Friday 03 November 2023, 07:00

Loughgall - Europe's smallest settlement with a top flight football club

  • The village of Loughgall has a population of just 282 people

  • They are competing this season in the NIFL Premiership

  • “We wouldn’t be where we are without the work of so many people”

When it comes to David v Goliath football success stories, Loughgall, a club in County Armagh in Northern Ireland, can boast of its own tale of winning against the odds.

Loughgall has a population of just 282 residents, 38 fewer than Streymnes (320) - the home of Faroe Islands Premier League club EB/Streymur - which gives them the unique accolade of being the smallest settlement in Europe to have a top-flight football club.

Loughgall are the smallest settlement in Europe to have a top flight football club

The ride that lies in wait this season for them may not be without its dips, but early impressions would be that they are in for a rollercoaster - they offered their support quite the excitement when they saw off a previously unbeaten Larne side with a 90th minute winner courtesy of Benji Magee’s goal.  It is a result that those within Loughgall describe as one of the best in the club’s history. 

Their achievements have not gone unnoticed. The BBC captured the essence of the club in their Football Focus programme, while respected German filmmaker Max Neidlinger also flew across to showcase their story.   Neidlinger’s piece on Loughgall which aired on ZDF Sport won the tiny club a few new admirers in Germany. “We are making the most of it and we will see how long it lasts,” said Loughgall chairman John Nicholson. “We have had interest from Brazil, from Italy and from Germany and, of course, we had the BBC over to film.

“We are just wee Loughgall, but we have a massive history. I am just delighted for the club and for all the people in it who work so hard to make it what it is. We are proud to be a big part of the community here and it is not just the football - it is the quiz nights and the events that we run. We wouldn’t be where we are without the work of so many people. “We were banging on the door of the top flight and then last season we really kicked it down. There have been great crowds and great engagement this season and we are just embracing it. “I don’t know if we are an inspiration to other clubs or not, but I do know that a lot of people have worked tremendously hard to get us where we are. There is another level of bureaucracy now that was challenging for us and a lot of people who slip into the background of this club deserve to be celebrated for their part in getting us to this position.”

Not that he is content to sit on his laurels.

“The long-term aim is Europe! This season we want to stay up. We have got ourselves here and we want to stay here and be a permanent fixture and we can build from there. 

“I think everyone is enjoying their football and the community are enjoying having a team competing against the best in the country. Everything feels good at the minute. We want to make sure that we keep that going but it is not easy. That is why I am so happy that the club is getting a bit of attention because it shines a light on the hard work that everyone has put in, most of it on a voluntary basis.”

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