There are different ways to write your name into the history books of a club – just ask Peter Lowry.
The diminutive right winger was a mainstay in the Larne team of the 1990’s and twenty years ago next month he ensured his name would be remembered for a significant milestone.
As so often happened the festive fixture list threw up a meeting between Larne and neighbours Carrick Rangers. The day after Boxing Day, 1999, Larne found themselves trailing 1-0 in the dying stages of the game.
It looked like we would end the year, and indeed the millennium, with a defeat to our name. That was until late brace of goals turned the game, and history books, on its head. Lowry stepped forward and managed to create a little bit of history, as he explains.
“We went to play Carrick on the day after Boxing Day,” he recalls.
“We were 1-0 down for quite a long time until I managed to get a late goal.
“Shortly after that I remember the ball was played through to me and I slipped the ball under Paul Kee to make it 2-1. It was great to win the game but it also meant I got the Larne’s last goal of the millennium, which was nice.”
“My young lad plays for one of Crusaders’ youth teams now and I still remind him about it!”
That memorable brace came in what would be Lowry’s final season at the club, after joining the club as a teenager seven years earlier, in 1993. He was brought to the club by then Larne Olympic boss – and soon to be Linfield assistant manager – Bryan McLoughlin.
“I worked with someone who was good friends with Brian at the time,” he explained.
“Bryan was in charge of the Olympic at that stage and he was looking to build the squad a bit. I was invited down towards the end of the 1993 season and enjoyed it. I was playing in the Amateur League at that stage.”
“I had a bit of contact from Linfield and Ballyclare when I was younger, but at that stage they probably weren’t too interested in welcoming a 16-year-old into the dressing room. I really enjoyed it at Larne and settled well, my first game for the Olympic was against Cliftonville.”
“I actually remember being at the Irish Cup Final Larne lost to Glentoran not that long before it (in 1987), and it was great to be able to join the club.”
Lowry’s progress from the Olympic to first team involved an interesting quirk of circumstances. Still involved with the Olympic team in pre-season, Lowry got his chance to impress the first team – albeit with a quick turnaround!
“The Olympic played a pre-season friendly out at the Rugby Club and I was in the squad for that,” Lowry explained
“I played the first half in that match and then I was told the I was wanted to play for the first team, in the second half of their friendly against Darlington! You don’t really think much about it at the time, but it was a great experience to be involved and play against those sort of players.
“So I had to make my way down to Inver and came on for the firsts. I must have done ok, and was involved with the first team from then on.”
For Lowry, stepping out of the Amateur League and getting his first taste of Irish League football, was something to relish.
“I went from playing in the Amateur League and paying dues to play, to getting some money to play football,” he said.
“Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a lot of money! I think we got a fiver to cover our petrol, but you were getting a couple of quid and people were paying in to watch you. You were travelling to matches in a shirt and tie and it helped to remind you of the level you were playing at.
“Even though Larne were always a First Division club when I was there, it was a step up for me and I really enjoyed it.”
Like many others, as Lowry reflects on his time in the game, he freely admits many of his most enjoyable moments in the game came at Larne.
He added: “When you look back, it was the people at club who made it was it is. I enjoyed so many of the people I played with, people John McKinstry the captain, he really was gentleman John. Steven Douglas came through before going on to Portadown and Linfield. Some really good players like Tom McCourt. Jody and Marcus Hill are people I’m still in touch with and played alongside at Larne.
“I got on well with the managers in my time too. Good people like Shay Hamill, Byron Seymour who was assistant and Frankie Parks was always someone I enjoyed working under.”
It’s not just on the pitch where Lowry made connections during his time at the club.
“I remember I scored a hat-trick in the last game of the season against Ballyclare,” he said.
“I think we were something like 3-0 down inside 20 minutes, but we came storming back and I managed to get three of the goals, with Stevie Withers scoring the other two and we won 5-3. After the game I was looking for the matchball to keep as a souvenir and Sam Penney was laughing and asking me: ‘Are you sure you really want it?’
“Money was tight back then and I only just about got it, but that summed up Sam. He was a great character and did so much for the club, working on the pitch and everything else he did.
“There were a lot of good people about the club, Sam McCready the chairman and others, and that made it what it was.”
In the summer of 2000, Lowry was a man in demand, having shown his eye for goal on a regular basis at Inver Park. Ards, with significant investment behind them, were making a charge for the First Division title. They came looking for Lowry’s services and it was a lure too strong to turn down.
“I had got to the point where I had my heart set on trying to win something or get to a final,” he said.
“Ards were pretty strong at the time, with Trevor Anderson and Frankie Parks there. I really enjoyed working with Frankie at Larne and that was another big pull in going there. We managed to win the First Division and some success along the way.
“Shane Reddish took over eventually and I had a bit of a disagreement with him and moved on. When I look back on it, I wouldn’t say I regretted going to Ards, but the days I enjoyed the most in football came at Larne.”
A problem involving his hip led to Lowry hanging up his boots earlier than expected after a three-month stint at Carrick Rangers. Thankfully, after getting the all clear, he enjoyed a brief swansong, and reunion with Byron Seymour, at Larne Tech.
In recent times Lowry’s path has crossed with the town’s senior club, both on and off the field.
“I was at the game against Crusaders in the semi-final of County Antrim Shield about a year ago,” he said.
“And back at Seaview for the league game in August. Larne play a really nice brand of view, it’s very good to watch. It’s also great to see how the town have got behind them.
“I was also invited down to play in the legends match against Glentoran, which was really good. There were people I would have remembered playing with, like Damien McLaughlin, Bertie Fulton and Stephen Adair. There were also fellas I would have played against in my time at Larne, like Bustard and Gary Wray.
“The new pitch is also great to play on. I remember the old slope at Inver and nearly getting lost in the grass back in the day!”
The Inver Park surface is just one of many changes in the last two decades since Peter Lowry last kicked a ball competitively for the club. However, no matter how many things change or how many years pass by, that memorable brace at Taylors Avenue has ensured his name will forever be etched the club’s history books.