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GROUND // Loughshore Hotel Arena - Carrick Rangers FC (Northern Ireland)

In our previous post on Crusaders FC we mentioned there was one stand that was bought by another team a couple of decades ago. We found out from the Crusaders team members that this stand was still in use to this day. So we just had to visit this stadium as well. Investigation learned we had to go to the Loughshore Hotel Arena (aka Taylors Avenue), used by Carrick Rangers FC.

Carrick Rangers FC started off in 1939 when two teams playing in the Carrickfergus and District Summer League decided to merge. These teams were Barn Mills and Bubbles. One year later they joined the Minor League and also moved in their current stadium, which was named Barn Field at that time. Immediately they had a lot of success and up until the end of the 50s the team won several championships and slowly moved up the leagues. In the early 50s they also redeveloped the ground (which was also the period as we understood it correctly when they bought this stand from Crusaders FC).

For 20 years in a row (between 1983 and 2003) Carrick Rangers FC were part of the Senior League, but after the restructuring of the Irish Premier League and the reduction of the number of teams they had to go back to the Intermediate League. Just before that time (in 1976) the team achieved their biggest success to this day by winning the Irish Cup defeating Linfield in the final. In 2011 finally they returned to the top division, but after having failed to rescue themselves they relegated after one season only. In 2015 they returned again and they were able to stay there until 2018 when they relegated back to second division. Right now they are fighting for their spot back in first division, but it seems Larne is dominating second division.

For us Belgians it is very odd to see a stadium like this in first division, or even play European football (in the 70s after their cup win). We do have to say, we absolutely LOVE this stadium. A beautiful run down grandstand, added with another stand behind one of the goals. It's only missing some terracing on one of the two open sides of the pitch.

Loughshore Hotel Arena, or Barn Field, originally was the home stadium of Barn FC. Barn FC existed between 1889 and 1928 and the last five years they played the first division. After financial problems they had to cease all activities. There isn't a lot to be found about Barn Mills and Bubbles, the two older teams that formed Carrick Rangers FC. We do know that another "Barn" team (after Barn FC and Barn Mills) - Barn United FC - is playing their home games right next to Carrick Rangers FC. In fact, they were playing at the time we visited Loughshore Hotel Arena.

Anecdote: Carrick Rangers FC is named after Glasgow Rangers. In the meeting room where the merger was discussed there was a huge picture on the wall of Glasgow Rangers. This inspired the board members to use Rangers in their new team name.


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