Former Glenavon footballer Duncan Lowry, who has been living in New Zealand for over two decades, has spent the last fortnight catching up with old friends and team mates in the town.
Duncan, who says he’ll take a break from football when they bury him in Lurgan Cemetery, was home for his niece’s wedding.
A Lurgan man to the core, he started his career with Glenavon in 1987 before spending two seasons with Napier City Rovers in New Zealand. He returned to play for Glentoran before making the move to New Zealand permanent.
Having turned 50 in February, Duncan is now the manager of a team in New Zealand who are top of their league.
Duncan would pay the occasional visit to Lurgan, his latest trip was for his niece Stephanie Quinn’s wedding to Waringstown cricketer Greg Thompson. Stephanie herself played hockey for Ireland.
He said: “It’s always nice to come home for a wedding rather than a funeral. A few years ago we came home for my father’s funeral and it wasn’t very nice.
“Three years ago we were home for my mum’s 70th. We sneaked home for that and as a result of people not knowing we were coming we ended up missing some of our friends.
“We’ve vowed not to do surprises anymore. All our visits home are well publicised now.
“The wedding was on Friday at Galgorm and it was great to catch up with old friends and family.”
Duncan travelled to Lurgan with his wife Maureen and son Dai, where they met up with daughter Stacey who remains in the town having married Jordan Todd. Together they have a baby boy.
“It was brilliant to see our grandson. He’s four and about to start school,” said Duncan. “I’m hoping he’s going to go on to play for Glenavon.”
Of his own career at Glenavon Duncan recalled: “I’ll never forget winning the Budweiser Cup in 1989. I had to sit out the first match because I was suspended. A replay was the result I’d been hoping for.
“I’d been through Carrick, Lurgan Junior High and Lurgan Tech - playing for Glenavon was all I wanted to do. To beat Linfield 6-1 and lift a trophy for my hometown club - I’ve never been so proud.”
Duncan chipped in with a goal in the final adding to the hat-trick from Geoff Ferris and strikes from Stephen McBride and Gary Blackledge.
Drawing on his playing experience, Duncan now balances running a distribution company three days a week and coaching Tauranga City United. “I think I’m enjoying it as much now as I ever did when I was playing,” he said.
“I’ll take a break from football when I’m in Lurgan Cemetery. I was born a footballer and I’ll die a footballer.”
Citing the differences between being a player and a manager Duncan said: “I was probably the biggest nuisance in the world when I was a player. I think back to Nicky (Terry Nicholson) and Peter (Watson) at Glenavon and what we put them through. You don’t realise everything that goes on behind the scenes until you’re a manager yourself. Players don’t care about all that.
“On Monday, I spent an hour and a half with Gary Hamilton talking management. I was very impressed with him. He’s like myself, a proud Lurgan man and it’s great to see him as manager at Glenavon. I was very impressed with him. He strikes me as a great man manager.
“I’ve got two or three very talented players over in New Zealand who are over from the UK. If we can’t get them residency and passports I’ll send them the way of Gary. If they want to further their careers there’s no better place to do it than here.”
He said: “The league we play in is very similar to Irish League. I suppose I’ve been influenced by my time at Glenavon because we play with three forwards. With eight games to go we’re sitting top of Division Two of the Northern League.
“Football is growing in New Zealand but it faces stiff competition from rugby and netball. Netball is huge - it’s on live on Saturday afternoons.”
Duncan added: “It wasn’t an ideal time for the trip with our football season still going on and the Irish league off for the summer, though I haven’t been starved of football.
“The World Cup has been on and I was back at Mourneview Park for Glenavon’s Europa League game.
“Mourneview Park is looking great. Everything about it is superb. The stadium, the pitch, the place is looking fantastic, I love everything about it.
“Both Dai and myself are big Leeds fans. I’ve supported Leeds all my life. It would have been a dream to see them play at Mourneview Park, but we’re missing out by a week.”
Of his life in New Zealand he said: “It was John Hill who played for Glentoran then went on to play for New Zealand in the 1982 World Cup finals who talked me into going to play football in New Zealand.
“I spoke to Maureen about it and we decided it was too good an opportunity to turn down. We left in 1990 with Stacey and Dai. I was 27 when I went out to play for Napier City. Dai would have been finishing primary school and Stacey had done her last year at the girls’ junior high.
“We’re loving life out here. It’s good to get home and it’s good to have friends over to visit.”
In 2005 Duncan was paid a visit by Darryl Mooney, the pair having exchanged best man duties at their respective weddings. He’d come over with the British Lions when they were touring New Zealand.
On the subject of rugby Duncan said: “Nobody was more disappointed than me when the Irish rugby team failed to beat New Zealand after a 19 point head start last November.”
Although he lives in a country dominated by rugby Duncan said: “Football is the biggest common denominator in the world. If I see anybody wearing a Northern Ireland shirt in New Zealand I’ll go over and talk to them.”
He added: “I’ve been home for 17 days in total. The last couple of weeks have been great.
“I caught up with Robbie Beck at the Eleventh Night bonfire in Mourneview. I hadn’t seen him in nearly 24 years before that. I also visited Colin Malone at his restaurant in Lurgan. I’m glad I didn’t bump in to Jimmy McGroarty. I still haven’t forgiven him for that miss in the 1988 cup final.”