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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Champions’ Square unanimously approved after “historic success” of Larne FC

Silver cup sitting on road near Black Arch

Image: Bill Guiller

A motion for a ‘Champions’ Square’ in Larne town centre was unanimously approved at a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council on Monday evening (12 June).

It was brought forward by Larne Lough DUP Councillor Gregg McKeen in recognition of the “historic success of Larne Football Club in winning the Danske Bank Premiership for the first time in the club’s 134-year history” and the “positive contribution the club has made to sport and community life in Larne”.

Cllr McKeen has proposed the pedestrian square area of Broadway be named Champions’ Square.

He stated: “This is the first time Larne Football Club have won the Gibson Cup, the Irish Premiership in their 134-year history and in the 120th year history of the league, it has only left Belfast on 11 occasions.

“The last time the trophy did leave Belfast was 21 years ago. I feel that we as a council can do some small gesture to mark the achievement and to leave a lasting tribute for the whole team and what they have done.

“This is not about re-naming Broadway the street as such. We will still continue to call it Broadway. It is about re-naming the pedestrian area in the centre of the square and have some form of plaque marking this achievement.

“The town has had a major lift over the last six years. There has been a tremendous sense of pride in what  has been achieved. It is not just on a footballing level but in all aspects of what the club has done right way through from the youth players to the academy and right through to the First team.

“The football club is now an integral part of the town and the community and the level of support that the club now provides throughout the town to various groups and activities is second to none.”

Seconding the motion, Coast Road DUP Cllr Andrew Clarke stated:

“What a privilege to pay tribute to the Irish League champions. Our sporting clubs have been a beacon of light.

“Not just Larne, as far as I can see we are the only borough outside Belfast to have three clubs at that level of representation.

“Larne is not just a club. It is a family. Players, fans, the board are drawn from all sections of the community. There has been investment in community groups. They are an example to the town. They are an example to this body and they are an inspiration to Northern Ireland as a whole of what we can aspire to. They have energised the entire league.”

Larne Lough Ulster Unionist Cllr Roy Beggs said:

“In my mind, Larne Football Club are champions on and off the field. It is not just about winning the Gibson Cup. It is also what they have done for the community and various groups in Larne.

“I think in particular how they have encouraged, inspired and supported youth football in Larne, they have also developed women’s football, really reached out to a much wider sector and involved in wider community aspects as well.

“They have also provided leadership and role models that young boys and men look up to and I think in terms of the partnership that they have had with Women’s Aid and the support for the campaign against domestic violence, so truly they are champions.”

Larne Lough Alliance Alderman Robert Logan commented:

“At the beginning of the first mandate of this council, Larne had a bad reputation. We have all heard the wisecracks about the rear view mirror. Not any longer.

“Larne Football Club has raised the profile of the whole town in a way that I would not have believed possible, It is a wonderful achievement.”

Coast Road Sinn Fein Cllr James McKeown said:

"I don’t really follow Irish League football but I am aware of the work that goes on regarding the club in the local area and quite honestly, I never thought I would mention Larne Football Club and Manchester City in the same sentence but it seems to be Larne has become Man City."

He asked if the re-naming would be at any cost to the council.

Interim chief executive Valerie Watts said that officers would take away the proposal and bring an update back to council.

Larne Lough DUP Ald Paul Reid commented:

“Mid and East Antrim are privileged. Probably unlike any other borough in Northern Ireland, maybe with the exception of Belfast, we have three premiership teams.

“There is a buzz down the Main Street in Larne. People are proud to say they are from Larne. I am a blow-in. There is one thing people of Larne are very proud about is the success of the Inver Reds.”

Cllr McKeen went on to say that the council would work with the club to come up with a tribute to be installed at Champion’s Square at “minimal cost”.

Following unanimous backing, the Mayor, Ald Gerardine Mulvenna, asked officers to carry out the relevant equality screening and financial assessments which will be brought to the next council meeting.

Earlier in the meeting, she paid tribute to the club’s recent success saying:

“I would like to take this opportunity to pass on congratulations to Larne Football Club on recently securing their first Irish League win in their 134-year history.

“This historic win is a fantastic achievement for manager Tiernan Lynch and all the club.

“On behalf of council, I extend warmest congratulations to all involved. It is great to see Inver Reds progressing to the qualifying round of the Champions’ League competition later this summer.”


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