first decade of the club's history coincided with the formative
years of Irish football and so most of the fixtures were friendlies.
There was no League Championship, so Distillery's few competitive
fixtures were in knock-out competitions such as the Irish Cup, the
F.A. Cup, the C.A.S. and the Belfast Charities Cup. They had 5 trophy
wins --- the Irish Cup 1883/84, 1884/85, 1885/86, 1888/89 and the
CAS 1888/89. The highspot of the decade was undoubtably winning
the Irish Cup three times in a row, therefore it is no surprise
that my selection for the team of the 1880's includes many players
from those teams.
TOM MILLAR played
for six seasons at the start of the decade. He started as an outfield
player but soon became the established goalkeeper. He played ih
the Irish Cup winning
teams of 1883/84 and 1884/85.
MATT WILSON known
as ' Daddy ' was right-back for six seasons. He was a formidable
team captain possessing a 15 inch long ginger beard. He also was
part of the 1883/84 and 1885/86 Irish Cup teams and was capped three
times for Ireland.
ROBERT WILSON played
alongside his father, Matt, and took part in the hat-trick of Irish
Cup wins. He joined Cliftonville in 1887/88 winning the Irish Cup
with them that season and an Ireland cap.
BILLY CRONE could
play at full-back as well as half-back. He made his debut in 1881
and played throughout the rest of the decade, winning medals in
all five trophy wins. He was a stalwart of the club and won 12 Ireland
BOB BAXTER was
the founder of the cricket club and played at half-back for six
seasons. He played one international for Ireland and won Irish Cup
medals in 1883/84 and 1884/85. The last one saw him take the I.F.A.
to court and win his case to obtain withheld medals.
TOM STEWART was
a free-scoring forward in an era of six forwards on each team. He
only played in the three seasons of the Irish Cup hat-trick, but
a career-ending injury stopped him from playing in the third Final.
JAMES JOHNSTON played
in many forward positions over six seasons. He won Irish Cup medals
in 1883/84 and 1885/86 when he scored the only goal of that final.
was not yet a legendary figure. He joined from Genoa F.C. in 1886
and by the end of the decade had scored over 90 goals. In 1888/89
he scored hat-tricks in four consecutive games and collected medals
in the Irish Cup and CAS. He was capped by Ireland 11 times in this
SAM JOHNSTON was
a regular scorer in the first seven seasons. He played in the hat-trick
of Irish Cup wins, scoring in the first two and gaining 4 Ireland
caps. He joined Linfield in 1887/88.
BOB ' BALDY ' STEWART
was a Scot who was a great goalscorer. He made his debut in 1886/87
and like his brother-in-law, Olphie Stanfield, he had scored over
90 goals by the end of the decade. He won Irish Cup and CAS medals
in 1888/89 and once scored seven goals in a game.
played in the clubs first ever game on the left-wing and was the
only person to play regularly throughout the entire decade. He took
part in all five trophy wins, scoring two goals in the 1885/86 Irish
Cup Final. Surprisingly he was never capped by Ireland.
Billy Galbraith who was
the goalkeeper in the 1888/89 trophy wins
Crone could play in the forward line as well as his normal full-back
position -- he joined Middlesboro in 1890/91
Sammy Spencer was the
first centre-half to score a hat-trick for the Whites
Alex Crawford was a key half-back in the 1888/89 trophy wins who also
played for Cliftonville
Brisby could play on both wings and once scored five goals in
Condy was another winger who played in the first ever match.