Armagh City Football Club was formed under the name of Milford Everton in 1964 by a group of Armagh schoolboys. They obtained a pitch in the village of Milford, just outside Armagh, known as “The Holm”. The name Milford Everton was chosen because some of the founder members supported the English club of that name.
Senior football and back again
Having missed out on a place in the IFA’s new 16-team Premier Division for the 2003/04 season, City found themselves back in intermediate football. A strong season saw City finish second to derby rivals Loughgall and the ensuing two-legged playoff against Cliftonville was the closest Armagh had ever been to top flight football. As it turned out, the tie was all but over at the halfway point, as the north Belfast side came to Holm Park and cruised to a 3-0 win. A 1-1 draw at Solitude brought some satisfaction, but City knew a great opportunity had slipped away in the first 90 minutes.
Manager Colin Malone build on the squad that came so close in 2003/04, and the following season proved to be a great one. Having wrapped up the Bob Radcliffe Cup on Boxing Day, City went unbeaten in the league for the entire season to gain promotion to the IFA Premier League. Three seasons in the top flight brought their ups and downs, as City reached 11th position in 2006/07, the club’s highest ever finish in local football, before an ‘invitational’ league devised by the IFA left City outside senior football once again.
City struggled to re-adjust to life in intermediate football, as players who had been brought in during the Premier League days moved on and Armagh were forced to look to local players to build the team once more. A link-up with Spanish outfit Fundacion Marcet during the 2009/10 season saw several Brazilian and Spanish youngsters feature in the City side as the committee looked at ways of consolidating the club’s future, but in the end ties were cut with Marcet as Marty Rice took the reigns for the 2010/11 season with City beginning life in Championship 2.
The 2011/12 season was a difficult one for the first team as City started afresh, but the success in the youth ranks suggested that the future would be brighter. An incredible run in the Harry Cavan Irish FA Youth Cup saw City’s U18s claim a famous victory in the final against Cliftonville, providing the youth section with its first ever national cup win. The impressive nature of the win would prove a good omen in the years ahead, and the squad would eventually provide several key members of City’s first team.
After two years of consolidation, City found themselves in the promotion mix in 2012/13, only to be pipped to second place by Ballyclare Comrades. The following year, however, would go down in history as one of the finest in the club’s history, as the young side wrapped up the Bob Radcliffe Cup at Christmas, before dominating the league campaign to run out champions. A little deja vu played out at Holm Park in January, as defending Irish Cup champions Glentoran again visited, only to leave with a 1-1 draw thanks to Philip Donnelly. City travelled to the Oval for the replay and showed the initial performance was no fluke, with the Glens needing a last minute winner to escape. The season culminated in City’s first ever appearance in an Intermediate Cup final, but Championship 1 leaders Bangor ended season’s dream season with a loss. Notwithstanding the final game, the year vindicated the hard work put in by everyone at the club to recover from the challenges of the previous few years. The involvement of so many local players was a particularly sweet element of the success, and would prove the potential both in the club and the city at large.
City’s first season in Championship 1 outlined that the club was intent on continuing its growth, as a strong second half of the season saw the team finish in the top half of the league, while again performing well across cup competitions.