History of Portadown Rugby Football Club
Founded in 1879, Portadown Rugby Football Club is one of the Irish Rugby Football Unions’s first affiliated Clubs. Portadown also played their first recorded game on 11th December 1879, playing Ulster F.C. at Ormeau.
Portadown Senior Mens’ teams have been going since 1879, with only non-playing gap during the war years. They played as a junior team in the early days winning the Towns’ Cup for the first time in 1957/58 season.
Since 1963, Portadown RFC has called Chamber’s Park home. Found on Bridge Street, this multi-sport complex was the home of Portadown Hockey Club and still home to the Cricket and Rugby Club, which achieved it’s Senior status in the same year. Named after ex-Club Captain Jimmy Chambers, the grounds were opened with a match between Portadown and Ulster on the 4th September 1963. This was followed by the opening of the ‘W. A. Mullen Memorial Pavilion’ on 28th April 1965. During the 1970’s the Mullan Pavilion was destroyed in a gas explosion and plans were put in place for the clubhouse in it now present position. Later it was enlarged with gym and member’s bar.
The club enjoyed Senior status for a number of years winning the Ulster Senior League Title (Stevenson Shield) in 1995/96 under the club Legend Ernest Liggett. They also won promotion to the Division 2 of the new All Ireland leagues the following year, for a few years before dropping down into the Qualifying League where they are today.
Ulster, Ireland and Lions Representation
In our history, Portadown RFC have had a number of players and former players who went on to higher levels in the game. Charles Murtagh was the first club player to play for Ulster and Ireland, and Andrew Matchett went on from the club to play for Ulster in the winning European Cup team.
Stephen Ferris came through the Portadown youth system before going on to play for Ulster, Ireland and the British Lions. The Present President Ciaran O’Kane came of the bench to play for Ulster in games against Glasgow and Wasps in 1997/98.
Portadown was at the forefront of Ulster under age rugby during it’s early days with three of its members coaching Ulster age group teams at the same time, Clive Bowles (Ulster Youth), Alan McGonigle (Ulster Schools) and Willie Gribben (Ulster U20).
Portadown has also contributed to the Ulster Branch with two Presidents in Reg Reilly and Robert Stewart and two Ulster Referees society Presidents, namely Brain Banks and Scott Rankin.
Even after more than 140 years, Portadown RFC has continued to develop throughout the years. Recently, Portadown has added a Women’s section and a mixed ability Disability team.
In June 2013 Willie Gribben & two prospective parents visited Newforge Taggers to watch training and speak with Tim Craig, Disability & Inclusion Officer Ulster Rugby & Sam Mc Burney, Head Coach of the Taggers, to explore the possibilities of forming a club in Portadown. Follow up meetings, regarding setting up a club in Portadown, were held. It was agreed to proceed and that the club would be called Portadown Panthers and that the Panthers would operate alongside the PRFC Mini Rugby section. The Panthers were officially launched on 22nd September 2013 at Chambers Park, and since then they have grown strength to strength, even playing in the Half Time exhibition games during Ulster Pro 12/14 Matches – on 3 occasions they have played in front of crowds of 18000 spectators!
Portadown Ladies RFC
Portadown Ladies RFC is the most recent addition to our club family. After a number of initial sessions and growing numbers, Portadown Ladies joined with Dungannon Ladies to enter the league for the first time for the 2017-18. After a successful first year where the joint team reached the Regenerate Cup Final, Portadown and Dungannon went their separate ways and since then, Portadown Ladies has gone from strength to strength, with improving numbers constantly.
Following the team’s creation, our Girl’s Youth Team was also set up in 2017, and now there are a number of Youth Graduates now making their Senior Debuts for the Club.
The club has also produced the excellent Knutty Crust Floodlight Tournament which started life as a Junior Rugby Tournament in 1980/81 before changing to a premier U18 Tournament with the beginning of the All-Ireland League.
They also have a long-standing connection with RC Orleans from France. This started in 1979 with tour to Ireland by RC Orleans and Portadown’s return the following year. In 1990 John Marks presented the Friendship Cup which both clubs compete for, playing for the cup, with the home venue alternated each year.
To read an in depth history of the club since being founded, please click below to find out more!