George Richardson’s life in football centred on a deep devotion to the progress of Portadown that, by extension, served as a showcase of the strengths of the game in the area.
Decades as kit man for the Shamrock Park club led to Richardson representing his beloved Ports at grounds around the island and across Europe with dedication, professionalism and pride.
The respect with which he was held in the game for that commitment and passion helped to reflect in glowing terms not only Portadown but Mid-Ulster football overall.
It was in tribute to that proud legacy that Portadown, with the full backing of the Richardson family, last season established The George Richardson Memorial Cup.
Portadown’s defence of that prize will kick off on Monday at Annagh United against Laurelvale, the latter one of the fresh faces in the hat under a revamped format and expanded entry list.
Clubs representing the full spectrum of the game within the borough will compete across the week-long tournament - with hosts Portadown joining Annagh United, Dollingstown, Hanover, Seagoe, Tandragee Rovers, Laurelvale and Richhill AFC.
The full draw (proceeds in aid of Craigavon Area Hospital’s Mandeville Unit):
Monday, July 1 - Laurelvale v Portadown (Tandragee Road, 7.30 kick-off).
Tuesday, July 2 - Hanover v Seagoe (Tandragee Recreation Centre, 7.30); Tandragee Rovers v Dollingstown (Madden Road, 7.30); Annagh United v Richhill AFC (Tandragee Road, 7.45).
Games will continue over Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“Last year was a great start but we felt an opportunity to expand the number of teams and switch the programme into one week of knockout play instead of a round-robin offered even more to everyone,” said Portadown boss Matthew Tipton. “It would be great to see fans out in the holiday spirit helping raise plenty for such a worthy cause.
“But, ultimately from the club’s viewpoint, it is about making sure the commitment Geordie provided to Portadown and football is honoured and protected.”
Annagh United tackle Richhill AFC and the Bluefin Sport Premier Intermediate League club’s Scott McCordick felt the derby element of the cup offered an extra edge to the traditional pre-season programme.
“Having local teams play each other will add to the pre-season competitiveness for everyone,” said McCordick. “It will also offer our younger players another challenge as part of the development process.
“Geordie did so many good things for the game and it is an honour to help carry on that legacy.”
Hubert Watson and his Dollingstown club compete this year for the first time as part of the expanded format.
“People of all levels within the game knew of Geordie and it is a credit to Portadown to organise a competition in his memory,” he said. “We are delighted to be involved and help raise some money for charity across a showcase of our area’s footballing strength.”
Hanover’s Steven Hyndes highlighted the game last season against Portadown as “the backbone of our season in many ways” following a pre-season friendly which led to the Brownstown Park outfit lifting the Premier Cup and Mid-Ulster Intermediate League Section A title.
“It was organised so well and all for a great cause,” said Hyndes. “Geordie always had time to talk football with everyone.
“It was extra special for Hanover last year to have his grandson, Jake, in our squad as captain for that inaugural tournament.
“Aside from the emotion of the occasion, we got so much out of the competition and our performance against Portadown set down a real marker.
“That Portadown game was the backbone of our season in many ways.”
Seagoe’s Dave Stewart was relishing the Mid-Ulster derby date with Hanover provided by the draw.
“It will be exciting to go up against so many old friends at Hanover,” he said. “Many of the players connected to the clubs would also be Portadown fans, so it’s an honour.”
Benny Johnston was present at the launch of behalf of Laurelvale.
“I’ve known the Richardson family over different generations so am delighted we can support this tournament,” he said. “It is a privilege to have Laurelvale part of the competition.”
Gary McCoo’s connection to the competition covers multiple fronts.
“It is great for clubs to be involved from outside the town and to have a chance to show people the growing strength of the game at Mid-Ulster level,” he said. “Plus, with our strong links to the Richhill Reds Supporters’ Club, we are delighted to be backing anything in honour of someone like Geordie who did so much for Portadown.”
Tandragee Rovers’ Gary Magee had praise for the benefits of increased links between Portadown and Mid-Ulster Football League clubs.
“It is great to see those connections strengthened even more between Portadown and the Mid-Ulster clubs as we can all support each other,” he said. “Geordie was a Portadown legend and held in such high regard so, personally, it means a lot to be connected to a trophy in his memory.
“There are strong links between Tandragee Rovers and the Richardson family, with Darren and Nigel both former players.
“Also, Portadown’s Trevor Williamson started out his coaching career with Tandragee.”
Nat Richardson, on behalf of the family, offered his thanks to the organisers and clubs for continued support.
“We were so proud to have The George Richardson Memorial Cup introduced last year and to now see it increased only adds to that feeling,” he said. “It is brilliant to see so many clubs from the area together in this way and we certainly appreciate the efforts of everyone over last summer and leading up to this year.
“Plus, of course, we would encourage everyone to support such a worthy fund-raising cause.”