction in the past, where the Great Northern Railway’s line diverged for Belfast, Dublin, Armagh and Derry.

Portadown was associated with the ancient and powerful local family of McCann who were among the area’s earliest settlers. The town was the scene of an infamous massacre during the Irish Rebellion of 1641, when the Catholic insurgents killed around 70 of the Protestant townspeople on the bridge over the river Bann.

The construction of the Newry Canal in 1740 and the later development of the railway lines to Belfast and Dublin, put Portadown at the hub of transport routes in Northern Ireland. There are many companies that have been a part Portadown’s history, one being W.D. Irwin & Sons Ltd (Irwin’s Bakery). Irwin’s was established in 1912 by the grandfather (William David Irwin) of the existing joint managing directors, as a grocery retailer. W.D. Irwin’s wife and sister-in-law were talented home-bakers, who began to bake cakes and bakery items for the shop. Soon additional bakers were employed to cope with the increasing trade, expanding the bakery out behind the shop. It moved to larger premises at Carn in 1994. The High Street Mall shopping centre currently stands in the place of the old bakery. Today Irwin’s bakery is the largest independent bakery in Northern Ireland. Its bakery products are supplied to supermarket chains such as Sainsbury’s, Asda and Tesco, and other grocery chains, right down to small corner shops.

With the establishment of the Millennium Court Arts Centre in 2002, the town has become improved since pre-Troubles times.

The controversial Orange Order was formed six miles away from Annagh at Dan Winter’s cottage. Today the Orange Order are trying to remarket to change its global image and regardless of the politics behind the order, this is a worthwhile place to visit.

The Ground:

Just a ten minute walk out of the centre of the town of Portadown lies what was, once upon a time, the village of Annagh. Today it has been absorbed into the town itself as a residential area on the way to Tandragee with it’s local football club going almost unnoticed along the road as drivers leave the town.

Portadown FC’s Premier League Shamrock Park home is a small ground by European standards, perhaps matching strides with many stadiums in the Scottish third division or English Conference, but it looks impressive when seen by a fan who has just left Annagh’s Tandragee Road home to make a journey out of Portadown towards Armagh and beyond.

Annagh United, to be fair, have only been an Irish League club for three years and their ground is actually very impressive in comparison to the stadia of many of their second division rivals with plenty of car parking space and a tidy covered stand. On a late summer’s day, it can take on the same feel as a trip to a cricket match.

Fans mix freely at this level of football, mainly because being a second division fan is almost an incestuous experience. There are so few at each club that they know each other by sight at least and can exchange pleasantries without the aggression of the faceless fans of larger clubs.

The natural port of call for all fans at this ground is the main stand, built in 2003 and with no seats, its concrete steps are designed for seating to be installed at some time in the future and so act as natural seating on dry days when muddy feet can’t destroy the opportunity. This serves to make the tiny crowds sound larger and noisier then they really are, especially in the heart of winter when everyone is crammed into the stand to avoid the elements.

Tandragee Road

This is the only properly developed area of the ground as it’s where the main entrance to the ground is situated. With Tandragee Road itself being a quite narrow and busy road it’s useful that there are two car parks situated at this side of  the ground. The main car park is used mostly by players and officials while on match days there is an all weather five a side pitch, which doubles as a car park. These two car parks are situated either side of the social club, which, in the event of a large crowd where segregation were needed, acts as a buffer between the two areas, and between them can hold around seventy cars. The social club entrance is beside the all weather pitch and doesn’t, in theory at least, provide access to the ground. There are two turnstiles at this side of the ground, though it seems only one is used regularly. The operational turnstile is beside the social club at the five aside pitch while a second, unused turnstile is situated at the other car park. The main feature of the entire ground is the Met Steel stand which runs either side of the half way line and is the most popular vantage point for watching the game. It was built in 2003 in preparation for Annagh’s election to the league and is covered and laid out in concrete steps, in preparation for the addition of seating, which hasn’t happened. Instead these high steps are used as seats by the fans. The stand itself accommodates around 130 people with an open paddock running almost the full length of the pitch in front of it. To the right of the stand this paddock is quite popular on a day when the weather is good but in winter would be very open to the elements. To the left of the stand there is a small area of the paddock that’s covered and could hold around 60 fans. In total this side of the ground could accommodate around 300 spectators

The Bog Side

This side of the ground remained largely unpopulated during the reviewed match, save for a couple of children and it’s understandable why when it’s compared to the comfort of the Met Steel Stand opposite. The Bog side is a simple tarmac track along the pitch side with a small covered bus shelter type paddock, similar to the one on the opposite side of the ground, that could hold around 80 visiting fans. In total around 150 fans could watch the game from this side of the ground. This could be more but one side of the track, to the right of the dugouts is not accessible without entering the playing area.

Railway End

Every ground has to have a railway end and this one is no exception. The scope for development here is huge if Annagh ever needed to improve the ground. This end is simply a huge grassed off area behind the goal with a mesh fence beyond it. With no perimeter around the pitch at this end it is not really open to spectators.

South End

This end is open to spectators, more as a route to the Bog side paddock than for any other reason. Development here is little more than a tarmac path that could accommodate around one hundred fans if they chose to watch the game from here. Only the local photographer does chose this area though, with a grassed area behind used by the substitutes as a warm up area.

Social Club

The social club, or club house, is situated right at the main, and only, entrance to the ground. There are no huge hoardings outside to let you know you have arrived at Annagh United. Instead there is a billboard on the road outside announcing the day’s game. The pub is quite small, even by Irish League standards and consists of a small bar and t.v. mounted in the corner. The bar serves cans of lager at £1.40 per can. The plus side of this is that service is quick at half time. Club officials are willing to turn a blind eye to fans taking bottles or glasses or cans back out to the stand to watch the game, provided the atmosphere is good humoured and the attendance controllable.

Food

There is a portacabin behind the main stand, which was laid out with teapot, cups and sandwiches but this looked like the hospitality laid on for the visiting officials. There was no food for sale at the ground, other than crisps behind the bar. Some regular supporters came prepared, having stopped at a nearby fast food restaurant. For travelling fans looking for something more substantial before going to the game, the nearest place to eat is Esther’s restaurant, less than half a mile away from the ground at 20 Armagh Road. This is a coffee shop serving hot lunches during the day and is unlicensed. It seems quite popular with older town centre shoppers.

Club Shop

None: Nor do there seem to be any club souvenirs to be had.

Toilets

This is a big let down for the club, and something that has to be addressed. There are two toilets, one in each team dressing room, although they are accessible at all times and are right next to the bar. There’s no chance of formulating a secret master game plan at this club because you can hear every word the coaches say to their teams if you are in the loo.

Disabled Facilities

A tarmac path from the car park to pitch side makes it easy for wheelchair users to view the action but the use of any other facilities would be quite difficult. Disabled fans can get protection from the rain if they go beyond the main stand where there is a small covered shelter but the path towards it becomes very uneven and would be difficult for a chair user to navigate. There is a ramp into the bar but its cramped area would make movement for a chair user difficult. Using the toilets is virtually out of the question. There is no disabled loo and the two existing toilets are very small. On the plus side the small attendances Annagh get mean that getting assistance if needed would be quite easy. Fans with difficulty standing for long periods are allowed to bring chairs out from the social club.

Fan base

Annagh United are one of four teams from Craigavon in the Irish League, an area with around 8,000 football fans. Based on their status in local football and the number of other clubs around them they have a potential catchment of 1,500 fans. Like all Irish League clubs Annagh have never even come close to that.

Club Issues: Annagh United seem happy enough with the world at present with a proposed new invitational premier league unlikely to cause much of a ripple in their world.

Local Rivals: Annagh United’s Tandragee Road ground lies less than a mile away from Premier Division Portadown and there are obvious influences, especially in Annagh’s red kit being almost identical to Portadown’s. The prospect of a local Portadown derby is, in reality, only a season away if the Ports suffered relegation in 2007 and Annagh clinched promotion, unlikely though that is at present. Their local derby in 2006/07 season will be against Lurgan Celtic, situated just seven miles away. Their most recent league meeting at Tandragee Road was in January and ended in a 2-0 win for the home side. Their league meeting dates this year have yet to be decided.

Links

Official Website: none
Groundhopper
Address: Tandragee Road, Portadown, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, BT62 3BQ
History

The story of Annagh United began in 1962 when the idea of a club was first talked of. Most of those involved in the setting up of the team were regular attenders at Portadown and so it was no surprise when the new venture took on the same colours as the team who may well one day be their local rivals.

Annagh quickly established themselves as one of the strongest teams in football in Portadown and the wider district but rarely made any great impression in wider football.

For the first twenty years of the club’s existence Annagh played on local park pitches in Portadown before taking the brave step of purchasing a piece of boggy land on the Tandragee Road. This was quickly drained and laid to turf, fenced off and the obligatory club house was built. The move would prove a smart one twenty years later when Annagh were one of very few teams who could offer their own facilities when the Irish League opened its doors to admit four new clubs to division two. It was a shoe in for Annagh and they have been a second division club ever since, finishing fifth twice.

In the early days of Tandragee Road the surrounding land was so boggy that in winter an official had to retrieve balls that had gone over the fence, out of the ground, by boat.

That would possibly be the biggest problem, other than the obvious one of money in any plan for Annagh to expand. The ground can hold around 1,000 spectators and has entertained around 400 for an Irish Cup tie with RUC back in the eighties but the chance of a new record gate is currently lost by the IFA imposing draconian rules on the staging of Irish cup ties that prevents Annagh playing at home if drawn against Premier League opposition. This is despite the fact that there are only perhaps four or five clubs whose visit would actually cause any sort of problem.

The club are not in the mould of being that ambitious anyway. They have achieved second division league status and are pretty happy with that. Promotion to division one would be welcomed but the club have no interest in the idea that they might one day gain promotion to the elite of the premier league and perhaps face Portadown as their equals.