If you’re sitting down to enjoy the English FA Cup Final with friends and family this evening, remember that there is never an inopportune time to remind people that Cliftonville are Ireland’s most successful representatives in the history of the competition.
On St Patrick’s Day last year, FACupFactfile reasoned that, of the six Irish Clubs to have played in the FA Cup, the Reds ranked highest by virtue of having progressed to the Third Round – further than Distillery, Linfield, Belfast YMCA, Belfast North End or Ulster ever managed.
Cliftonville’s first FA Cup fixture was a 2-2 draw with Blackburn Park Road on October 9, 1886 ahead of the Reds registering a convincing 7-2 victory when the sides reconvened for a replay a fortnight later.
Bolton Great Lever were then overcome in the Second Round ahead of Partick Thistle’s emphatic 11-1 success spelling the end of the Club’s inaugural involvement.
In 1887, Cliftonville failed to fulfil a First Round encounter with Church before returning with a convincing 5-0 defeat of YMCA in the following year’s Second Qualifying Round, when one scorer was infamously listed simply as ‘scrimmage’.
Liverpool Stanley’s withdrawal from the tournament saw the Reds progress to face Linfield and, after two 3-3 draws, the Blues made no mistake with a 7-0 success in what remains the only game in FA Cup game in history to be played on Christmas Day.
Linfield also ended Cliftonville’s interest in 1889 but, 12 months later, a 4-3 victory Macclesfield Town saw the Reds paired with Rhosllanerchrugog, however the Welsh team’s inability to fulfil the Second Qualifying Round tie saw Cliftonville handed a bye to the next phase, where Leek Town were beaten 2-1.
That, in turn, set up a December encounter with Chester, only for Cliftonville to withdraw from what would prove to be the Club’s last scheduled fixture in the competition.
Cliftonville’s FA Cup History
First Round: Blackburn Park Road 2-2 Cliftonville (Dobbin, Turner)
First Round Replay: Cliftonville 7-2 Blackburn Park Road (Turner x4, Barry x2, OG)
Second Round: Bolton Great Lever 1-3 Cliftonville (Barry, Turner, Dobbin)
Third Round: Cliftonville 1-11 Partick Thistle (Baxter)
First Round: Church v Cliftonville [Cliftonville withdrew]
Second Qualifying Round: YMCA 0-5 Cliftonville (Elleman, Gibb, Lawther, Barr, ‘scrimmage’)
Third Qualifying Round: Cliftonville v Liverpool Stanley [Liverpool Stanley withdrew]
Fourth Qualifying Round: Cliftonville 3-3 Linfield (Barry, Gibson x2)
Fourth Qualifying Round Replay: Cliftonville 3-3 Linfield (Gibson, Turner x2)
Fourth Qualifying Round Second Replay: Cliftonville 0-7 Linfield
Second Qualifying Round: Linfield 4-0 Cliftonville
First Qualifying Round: Cliftonville 4-3 Macclesfield Town (Neill, Turner, Williamson, Browne)
Second Qualifying Round: Cliftonville v Rhosllanerchrugog [Rhosllanerchrugog withdrew]
Third Qualifying Round: Leek Town 1-2 Cliftonville (Turner, Gibb)
Fourth Qualifying Round: Chester v Cliftonville [Cliftonville withdrew]