The Period Between 1880-1890:
The Irish Cup officially started in the 1880-81 season with the participation of seven clubs. The first round was drawn on January 10, 1881, and the first round was played on February 5, 1881. It ended on April 9, 1881, at Castledawson in County Londonderry, with Moyola Park beating Cliftonville Cricket 1-0 in the final. Moyola Park was a newer club than its 1870 rival and was founded over a year ago. The Irish-wide cup in 1921 has always been and remains the most critical competition in Northern Ireland. The cup final is the culmination of the domestic season in Northern Ireland and usually draws the most significant number of spectators at any club game.
Founded in 1879, Cliftonville played a total of 6 finals and won 2 championships until 1890. Another successful team of this period was Distillery, founded in 1880. They also won four titles in five finals. Apart from these two clubs and Moyola Park, Queen’s Island, Ulster, Gordon Highlanders also won a championship, while Limavady played two finals, Wellington Park and YMCA played one final. The field generally used for the final was Ulster Cricket Ground, Belfast, while Bloomfield Ground Knock, Broadway Ground, and Uslterville were also finals in Belfast.
The Period Between 1890-1900:
The Cup continued with the new league starting from the 1890-91 season. Between 1890 and 1900, Linfield FC took part in seven of the ten finals and won six titles. Distillery continued its titles with two pieces. Glentoran FC, founded in 1882, and Bohemian FC, founded in 1890, also stepped in, even if they did not win the championship.
To put a separate parenthesis on the successful club of the time, Linfield FC was founded in March 1886 in an area known as Sandy Row, south of Belfast, by workers at the Ulster Spinning Company’s Linfield Factory. Originally known as the Linfield Athletic Club, the club played behind the mill known as the Meadow where the company owned it. It was originally intended to limit club membership to factory employees only. However, this rule has been changed so that six of the club’s eleven players may not be employees. The goal was to build the strongest team possible. The club competed in the English FA Cup for three seasons in its early years.
The Distillery was born in Grosvenor Park on Grosvenor Road in West Belfast in 1880. The club was known simply as the Distillery from its founding until 1999 when it changed its official name to the ‘Lisburn Distillery’ and associated itself more closely with the city of Lisburn it adopted.
The Period Between 1900-1910:
In the 1900s, the number of spectators in the cup finals reached 10,000. The finals were now played in Dublin outside of Belfast, and between 1900-1910 four finals were played at Dalymount Park in Northside – Phibsborough. This stadium was the home of the Bohemian F.C. from the early 20th century. Dubbed Dalyer by fans and historically considered the “home of Irish football,” the Bohemians won their first title against Shelbourne in 1908 after losing 1903 final to the Distillery.
The Period Between 1910-1918:
In the 1910-18 period, Linfield FC regained its dominance in 1890-1900, playing in seven of the eight finals. It was a period when the audience numbers reached 20,000. Unlike many countries, the struggle for the cup could continue during the war. Belfast Celtic had won one title in three finals during this period. Glasgow Celtic Football Club was founded in 1891 as simply Celtic. However, the title “The Celtic Football & Athletic Company Ltd” was already officially registered by the Glasgow club and was popularly adopted as Belfast Celtic.