City of Armagh Rugby Club is one of the oldest clubs in Ireland.
Records exist of games being played in the early 1870's but the accepted date of the Club's foundation is 1875.
Shortage of players led to a break in activities in the late 1890's but the Club re-emerged after a couple of years and went on to win a rare double in 1910 - Towns and Junior Cup in the same season.
In 1920 after five years inactivity during the war years, Armagh entered the senior league but after two seasons were prevailed upon by the Ulster Branch to step down again.
Success continued, however, at junior level with five cups being won between 1928 and 1939, and three sides being put on the field. Bobby Barnes, then at Trinity College Dublin achieved a rare double in 1933 when he played for Armagh in the Town's Cup in January and for Ireland against Wales in March, being on the winning side on both occasions.
After another wartime break Armagh resumed their junior status in 1945, going on to win the Towns Cup in 1947. Other cup victories include the Town's Cup in 1951 and 1971, Junior Cup in 1965 and Past Player's Cup in 1958 and 1965.
By 1961 the necessity to acquire new headquarters was more and more apparent. A new pavilion was built on the Mall to accommodate cricket and rugby clubs in 1964 but the pitch remained a problem. Once the Palace Grounds became available the Club eagerly moved, with the first game being played on 8 September 1973.
Three Prunty pitches were laid and training lights installed. Originally the Mall was to be used as a spare pitch but inevitably everything was centralised at the Palace Grounds and the old rugby pitch became a cricket pitch. With six teams now turning out (and an occasional seventh) all the new pitches were fully occupied, and thoughts turned to promotion to senior status.
Not until 1981, however, was that goal achieved.
Meanwhile, cups and leagues were being won, for example in 1965 the Junior and Past Player's Cups were won and only a penalty goal gave Dungannon victory in the Town's Cup final to spoil a treble. In 1972 the Club presented the Mall Trophy to be competed for by the winners of the Junior, Towns, Past Players and McCrea Cups in a single day Saturday tournament. The winner could thus be acclaimed as Ulster Junior Champions.
Unfortunately, while the other three cup winners could easily be established, the Past Player's cup (for sectional junior league winners) tended to run late in the season and the I.R.F.U at the time were adamantly opposed to rugby in May. On at least one occasion the late Leeman Allen, Armagh's guiding force for many years, calculated that Dublin would be unlikely to hear of Armagh events and the tournament went ahead on the first Saturday in May. City of Armagh won the Mall Trophy four times.
An interesting fixture was a visit by Armagh to play Bath at The Rec in 1975. The home side fielded a full team, except their fly half, and were somewhat concerned to be nine points down going into the last quarter. However, they managed to rally and squeak home. This was a return of a friendly between Armagh and Bath at the Mall several years before.
Two North American tours were undertaken, to USA in 1978 and to Canada in 1983.
The 1980-81 season was a most memorable one. The Towns Cup was won again and on 5 April Armagh travelled to Ballymena to defeat the local second XV to gain promotion to the Senior League. To add to the joy they won the Mall Trophy and followed up by travelling to Arklow to win the Oval Trophy, then played for by the winners of the Towns Cup in the four provinces. The new venture into senior rugby got off to the best possible start when Instonians were beaten 20-19 at the Palace Grounds in October 1981.
Naturally, this level of success did not continue but the first couple of years at this level were quite creditable. Top of the table was achieved, albeit briefly, but in the end it was a relief to be invited into Division Four of the All Ireland League where several happy and interesting years were spent, from 1994 onwards. The results, indeed, were more rewarding than in the Ulster Senior League, which was revived about this time.
However, in 1997 Armagh were faced with a relegation playoff and the I.R.F.U got into a prolonged legal battle over which Junior club should provide the opposition. The saga dragged on until late May but by then Armagh could not produce a side within the parameters laid down and they were forced to withdraw, leaving Omagh and Midleton to play off. So since then it has been back to Junior ranks.
Success continued at Junior level on and off the pitch and Cuty of Armagh won promotion back to Senior status in 2011. The season was successful both on and off the pitch across the Club from Senior, Youth and Mini to Ladies rugby and City of Armagh RFC was awarded the Ulster Club of the Year trophy for the 2010-2011 season.
In the 2014-15 season, the Club were again nominated for Ulster Club of The Year after City of Armagh 1XV finished runners-up in the All Ireland League as well as the Ulster Senior League. The 1st XV will now play in Division 2B of the restructured All Ireland League.
The 2015-2016 season saw history being made at the Club with our first female President, Shirley-Anne Donaldson.