seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of George Best, Northern Irish Footballer

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 80George Best, Northern Irish professional footballer, dies on November 25, 2005 due to complications from the immunosuppressive drugs he required following a 2002 liver transplant.

Best is born on May 22, 1946 and grows up in Cregagh, east Belfast. In 1957, he passes the eleven-plus and goes to Grosvenor High School, but he soon plays truant as the school specialises in rugby. He then moves to Lisnasharragh Secondary School, reuniting him with friends from primary school and allowing him to focus on football. He plays for Cregagh Boys Club. He grows up supporting Glentoran F.C. and Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C..

Best spends most of his club career at Manchester United. Named European Footballer of the Year in 1968, he is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. A highly skillful winger, considered by several pundits to be one of the greatest dribblers in the history of the sport, he receives plaudits for his playing style, which combines pace, skill, balance, feints, two-footedness, goalscoring and the ability to get past defenders.

In international football, Best is capped 37 times for Northern Ireland between 1964 and 1977. A combination of the team’s performance and his lack of fitness in 1982 means that he never plays in the finals of a major tournament. He considers his international career as being “recreational football,” with the expectations placed on a smaller nation in Northern Ireland being much less than with his club. He is regarded as one of the greatest players never to have played at a World Cup. The Irish Football Association describes him as the “greatest player to ever pull on the green shirt of Northern Ireland.”

With his good looks and playboy lifestyle, Best becomes one of the first media celebrity footballers, earning the nickname “El Beatle” in 1966, but his extravagant lifestyle leads to various personal problems, most notably alcoholism, which he suffers from for the rest of his life. These issues affect him on and off the field, often causing controversy. Although conscious of his problems, he is publicly not contrite about them. He says of his career, “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds [women] and fast cars – the rest I just squandered.” After football, Best spends some time as a football analyst, but his financial and health problems continue into his retirement.

Best is diagnosed with severe liver damage in March 2000. His liver is said to be functioning at only 20%. In 2001, he is admitted to hospital with pneumonia. In August 2002, he has a successful liver transplant at King’s College Hospital in London.

On October 3, 2005, Best is admitted to intensive care at the private Cromwell Hospital in London, suffering from a kidney infection caused by the side effects of immunosuppressive drugs used to prevent his body from rejecting his transplanted liver. In the early hours of November 25, 2005, treatment is stopped. Later that day he dies, aged 59, as a result of a lung infection and multiple organ failure. He is interred beside his mother in a private ceremony at Roselawn Cemetery, overlooking east Belfast.


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Founding of the Irish Football Association

irish-football-association-crestThe Irish Football Association (IFA), the governing body for association football in Northern Ireland, is founded on November 18, 1880. It organises the Ireland national football team from 1880 to 1950, which after 1954, becomes the Northern Ireland national football team.

The IFA is founded by seven football clubs mostly in the Belfast area, as the organising body for the sport across all of Ireland. A meeting is called by Cliftonville F.C. of other football clubs that follow the rules set out by the Scottish Football Association (SFA). At that meeting at Queens Hotel, Belfast, the seven clubs form the IFA, making it the fourth oldest national football association in the world, after those of England, Scotland and Wales. The founding members are Alexander F.C., Avoniel F.C., Cliftonville F.C., Lisburn Distillery F.C., Knock F.C., Moyola Park F.C. and Oldpark F.C..

The IFA’s first decisions are to elect its first President, Major Spencer Chichester, and to form an annual challenge cup competition similar to the FA Cup and Scottish Cup competitions, called the Irish Cup. Two years later, Ireland plays its first international against England, losing 13–0, which remains a record for both teams, a record win for England and a record loss for Ireland.

Shortly after the partition of Ireland in 1921, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) is established as a rival association to regulate the game in what is to become the Irish Free State. The immediate cause of the split lay in a bitter dispute over the venue for the replay of an Irish Cup match in 1921 involving Glentoran F.C. of Belfast and Shelbourne F.C. of Dublin. When the first cup match is drawn in Belfast, because of the Irish War of Independence, the IFA reneges on a promise to play the replay in Dublin and schedules the rematch again for Belfast. Shelbourne refuses to comply and forfeits the Cup.

Such is the anger over the issue that the Leinster Football Association breaks away from the IFA and forms its own national association. Those behind the FAI believe that football should be regulated by a federation based in the Irish Free State’s capital, Dublin. They also accuse the IFA of neglecting the development of the game in the South. The IFA’s supporters argue that the federation should be based where the game is primarily played – namely Ulster, and its principal city Belfast.

Both associations claim to represent the whole of the island, each competing internationally under the name “Ireland” and selecting players from both the rival national leagues, which also split at this time. Interventions by FIFA give the FAI de jure organising rights over the 26 counties of the Republic, with the IFA restricted to Northern Ireland. From the 1950s onwards, the IFA no longer claims it is the association for the whole of Ireland.

In 1960, the association moves to its present location on Windsor Avenue in south Belfast, in a building once occupied by Thomas Andrews. The IFA continues to regulate the game in Northern Ireland, and all results obtained by the Irish national side and records in the Irish Football League and the cup competition stand as Northern Irish records.


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Death of Noel Cantwell, Soccer Player & Cricketer

noel-cantwellNoel Euchuria Cornelius Cantwell, soccer player and sometime cricketer, dies of cancer on September 8, 2005. Born in Cork, County Cork on February 28, 1932, he is educated at the Roman Catholic Presentation Brothers College there.

Cantwell plays as a full-back for Western Rovers, Cork Athletic F.C., West Ham United F.C. and Manchester United F.C.. While at West Ham, he features in the London XI side that competes in the 1955–58 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final on May 1, 1958. He captains the Hammers to winning the Division Two championship in the 1957–58 season and thereby leads the club into the top flight for the first time since 1932.

In November 1960, Cantwell joins Manchester United for £29,500 which at the time is a record for a full-back. He helps the club win the 1965 and 1967 league titles and captains United when winning the 1963 FA Cup Final, just as his fellow countryman Johnny Carey had done in United’s previous FA Cup win 15 years earlier. He also serves as Chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association.

Cantwell wins 36 full International caps for the Republic of Ireland national football team, typically playing at left full-back and on several occasions at centre-forward. He makes his debut against Luxembourg in October 1953 with his final appearance coming away to Turkey in February 1967. He scores 14 goals including 5 from penalties and also captains the Republic on several occasions including a match against England at Wembley Stadium.

In his first managerial role at Coventry City F.C. he has the onerous task of following Jimmy Hill who had taken the club into the Football League First Division for the first time in their history. He narrowly keeps the Sky Blues in the top in his first two seasons before taking them to a sixth-place finish in 1969–70, earning them qualification for the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, a year before it was replaced by the UEFA Cup.

Cantwell departs from Highfield Road on March 12, 1972 to take charge of the New England Tea Men in the United States, but within seven months is back in English football as manager of Peterborough United F.C.. He helps Peterborough win the Football League Fourth Division title in his first full season as manager, before leaving on May 10, 1977 for a second spell with the Tea Men. This time he spends a year in the United States.

Cantwell returns to Peterborough on November 19, 1986 for a second spell as manager, remaining in this role until he becomes general manager on July 12, 1988. He is general manager at London Road for a year until he quits football to become licensee of the New Inn at Peterborough, where he remains for 10 years until he retires in 1999. He also is landlord of the Bull and Swan in Stamford, Lincolnshire.

Cantwell also plays cricket for Cork Bohemians Cricket Club and Ireland as a left-handed batsman and a right-arm medium bowler. He plays five times for Ireland making his debut in what is his sole first-class match versus Scotland at Edinburgh in 1956, scoring 31 and 17. His last match for Ireland is against Lancashire in July 1959.

Cantwell dies on September 8, 2005 from cancer at the age of 73, leaving a widow and two children. His former teams each hold a minute of silence for him before their next matches.


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Birth of Irish Footballer Billy Behan

billy-behanWilliam “Billy” Behan, Irish footballer who plays as a goalkeeper for Shelbourne F.C., Shamrock Rovers F.C. and Manchester United F.C. during the 1930s, is born on August 8, 1911 in Dublin.

Behan makes his Rovers debut on February 8, 1931 in a 5–1 win over Bray Unknowns F.C. at Glenmalure Park. In his first season, he wins the FAI Cup. He signs with Manchester United in September 1933, along with fellow Irishman David Byrne, becoming the first players from the south of Ireland to play for the club in over a decade.

Behan makes his United debut in a Football League Second Division home game against Bury F.C. on March 3, 1934. The following July, he briefly returns to Shelbourne before again returning to the Rovers. Over the next two seasons, he wins another FAI Cup and a League of Ireland Shield. His last game for the Rovers is on August 23, 1936 in a Shield win over Drumcondra F.C..

After his retirement as a player, Behan becomes a respected referee and is in charge of the 1943 FAI Cup Final. He then manages Drumcondra F.C. in the 1950s where he wins the FAI Cup again.

Behan subsequently becomes United’s chief scout in the Republic of Ireland and is credited with discovering, among others, Johnny Carey, Billy Whelan, Tony Dunne, Don Givens, Kevin Moran and Paul McGrath. He also serves as vice chairman of the Dalkey-based Leinster Senior League team, Dalkey United, and it is through this association that he discovers McGrath.

Behan’s father, William Sr., is one of the founder members of Shamrock Rovers. His brothers John and Paddy also play for the Rovers. His son William junior keeps goal for the Rovers side also for a time. His second cousin is Bob Fullam.

Behan’s grandson, Philip Behan, is the former Head of International Football at the Football Association of Ireland and is now a UEFA and FIFA agent organising friendly international matches and tournaments around the world.

Billy Behan dies on November 12, 1991 at the age of 80.


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Birth of Pat Jennings, Northern Ireland Footballer

pat-jenningsPatrick Anthony Jennings, Northern Irish footballer, is born in Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland on June 12, 1945. He plays 119 games for Northern Ireland as a goalkeeper, a figure which at the time is a world record and is still a Northern Ireland record, in an international career which lasts for over 22 years.

After playing for the Shamrock Rovers F.C. under-18 squad at the age of 11, Jennings concentrates on Gaelic football until he is sixteen years old, when he makes his soccer comeback with his hometown Newry City F.C.. After impressing with the team he moves to English Third Division Watford F.C. in May 1963. He again impresses in his first season in England, playing every league game for his club, and making two international appearances that season. He is signed by Tottenham Hotspur F.C. for £27,000 in June 1964.

Jennings spends thirteen years at White Hart Lane, where he plays in 472 league games for the Spurs, and 591 in all competitions. He wins the FA Cup in 1967, the League Cup in 1971 and 1973, and the UEFA Cup in 1972. In 1973 the Football Writers’ Association name him as its footballer of the year. Three years later he wins the Professional Footballers’ Association‘s (PFA) version of the award, the first goalkeeper to receive this accolade.

In August 1977, Jennings is transferred to Tottenham’s arch-rivals, Arsenal F.C., with Tottenham thinking he is nearing the end of his career. However, Jennings plays for Arsenal for another eight years where he helps Arsenal to the FA Cup final in 1978, 1979, and 1980, as well as the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final that year. However, Arsenal only manages to win the second of these finals, a 3–2 victory against Manchester United F.C.. In total, Jennings makes 327 appearances for Arsenal between 1977 and his eventual retirement from first-team club football in 1985. On February 26, 1983, he becomes the first player in English football to make 1,000 senior appearances, celebrating this milestone with a clean sheet in a goalless league draw for Arsenal at West Bromwich Albion F.C.

After his retirement, Jennings returns to Tottenham Hotspur, playing mostly in their reserve side to maintain his match sharpness for Northern Ireland’s 1986 FIFA World Cup campaign. His final appearance for Tottenham is in the Football League Super Cup against Liverpool F.C. in January 1986. He also plays briefly for Everton F.C., having been signed as goalkeeping cover for the 1986 FA Cup Final against Liverpool.

Despite retiring from club football in 1985, Jennings plays his final international game at the 1986 FIFA World Cup, on his 41st birthday, making him at the time the World Cup’s oldest ever participant. The match is Northern Ireland’s final group game, a 3–0 defeat against Brazil. In total, he participates in the qualifying stages of six World Cups between 1966 and 1986.

Following his retirement Jennings works as a goalkeeping coach. In 2003 he is inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of the skills he demonstrated in the English league. His son, also named Pat, is also a goalkeeper. He has played for League of Ireland clubs University College Dublin A.F.C., Derry City F.C., Shamrock Rovers and NIFL Premiership club Glenavon F.C.

Jennings and his family have lived for many years in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, where his son attended The Broxbourne School along with the sons of fellow Spurs players Chris Hughton, Osvaldo Ardiles and Ray Clemence. He is still associated with the Spurs and hosts Corporate Hospitality fans in the Pat Jennings Lounges at White Hart Lane and Windsor Park, Belfast.


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Death of Peter Doherty, Northern Ireland Footballer

peter-dohertyPeter Dermot Doherty, Northern Ireland international footballer and manager who played for several clubs, including Manchester City F.C. and Doncaster Rovers F.C., dies in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, England on April 6, 1990.

Born in Magherafelt, County Londonderry on June 5, 1913, Doherty begins his career with Glentoran F.C. in the Irish League. After helping Glentoran to the 1933 Irish Cup, early in the 1933–1934 season he joins English club Blackpool F.C., at the age of 19. He then joins Manchester City on February 19, 1936 for a then-club record of £10,000. Blackpool needs the money urgently, and Doherty is summoned from his lunch to report to Bloomfield Road. He tries hard to persuade Blackpool directors that he does not wish to leave the club, for he is due to marry a local girl and has just bought a new house in the town. The fee is an exceptionally high transfer fee for the period, coming within £1,000 of the British record. Doherty’s Manchester City debut, against Preston North End F.C., is not a successful one. Tightly man-marked by Bill Shankly throughout, he fails to make an impact. He later describes the remainder of his first Manchester City season as “uneventful,” however his second is anything but.

Manchester City starts the 1936–1937 season poorly and are in the bottom half of the table until December. Occasional big wins, including a 6–2 defeat of West Bromwich Albion F.C. and a 4–1 defeat of Everton F.C., are mixed with extended barren runs. At one point the club gains just one win in twelve matches. However, Doherty scores goals regularly. A goal in a 5–3 Christmas day loss to Grimsby Town F.C. is his twelfth of the season. Christmas proves to be a turning point for the club, as a win against Middlesbrough F.C. the following day is the start of a long unbeaten run. By April, Manchester City is second in the table and faces a fixture against Arsenal F.C., league leaders and the dominant club of the period. Doherty scores the first goal in a 2–0 win, and City reaches the top of the table. The unbeaten run continues until the end of the season, and City secures their first league championship with a 4–1 win over Sheffield Wednesday F.C.. Doherty, with 30 league goals, is the club’s leading scorer, helped by a run of eleven goals in seven games as the season draws to a close.

Doherty scores 79 goals in 130 appearances during his time at Maine Road. During the World War II years of 1939–1945, Doherty serves in the Royal Air Force. He remains registered as a Manchester City player, scoring 60 goals in 89 wartime matches, though wartime games are not generally included in official records. He also guests for numerous clubs across the country. During a guest appearance for Port Vale F.C. in 1945, he famously goes to take a penalty but instead of shooting he lays it off to a teammate who scores.

After the conclusion of the war, Doherty transfers to Derby County F.C., with whom he wins the FA Cup, scoring a goal in the final itself. He also goes on to play for Huddersfield Town A.F.C., scoring 33 goals in 83 league appearances.

Doherty makes his final move to Doncaster in 1949, where he assumes the role of player-manager. He later becomes manager of the Northern Ireland national football team (1951–1962), for whom he has 16 caps as a player. He leads the country to the 1958 FIFA World Cup, reaching the quarter-finals. He also manages Bristol City F.C..

Doherty’s coaching techniques are revolutionary at the time. He emphasises ball practice and instead of endless laps of the pitch, suggests volleyball “to promote jumping, timing and judgement,” basketball “to encourage split-second decision-making and finding space,” and walking football “to build up calf muscles.”

Later life sees Doherty become a scout for Liverpool F.C., helping to unearth such talents as Kevin Keegan. He is inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

Following Doherty’s death in 1990, a plaque to mark his birthplace is placed in Magherafelt. It can be found at what is now a barber shop.


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Birth of Nicky Byrne, Singer & Songwriter

nicky-byrneNicholas Bernard James Adam Byrne, Jr., singer, songwriter, radio presenter, dancer, television presenter and former semi-professional footballer, best known for being a member of Irish music band Westlife, is born in Dublin on October 9, 1978.

Before his music career, Byrne plays professional football, representing Republic of Ireland at several junior levels. He plays for Home Farm F.C. and St. Kevins Boys in North Dublin before becoming a professional player. He joins Leeds United F.C. as a goalkeeper in 1995, and is a squad member of the FA Youth Cup winning team of 1997. He plays for Leeds for two years, leaving when his contract expires in June 1997. He plays in a reserve game for Scarborough F.C. and in a trial game with Cambridge United F.C. before returning to join Dublin club Shelbourne F.C.. He then signs for Cobh Ramblers F.C. playing 15 games, then St. Francis F.C., all in Ireland’s League of Ireland.

On May 14, 2009, Byrne is a substitute for a Liverpool F.C. Legends XI that plays against an All Star XI in a Hillsborough Memorial match to mark the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. He represented the Republic of Ireland at U15, U16 and U18 levels.

In June 1998, Byrne attends an audition for new Irish boyband, where Boyzone manager Louis Walsh approaches him to join his new venture, Westlife. He joins Westlife along with Kian Egan, Mark Feehily, Shane Filan and Brian McFadden. With Westlife, he has had 25 top ten UK singles, fourteen of which are number one, seven number one albums and has sold in excess of over 45 million records worldwide. He also has a number one single in Ireland in 2002, alongside the Republic of Ireland national football team and Dustin the Turkey, with the Irish 2002 FIFA World Cup anthem, “Here Come The Good Times (Ireland).” He also co-writes many of Westlife’s songs.

On September 7, 2012, it is announced that Byrne will be a contestant for the tenth series of Strictly Come Dancing. He is the ninth contestant to be eliminated. He is ranked number two on Ireland’s Sexiest Man of 2014.

In early January 2016, it is rumored that RTÉ had internally chosen Byrne to represent Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest 2016. On January 13, he is confirmed to be the Irish singer for the 2016 contest in Stockholm with the song, “Sunlight.” He performs it in the second semi-final but fails to advance to the final.

Byrne’s wife Georgina is the daughter of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and they have twin sons, Rocco Bertie Byrne and Jay Nicky Byrne, and a daughter, Gia.