‘It’s not the end of the club’ say Whites

Knockbreda's Jordan Hughes in action with Distillery's Patrick Pierce. Pic by Matt Mackey / Presseye
Knockbreda's Jordan Hughes in action with Distillery's Patrick Pierce. Pic by Matt Mackey / Presseye

Lisburn Distillery have vowed their relegation from NIFL Championship One is ‘not the end of the club’.

Fears had been expressed in certain quarters over the ability for the club to survive being relegated to the NIFL Premier Intermediate League.

Following their relegation in 2013 from the Premiership, the Whites now find themselves in the third tier of the NIFL pyramid.

Some fans had suggested the club move into a more central location in Lisburn, rather than stay at Ballyskeagh, others suggested dropping ‘Lisburn’ from their name and reverting to Distillery, as they had been until 1999.

However, Club Secretary Colin Hopkins has said that the club will ‘regroup’ and aim to gain promotion back to Championship One as soon as possible.

Colin also said there was one significant positive to come from the club’s current situation, with a Management Committee having been formed, featuring fans getting involved in the club.

Commenting on the club’s current predicament, Colin Hopkins said: “It’s certainly not the end of the club.

“Despite what the doom merchants have said, we will regroup and hopefully get straight back up to Championship One and then take it from there.”

Referring to the club’s name, Colin said this came from some fans who came with the club following their move from Belfast in 1980.

“We’ve no intention of dropping ‘Lisburn’,” he said. “We’re a Lisburn club and the name will stay.”

“The most positive outcome from this is the Management Committee we set up at the Supporters Forum,” Colin added.

“Supporters have to get involved in the club, and from that meeting we have 15 to 20 people who have agreed to join us.”The Management Committee will form a core element in the day to day running of the club, with supporters directly involved.

Colin said this was a ‘big step’ for the club.

“We’re encouraged by this and will take this forward by meeting every few weeks,” he said.

“The committee will deal with queries as they arise and allow the club to do things it wants to do but can’t due to a lack of manpower.

“It will allow us to develop the commercial side of things and the playing side of things,” he added.

Colin admitted that getting commercial sponsorship has been difficult for the club, with businesses struggling in the current economy.

However, the club would welcome any business who would be interested in supporting them to contact them at LDFCSecretary@virginmedia.com

Alternatively, if anyone has a business acumen and would be interested in helping with the running of the club, they are also encouraged to get in touch.

Colin added: “We have approval for our 3G pitch and lighting, and are waiting on funding from Stormont, hopefully we’ll have that in a year to 18 months.”

In January, the club received planning permission for the renovation of the existing clubhouse, a new 3G surface to the existing pitch. All new items to include floodlights, dugouts, fencing, tiered seating area, security tower, turnstiles, toilet block and associated ground works.

“The plans are all approved, so we are at the right stage to go forward and this will make a massive difference, not only to the first team, but also for the academy.

“Right now our academy players play in either Lisburn or Belfast. If we have our own pitch, this will bring them all together at the club and create a better sense of community.

“We want to involve the community at a grassroots level.”

Colin said the academy at Lisburn Distillery is a ‘big success story’, with the academy sides having won multiple cups.

“We have 150 kids in the academy,” Colin said. “Ninety-five percent of them are Lisburn based, which is encouraging for the future, especially to get everyone under one roof.

“Our academy has multiple cup winners, boys who have gone to Irish League clubs, they are our big success story. But that doesn’t get featured, people only hear the first team headlines.”

At this point in time the club don’t know who will be donning the white shirt of Lisburn Distillery next season, or whether management will remain in place, as the club begin their fight back to Championship One.

“We haven’t had those conversations at this point in time,” Colin said, with decisions set to be made once the season ends.

Whatever happens, Lisburn Distillery are certainly determined to rise from the ashes, as displayed in their use of the hashtag #thephoenixwillrise