seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Martin O’Neill, Association Football Player & Manager

Martin Hugh Michael O’Neill, OBE, Northern Irish association football manager and former player who played as a midfielder, is born in Kilrea, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on March 1, 1952, the sixth child of nine siblings.

O’Neill’s father is a founding member of local GAA club Pádraig Pearse’s GAC Kilrea. He plays for both Kilrea and Derry at underage level. He also plays Gaelic football while boarding at St. Columb’s College, Derry, and later at St. Malachy’s College, Belfast.

Starting his career in Northern Ireland, O’Neill moves to England where he spends most of his playing career with Nottingham Forest, with whom he wins the European Cup twice, in 1979 and 1980. He is capped 64 times for the Northern Ireland national football team, also captaining the side at the 1982 FIFA World Cup.

During his managerial career O’Neill manage Grantham Town, Wycombe Wanderers, Norwich City, Leicester City, Celtic, Aston Villa and Sunderland. He guides Leicester City to the Football League Cup final three times, winning twice. As Celtic manager between 2000 and 2005, he leads that club to seven trophies including three Scottish Premier League titles and the 2003 UEFA Cup Final. After joining Aston Villa he achieves three consecutive sixth-place finishes in the English Premier League and guides them to the 2010 Football League Cup Final.

O’Neill becomes Republic of Ireland manager in 2013 and leads them to qualification for the 2016 UEFA European Football Championship for the third time in the nation’s history, beating the reigning world champions, Germany, in the process. He leaves the role with assistant Roy Keane by “mutual agreement” in November 2018. He is appointed as Nottingham Forest manager on January 15, 2019. He guides the club to a ninth-place finish in the Championship. However, he is sacked as manager on June 28, 2019, after reportedly falling out with some of the senior first team players.

Despite never completing his degree, O’Neill remains a follower of criminology. His fascination begins with the James Hanratty case of 1961. He has worked in television as an analyst for BBC and ITV at the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA European Championship and on UEFA Champions League matches.

In 2002, Norwich supporters voted O’Neill into the club’s Hall of Fame. He is awarded an OBE for services to sport in 2004. He is awarded the Nottingham Lifetime Achievement Award on November 3, 2013 for his services to football and achievements with Nottingham Forest.


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Birth of Professional Footballer Paul McGrath

Paul McGrath, former professional footballer for St. Patrick’s Athletic F.C., Manchester United F.C., Aston Villa F.C., Derby County F.C., and the Republic of Ireland national football team, is born in Greenford, Middlesex on December 4, 1959.

McGrath is born to an Irish mother and a Nigerian father. His father disappears soon after his conception. His mother, Betty McGrath, is terrified that her father will find out she had become pregnant outside marriage and in an interracial relationship. She travels in secret to London to have her child, who is considered illegitimate, and gives him up for fostering when he is four weeks old. When he is five years old, the family he had been fostered by comes to Betty saying they cannot control him. Betty places him into an orphanage.

McGrath begins as a schoolboy with Pearse Rovers and plays junior football for Dalkey United. While at the latter, he attracts the attention of Manchester United scout Billy Behan. Before becoming a full-time professional with League of Ireland club St. Patrick’s Athletic in 1981, he briefly works as an apprentice metal worker and a security guard in Dublin.

McGrath makes his debut in a League of Ireland Cup clash with the Shamrock Rovers F.C. in August at Richmond Park. He ultimately excels at St. Patrick’s, earning the nickname “The Black Pearl of Inchicore” and receiving the PFAI Players’ Player of the Year Award in his first and only season, scoring four goals in 31 total appearances.

In 1982, McGrath moves to Manchester United, then managed by Ron Atkinson. He misses out on a place in the FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. the following year. He is named man of the match for the 1985 FA Cup Final, which United wins 1–0 against Everton F.C. In his early years at Manchester United, he is frequently used as a midfielder, changing to defender while still at Old Trafford.

In 1985–86, it appears that McGrath is on course to pick up a league title medal after United wins their first 10 league games of the season, but injuries to key players including Bryan Robson soon take their toll on the side and they eventually finish fourth in the table, 12 points behind champions Liverpool F.C. Despite a dismal start to the 1986–87 season and a managerial change, McGrath remains a regular member of the first team. United finishes second behind Liverpool in the league a year later.

By the 1988–89 season, McGrath is struggling with knee injuries and is becoming a less regular member of the first team. His relationship with manager Alex Ferguson is becoming strained, as McGrath’s alcohol addiction and physical problems lead to United offering him a retirement package of £100,000. He refuses and Ferguson begins to inform clubs of his availability. Aston Villa’s offer is accepted and McGrath signs on August 3, 1989 for a fee of £400,000.

While at Aston Villa, McGrath plays some of the best football of his career, despite recurrent knee problems. Villa comes close to winning the title in his first season, finishing second to Liverpool. In the inaugural season of the Premier League (1992-93), Aston Villa again finishes as runners-up, behind Manchester United. As a sign of the regard he is now held in by his fellow professionals, McGrath wins the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award at the end of the season. He wins his first trophy with Villa, defeating Manchester United in the 1993–94 Football League Cup. In 1996 he wins a second League Cup for Villa. By the end of his Villa career he has chalked up 323 appearances for the club.

McGrath departs Aston Villa in the autumn of 1996, leaving a legacy as one of the greatest players in the club’s history. He is sold to Derby County for £200,000 and helps the newly promoted Rams finish 12th in its first Premier League season. He then drops down a division to sign for Sheffield United F.C. in the summer of 1997. He plays his final game as a professional for Sheffield United against Ipswich Town F.C. on November 9, 1997. He officially retires at the end of the season.

In McGrath’s international career he wins his first full cap against Italy in 1985, last playing 12 years later, against Wales. During that time, he is often regarded as the single most influential player Ireland has in the national team’s glory days.

In McGrath’s international career he is a major part of the breakthrough of Ireland’s national team of the late 1980s and early 1990s. During the early part of Jack Charlton‘s era, he plays as a defensive midfielder, due to the wealth of talent Ireland has in defence. In UEFA Euro 1988, as the national side first qualifies for an international tournament, he is present in the 1–0 group stage win against England.

In 1990, Ireland qualifies for its first FIFA World Cup, eventually reaching the quarter-finals, where they lose to Italy 1-0, with McGrath ever present in the lineups. He captains the team four times in 1992 after the retirement of Mick McCarthy, and ignores a painful shoulder virus to play in the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

In Ireland’s opening game of the 1994 World Cup, a 1–0 win against favourites Italy, in a perfect example of his commitment to the game, McGrath puts up an astonishing defensive performance in spite of excruciating knee problems. Even after his retirement from international football in 1997, he is still regarded today as one of the greatest players ever to put on Ireland’s green shirt.

Upon retiring, McGrath settles in Monageer, County Wexford. In 2004, one year after being taken to court, charged with a breach of the peace, he returns to the football world after five years, moving to Waterford F.C. in Ireland as director of football.

In 2011, McGrath launches a singing career with a cover version of the Gerry Goffin and Carole King song “Goin’ Back.” The recording is followed by the planning of an album of covers by the footballer, with a percentage of the album’s proceeds going to the Acquired Brain Injury Foundation and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Ireland.


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Birth of N.I. Footballer Robert Dennis “Danny” Blanchflower

danny-blanchflowerRobert Dennis “Danny” Blanchflower, former Northern Ireland international footballer and football manager, is born on February 10, 1926 in the Bloomfield district of Belfast, the first of five children born to John and Selina Blanchflower.

Blanchflower is educated at Ravenscroft public elementary school and is awarded a scholarship to Belfast College of Technology. He leaves school early to become an apprentice electrician at Gallaher’s cigarette factory in Belfast. He also joins the Air Raid Precautions and, in 1943, joins the Royal Air Force after lying about his age. By 1946, after a trainee navigator course at St. Andrews University and further training in Canada, he is back at Gallaher’s in Belfast and building a reputation as an outstanding footballer.

Blanchflower signs with Glentoran F.C. in 1946 before crossing the Irish Sea and signing with Barnsley F.C. for £6000 in 1949 at the age of 23. He transfers from Barnsley to Aston Villa F.C. for a fee of £15,000 and makes his First Division debut in March 1951. He makes 155 senior appearances for Villa before being bought by Tottenham Hotspur F.C. in 1954 for a fee of £30,000. During his ten years playing at White Hart Lane he makes 337 League appearances and 382 total appearances.

The highlight of his time with the Spurs comes in the 1960–61 season, while serving as captain, the Spurs win their first 11 games and eventually win the league by 8 points. They beat Leicester City F.C. in the final of the FA Cup, becoming the first team in the 20th century to win the League and Cup double and a feat not achieved since Aston Villa in 1897.

In 1962, Blanchflower again captains the Spurs team to victory in the FA Cup in 1962, narrowly missing out on a second double when they finish a close third in the league behind Ipswich Town F.C. and Burnley F.C. In 1963, he captains the team to victory over Atlético Madrid in the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup, making Spurs the first English team to win a European trophy.

Between 1949 and 1963, he earns 56 caps for Northern Ireland, often playing alongside his brother Jackie until the younger Blanchflower’s playing career is cut short as a result of injuries sustained in the Munich air disaster of February 1958. In 1958, captains his country when they reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

On December 4, 1957, he captains the Northern Ireland team against Italy in Belfast in a bad tempered game that comes to be known as the “Battle of Belfast.” Blanchflower attempts to keep the peace as the game turns nasty.

Blanchflower announces his retirement as a player on April 5, 1964, having played nearly 400 games in all competitions for the Spurs and captains them to four major trophies.

Following his retirement as a player, Blanchflower coachs for the Spurs for a number of years. Manager Bill Nicholson intends for Blanchflower to be his successor but, when Nicholson resigns in 1974, Blanchflower is passed over in favour of Terry Neill. He leaves the Spurs and becomes manager of Northern Ireland for a brief spell in 1978 before being appointed boss of Chelsea F.C. The team wins only three of fifteen games under his charge and he leaves the team in September 1979.

On May 1, 1990, Tottenham holds a testimonial match for Blanchflower at White Hart Lane, but at this point he is in the early stages of what is later diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. He is eventually placed in a Staines nursing home where he dies as a result of pneumonia on December 9, 1993, at the age of 67.

Blanchflower’s hometown of Belfast has honoured him with an Ulster History Circle plaque, located at his childhood home at 49 Grace Avenue, recognising the late sportsman as one of the greatest players in the history of Tottenham Hotspur FC.