Limavady brothers Stephen and Philip Lowry have been on a footballing journey for most of their lives.
They’ve played against each other at least half a dozen times and, yes, that has been “awkward”, but it’s probably the only time when the brothers have really had to deal with sibling rivalry.
Stephen, the older of the brothers at 28, has played for Limavady and Ballymena. He moved from Coleraine and joined Linfield last year, two days after his younger brother left Windsor Park. He is a client advisor, and works between his firm’s offices in Derry and Belfast, training three times a week in Belfast.
“It’s 16-hour days, a big commitment, but I knew what I was getting into, and I’m really enjoying it,” says Stephen.
Philip, who has put his career as a pharmacist on hold, has played for Limavady, Institute and Linfield.
He recently joined Derry City and trains with the Candy Stripes every day. Coupled with the travel involved in matches, it’s a big change for him compared to his time with the Blues, but he’s relishing every moment at the Brandywell.
“I get to run around a pitch and stay healthy and play football. I’m very lucky,” says Philip.
Dad Ken says for as long as he can remember, the boys have been “football mad”. Memories of them kicking a ball up and down the hallway at home, and breaking a few household ornaments along the way are vivid, says Ken.
“I do get nervous at matches, but I try to stay calm,” he says. “They’re intelligent footballers. They’re rigorous with their training, and they’ve had no serious injuries. I try not to worry too much.”
Although the brothers have always been on different sides, they have always supported each other and seem to know each other inside out. When asking Philip for his career highlight, Stephen is quick to point out it was his “good header” in the Irish Cup Final when Philip scored the winning goal for Linfield against Portadown. Philips says for Stephen it was his volley in 2013 that made it 3-2 for Coleraine against Linfield; a match televised on Sky.
They are also united in their support for Arsenal, a team supported by dad Ken, mum Clare and sister Gemma.
“We’re just two boys from Limavady,” says Philip. “Growing up, there were a lot of talented players, but it’s true ‘you get back what you put in’, and we’ve stuck at it and had a bit of luck along the way. When you strip it all back, you have to remember never to take it for granted.”
The brothers pay tribute to their family and friends for their support, and to local footballers in Limavady such as their uncles Gerry Mullan who played for Northern Ireland and Everton, Pat Mullan who played for Ballymena and Coleraine, and to Limavady man Mickey Guy - still playing football and scoring goals in his sixties; a “legend” in Philip’s eyes.
“Definitely, we are very lucky,” says Stephen, “and, as Philip says, we never take it for granted.”