Portaferry Rovers Football Club was borne out of a merger between Burn Brae Rovers and Portaferry Celtic. Burn Brae Rovers was formed in 1974 by Tom McGrattan, Billy and Davy Fitzsimmons and Seamus McGrath and this team first competed in the Downpatrick Youth League winning it’s first trophy the same season. This team contained many players who would go on to play at a higher level including Shane Breen, Tom Finnegan etc. Club stalwart and current Secretary, Terry Fitzsimmons also played on this team, the first of his 27 seasons as a player with the club.
Rovers’ progress in the Co. Down Junior League was consistent and improved to such an extent that the League title was secured. During these early years trophies continued to be won including those won at Clandeboye Rd and the Junior Stadium. Rovers also entered a Summer League and many epic encounters were played against local rivals from Portavogie and Greyabbey.
With the team progressing very well it was deemed necessary to form a reserve team. Numbers at training had grown to the extent that manager Tom McGrattan had a huge panel to select from but only 11 jerseys to fill. Brian Doran and Sean Ennis took the reigns of the Reserve team in 1984 and they too were entered into the Down Junior League.
The second team eventually attained promotion to the top division where unusually the first team was among the opponents.
In 1987, the first team entered the Newcastle & District League with the reserves remaining in the Down League. The first team was put into Division 2 which they won comfortably. The next season the second team also joined the League.
Under the management of former player, Shane Breen, the side completed a league and cup double in 1989 when they defeated Newcastle 1-0 in the Harry Clarke Cup final; the goal coming from Dominic Matthews. “ Flea” would later win a Steel and Sons winners medal with Comber Rec. Breen brought a new attitude and a professionalism to the club that was rewarded with trophies. Charlie Kearney took over the manager’s job in 1990 and secured the runners-up position in the League. It would be 10 years before the team would again have a serious charge at the League title.
Shane Breen returned as manager and the Bobby Dalzell Cup was won in 1995 on a freezing Boxing Day morning; 17 year old Jerome Trainor clinching the tie.
It would be five more years until there was more silverware to be polished. Season 1999-2000 was to go down as one of the best ever in the club’s history when the prestigious Co. Antrim Junior Shield was won. Ardglass were beaten on penalties in the semi-final which meant Portaferry Rovers faced Penarol in the final at the Welders facility. Joint managers Brian Doran and Hugh O’Neill guided the team to a 1-0 victory, the winner being scored by Aidan Mageean. Club captain Terry Fitzsimmons was awarded Co Antrim FA Junior Footballer of the Year and promptly hung up his boots. The team had overcome the disappointment of finishing runners-up in the League; a late goal in the final fixture robbing them of the title.
It was 2007 before the next trophies were collected. The first team clinched the League title for the first time since 1989, under the stewardship of Colin McConnell, and the second team won Division 2 going undefeated throughout the season.
In 2008-9, Paul Costello took over from “Cheesty” and the Bobby Dalzell Cup was won on Boxing Day, a 2-0 victory over Valley Rangers securing the trophy.
In June 2010 the club was successful in it’s application to join the Northern Amateur Football League. This is a reward for the considerable amount of hard work undertaken by a number of committee men. The club is looking forward to this new challenge and to making further progress on and off the field.
Season 2010-11 was memorable for a number of reasons. Firstly it was the club’s inaugaral season in the Northern Amateur Football League. Rovers met the challenge of playing at a higher level and managed to secure promotion to 2B in their first season. A number of performances in the league stand out: home wins against fellow promoted clubs Greencastle Rovers and Rosemount Rec along with completing the double over 4th placed St Luke’s. In truth Rovers proved they were a match for any side in the division although achieving week to week consistency proved elusive. The biggest day of the season was without question the home victory in the Clarence Cup against Premier division side Wellington Rec. Some 6 divisions seperated the teams but on the day Rovers put in a huge performance eventually winning the tie 3-2 in extra-time.
In season 2011-12 Rovers secured back to back promotions since entry to the Amateur League when they finished in 3rd place in their first season in 2B. The second team also finished 3rd in their division. Both teams produced excellent performance throughout the season and finished their respective campaigns strongly. Once again the first team produced a giant-killing performance in the Clarence Cup; this time defeating Premier Division side Malachians away from home. The season will also be remembered for the loss of club founder Tom McGrattan. “Texas” had been instrumental in forming the club in 1974 and had held every position from Manager, Secretary, Chairman and President. His contribution to the club is without equal and he will remain sorely missed by all.