The PWMI or Institute’s association with football goes back to the month of October 1905 when a number of players and supporters of North End Olympic F.C. which had lapsed, conceived the idea of organising a soccer team. A meeting was accordingly held in the rooms, Mr William Buchanan of the Diamond Hotel, acting as chairman. It was thereupon decided to form a Junior Football Club in connection with the P.W.M.I. to be known as ‘Institute Football Club’ to affiliate with the North West Football Association and to play only friendly matches during the season 1905 – 06.
The following Officers were elected for that season – Chairman, Mr D. Gillespie; Secretary, Mr J. Holland; Treasurer, Mr G. Orr; Committee, Messrs. W. M. Wilton, J. Andrews, J. Gilfillan, and J. Campbell. The first friendly match arranged was against St Columb’s Court at Magee College grounds the Committee having received permission to use their field when not occupied by the Magee College Rugby Club. Those who had the honour of playing Institute’s first match were
J.Parkhill, D.Patton, Wm. Neely, R.A.Bogle, W.M.Wilton, D.Gillespie, J.Holland, D.McCleery, D.Gilfillan, G. Young, A. Doherty.
It was a promising start, for the Institute won a spirited match by 2 goals to 1. Many other friendly matches were arranged during the season and the club whose strength was gradually increasing by the addition of new players, held its own against the leading junior teams in the North-West district.
At the beginning of the season 1906-07 the club entered for the several competitions connected with the N.W.F.A. The first junior league tie was against Farm Wanderers, at the Farm, the following Institute team drawing a match in which each side scored four goals – J Douglas, D Patton, W Neely, R A Bogle, D Gillespie, G Eicks, J Holland, D McCleery, D Gilfillian, W Maultsaid and A Doherty. A successful season was enjoyed although no trophies were won.
Under the same management the club started the season 1907-08 and it was then that Billy Gillespie became associated with Institute. His first match was against the famous Idlers FC at Brandywell, in a junior league tie, which Institute won 2-I. Two weeks later Gillespie was considered too young to play against Derry Celtic Wanderers in the final of the North-West Charity Cup. This match took place at Celtic Park on Boxing Day 1907, and although Wanderers were composed chiefly of senior players, Institute emerged the victors by 4 goals to 1. They were the first junior team to win this coveted trophy. During the season the name of Gillespie became known throughout the whole district.
In representative matches North-West FA against Belfast, Mid-Ulster and Enniskillen districts the following Institute players gained their places on many occasions – Gillespie, Maultsaid, Eaton, Wallace, Wright and Boyd. Gillespie, Wright and Boyd also won International caps. Mr William Logue, Chairman of the North-West Football Association was now chairman of Institute FC, a position he held until the end of the season 1914. Mr Andrew Marshall was Secretary and Mr D Gillespie, Treasurer.
At the start of the season 1910-11 the Institute with great regret parted with Billy Gillespie, who had got a tempting offer from Leeds City. In the season 1912-13 Institute fought their way to the semi-final of the Irish Junior Cup, being defeated by Broadway United at Brandywell by 2 goals to 1. Elisha Scott, who went on to fame with Liverpool and Ireland kept goals for Broadway United on that occasion.
In the following season Institute went a step further, entering the final against Brantwood FC at Grosvenor Park, Belfast. They were unluckily beaten by 2 goals to 1.