Ards v Stade de Reims - 1958
By Adrian Monaghan
Ards Football Club became the second Northern Irish side to enter the European Cup in 1958.
Glenavon had been the pioneers the previous year when they took on Danish side Aarhus. Ards’
opponents were Stade de Reims, the top French side at the time.
Reims had appeared in the 1956 final only to fall to the all-conquering Real Madrid side. A
flamboyant team, they were responsible for the first ‘Golden Generation’ of French football, having supplied players like Juste Fontaine, Roger Marche and Raymond Kopa.
The first leg of the tie was played at Windsor Park on Wednesday 17 September, 1958. Ards put on a good show and more than matched their opponents, but ultimately the levels in fitness of the full-timers told in the end and the visitors won 4-1.
The French party, who were staying at the Grand Central Hotel in Royal Avenue, had among their
ranks many French internationals, including Robert Jonquet, Jean Vincent, Armand Penverne,
Dominique Colonna, Roger Piantoni and Just Fontaine, who had all played when France reached the semi-finals of the 1958 World Cup finals.
Marrakesh-born Fontaine was the big name among the travelling party, having returned home in the summer from the World Cup finals in Sweden as the leading scorer with thirteen goals, two of them against Northern Ireland in the quarter-finals. Fontaine was pictured in his room lying in bed reading while proclaiming to the local press that: “I must have fifteen hours sleep per day!”
Being part-timers, the Ards team arrived at the Belfast venue after putting in a shift at work. They
also went into the game without captain George Richardson, who had picked up an ankle injury the previous Saturday. Ards, in fact, had to get special permission from the European Committee to play young Jim Conkey in his place. Not the best preparation for a game of such stature, but that did not
stop this Ards side putting on a tremendous show; a performance that the final scoreline did little justice to.
Hugh Lowry was the goalscorer and by doing so he wrote his name into the history books as being
the first player to score a goal in Europe for an Irish League club.
Ards- T.Moffatt, D.Hunter, R.McGuicken, R.Giffen, T.Forde, D.Fletcher, B.Humphries, J.Conkey,
D.Lawther, H.Lowry, A.Boyd. Attendance – 21,000.
The return game was scheduled for 8 October, with the venue being Parc De Princes in Paris.
The 23-strong party, including pressmen Malcolm Brodie (Belfast Telegraph) and the Chronicle’s
Norman Boal departed Newtownards in the early hours of Monday 6 October, 1958 to catch a
morning flight from Nutts Corner to London. A connection was boarded at London to Paris for an
afternoon check-in to the Hotel Moderne in Place de la Republique.
As for the match, well, Ards gave a good account of themselves, but fell to a heavy 6-2 defeat with
that man Fontaine, again running riot. This time he bagged a brace to bring his tally to six over the
Davy Lawther and Sammy Quee scored for the Newtownards men. Lawther actually opened the
scoring on the evening, giving his side the lead after four minutes.
On the morning of the game Malcolm Brodie broke the news to George Eastham that he had been
successful in his application for the manager’s job at Accrington Stanley. The Lancashire club were
plying their trade in Football League Division Three at the time.
Ards- T.Moffatt, D.Hunter, R.McGuicken, R.Giffen, T.Forde, D.Fletcher, A.Boyd, G.Richardson,
D.Lawther, S.Quee, N.Lockhart. Attendance – 19,500.
France Football, the distinguished football journal of its day, did a feature on the town and the team.
The magazine, reminding the Newton’ folk of our French heritage, had this to say about
Une Bourgade Fondee par un Normand
‘A small town founded by a Norman’
Ards is the diminutive of Newtonards, a small town situated 25km to the east of Belfast, on the edge
of a large lake. Newtonards (15,000 inhabitants) is a very active industrial centre with weaving,
aircraft construction and silk stockings industry.
It is a picturesque life with the metallic appearance of the slate roofs.
The word Ards is Gaelic, it means heights, or hills surrounding the city.
The Founder of the city was also of French origin: John de Courcy was indeed a direct descendant of
Charles of Lorraine. Thus Remois will not be completely foreigners to the Irish land.
Belfast, where the game will be played, has 500,000 inhabitants. The stadium Windsor Park can
accommodate 40,000 people.
Throughout the article the author constantly refers to Newtonards, note the missing ‘w’, perhaps
this was some form of revenge for us insisting on adding an ‘h’ to Reims. Touché!