The highlight of the Armagh Sports Forum 10th anniversary awards in Armagh City hotel was an award acknowledging the local man who gave football its most famous rule – the penalty kick.
This award commemorates the memory of one of Armagh’s most august sportsmen, William Mc Crum of Milford, who introduced the penalty kick to football in 1890.
Born at Manor House in the village in 1868, Mc Crum was the only son of Robert Garmany (RG) Mc Crum a linen baron who actually built Milford. He was educated at Armagh Royal School and Trinity College, Dublin, before entering the family business. He died in 1932 and is buried in the family plot in a corner of St Mark’s Parish Churchyard.
His sporting prowess surfaced as goalkeeper for Milford football team. It was his subsequent frustration with what he felt were the persistent illegal methods employed to thwart skilful forwards that led him coming up with the idea of the penalty kick invention.
An initial storm of protest eventually morphed into tacit agreement and the penalty was eventually unanimously embraced by the International Board in 1891. Other sporting bodies including the GAA (1941) have since adopted the rule.
It was a significant landmark in sporting history – a break – through that has since had resonance throughout the sporting world via penalties awarded at all levels of the game and the famous (or infamous as the case may be!) penalty shoot-outs, some of which have decided the destination of the major global trophies.
2008 is the bicentennial year of the Mc Crum family to Milford and later this year it is planned to officially open the Mc Crum Memorial Park in the village, a suitable legacy to a family that wrote a special chapter in sporting history. Indeed it honours a man of exceptional sporting prowess and dedication.
Its is now an unbelievable 118 years since William Mc Crum’s penalty rule came into being but it’s only recently both on and off the field of play that’s it’s significance has become so high profile.
A number of years ago when work on a housing development was about to start in Milford on the William Street spot were the penalty idea was spawned, the local village community association, put in a challenge and with the help of widespread media attention, reached a compromise with the planners and developers. The outcome was the provision of a large sized memorial park which both suitably and attractively centres the new housing development, known as Linen Green, a name commemorating the days when Milford was home of Irish linen.
A Milford penalty kick steering group consisting of Kieran Mc Auley and Stephen Hyde (whose forebearers played with William Mc Crum on the Milford team), Joe Mc Manus, Gerard Mackle, Marie-Claire Donaghy (Bluefish Armagh) and Jackie Mitchell (Chairperaon of Milford Community Development Association) worked in conjunction with Armagh Sports Forum to include the Mc Crum Award (a one-off) as a fitting highlight of this year’s 10th anniversary event.
James Mc Crum Miller, representing the Mc Crum family, travelled from Reading in England and along with Stormont Executive Sports Minister Edwin Poots, presented the award to the winner, Emma Stewart, for her contribution to sport in the Armagh City and District Council area since the inception of the Sports Forum Awards ten years ago.
Speaking at the event, James Mc Crum Miller said it was a great honour for him to be part of such a prestigious gathering and recalled the work undertaking by William Mc Crum in promoting sport and getting young people involved in it.
Earlier in the day he had gone to Milford to see the home of his ancestors, Manor House Museum which is housed in the gate lodge at the entrance to the former Mc Crum estate.