Club History

 

 Northern Ireland Civil Service Men’s Hockey Club was formed on the evening of 12th September 1923 by a group of work colleagues from the Ministry of Finance, Land Registry. They chose red and blue halves as a playing kit. Initially only a 1st XI played league matches, in the Intermediate League, but within a year a 2nd XI was formed. The club was not based at Stormont in those early years. They endured a somewhat nomadic existence playing games all over south and east Belfast at Cherryvale, Orangefield, Balmoral and Sydenham before finally establishing a home base at Gibson Park on the Cregagh Road, now the home of Malone RFC. Success was limited but the members were very enthusiastic and they enjoyed a varied social calendar. A 3rd XI was soon established and games were arranged on a home and away basis against the Irish Civil Service. It was not until 1936/37 that the club gained its first successes. The 1st XI had a great season winning the Intermediate League B Division and County Hospital’s Cup and reaching the finals of the Intermediate Cup and Linden Cup. Click on the following to see a rare picture of this team!  1936 Team . The following season the 1st XI was promoted to the Qualifying League but any chance of further promotion to the Senior League were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

The hockey club did not reform immediately after the War. However one of our local rivals, Wanderers Hockey Club based on the Upper Newtownards Road at Thornhill, continued to play friendlies. They were forced to leave their ground in 1943 and moved to Newtownards. They were one of the top clubs in Ulster throughout the 1940’s regularly competing with Lisnagarvey and Banbridge in the Senior League. Sadly their fortunes took a turn for the worse in the 1950’s. They again lost their pitch and moved to the Comber Road just outside Dundonald village. With the loss of many players they also dropped out of the Senior League. By 1955 they were on the verge of folding altogether. At the same time the NICS Sports Association was keen to expand. In May 1955 Wanderers’ officials approached the NICS Sports Council with a suggestion to transfer their hockey club to Stormont. This was made possible as almost all of the remaining Wanderers’ players were either civil or public servants. After some discussion the proposal was granted and NICS Men’s Hockey Club was re-established in September 1955. To retain part of their heritage the members of the time decided to keep the Wanderers’ black and white quartered shirts instead of the original red and blue colours.

 

Home games were played on the grass hockey pitch in front of Dundonald House while the infamous "green hut" provided spartan changing accommodation. The club struggled for many years relying on schoolboys from Annadale Grammar and Campbell College to replace the older players who either retired or moved to Senior League clubs. When the Ulster Branch leagues were restructured in 1968 it gave NICS the opportunity to play in Senior League 2 for the first time. Unfortunately we were relegated back to the Intermediate League within two years. While playing at this level the club enjoyed considerable success with three players representing Ulster at Junior level and the 1st XI winning the Intermediate Cup in 1973/74 and the Intermediate League the following year. Despite winning Senior League 2 in 1977/78 promotion to Senior League 1 was denied due to a controversial rule change. The 1st XI continued to challenge for promotion and the club grew stronger every season. The 2nd XI won the Mulholland Shield, the 3rd XI won Junior League 5 and five XIs now played every Saturday. The 1st XI reached its first ever senior cup final when it contested the Anderson Cup Final in 1985 losing narrowly 1-0 to Belfast YMCA who fielded nine international players in their team. A disastrous season followed when the club lost its senior status and were relegated back to junior hockey. In addition to consecutive Intermediate Cup wins the 1st XI’s remarkable league campaign of 1987/88 made the headlines. A 100% record of 18 wins from 18 games is unprecedented in the modern era of local hockey. This led to a return to senior hockey and NICS being crowned "Harp Ulster Hockey Team of the Year." At the same time a Youth Section was formed and its success has been phenomenal. Twenty-one NICS Youth Section members have since represented Ulster & Ireland at under-16, under-18 and under-21 level.

 

Into the 1990’s the club continued to expand; 6th and 7th XIs were formed; the 2nd XI reached the highest junior league; the NICS Prentice Indoor hockey squad reached the semi-final of the Irish Championships; our Youth Section attracted over 60 schoolboys; and, the 1st XI fought hard to win promotion to Senior League 1. On 3rd September 1994 our magnificent artificial pitch was officially opened when an NICS XI drew 2-2 with the full Ireland international team. The following season the 1st XI took on a rather more youthful look with a view to building a team capable of reaching Senior League 1 within five years. In the meantime more success followed; the 7th XI won the Sussex Regiment Cup; the 6th XI won Junior League 8; the 5th XI won Junior League 5; the 4th XI were promoted three times in four years; the 3rd XI won the Mulholland Shield; and, the 2nd XI won the Davidson Cup and with it promotion back to Junior League 1. The club celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1998 with a series of special events and the publishing of a 120-page book detailing the club’s history. In the 1999/2000 season the 1st XI finally realised their cherished ambition of promotion to Senior League 1 and they achieved it in superb fashion; 41 points out of a possible 44 and scoring a record 115 goals in just 22 league games. In addition, the team reached a second Anderson Cup Final losing narrowly 2-1 to incumbent All-Ireland Champions, Instonians.

 

The 1st XI remained in what was to become the Premier League, the top flight of Ulster hockey until the end of the 2006/07 season when, after losing a number of senior players to retirement and injury, they were relegated Senior 1. The 2007/08 season was a mixed one for the club, with the 3rd XI, 4th XI and 6th XI being relegated.

The future looked brighter however, with the announcement of a project to provide two new pitches in time for the start of the 2010 season. Work commenced in September 2009.

This work has now been completed and Civil Service now have two state of the art hockey pitches, one water-based and the other sand-dressed. Both pitches were completed in time for the start of the 2010/11 season and are impressive sitting in the picturesque Stormont Estate along-side the new PlayBall facility that has also opened for six-a-side football, again with excellent facilities and proving popular. The 2010/11 season ended on a very high note with the Ladies 1st XI gaining promotion, Men's 1st XI consolidating their Premier status and promotion also for the Men's 2nd, 4th and 5th XI teams. Indeed the 4th XI completed a league and cup double by winning the Minor Cup for the first time 

Blast From The Past

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