Football squad based near massacre site hail ‘new dawn’

The pitch stands close to Tullyvallen Orange Hall, pictured

The pitch stands close to Tullyvallen Orange Hall, pictured

A small Co Armagh football team have celebrated the official opening of their new grounds by competing against one of the Province’s top squads.

The clubhouse and pitches used by Tullyvallen Rangers have been in development since 2014, and have had the finishing touches put to them in the last few months.

The new facilities – built with the help of public funding – are close to Tullyvallen Orange Hall, where republican gunmen shot four Orangemen dead in 1975 (with a fifth victim dying later as a result of their injuries).

To mark the completion of the sports facilities, the intermediate Mid Ulster Football League club challenged Linfield FC to a game on Saturday.

Linfield’s chairman Jim Kerr said it was the first time the team – traditionally seen as having a loyalist following – had been to south Armagh.

The result? Linfield demolished their hosts by a whopping 12 goals to nil (including an own goal from Tullyvallen).

However, Tullyvallen committee member Brian McConnell said it was not the score that counted.

Given the area’s unhappy past, the official opening was “almost like a new dawn” for him and others, he said.

The 45-year-old told the News Letter: “Tullyvallen is an area well-documented with difficult and unhappy memories for many of us.

“The visit of Linfield was momentous as it has given our next generation of young people memories of a very different kind and which they will treasure forever.

“It emphasises the power of football to transform communities.”

Linfield manager David Healy said ahead of the game: “It’s a proud day to go to south Armagh to open the new facilities. I know how important a day it is to the local community and I’m really looking forward to it.”