seamus dubhghaill

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


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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 Norman Whiteside, Northern Ireland Footballer

norman-whitesideNorman Whiteside, former Northern Ireland international footballer who played in two World Cups, is born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on May 7, 1965. He plays both as a midfielder and as a striker.

Whiteside grows up on Shankill Road, and because of his aggressive, physical playing style he is later nicknamed the “Shankill Skinhead” by Manchester United supporters. The family later moves to 10 Danube Street. He remains relatively unscathed by The Troubles as his Protestant parents keep a firm watch on their children to ensure that they do not stray far from home and that none of them become involved with Ulster loyalism. At around seven years of age he joins the Boys’ Brigade, and quickly shows his natural talent for football, scoring ten goals in a game against boys almost twice his age. He is educated at Cairnmartin High School, and becomes famous in the Shankill area as a footballing prodigy by the age of eleven.

Whiteside is said to have been discovered by Ipswich Town scout Jim Rodgers, who is told by manager Bobby Robson to wait until Whiteside grows older. Instead, it is Manchester United’s 80-year-old Ulster scout Bob Bishop, who previously unearthed Belfast-born George Best and Sammy McIlroy for the club, who first offers him a trial at an English club. He finds that he has been offered schoolboy terms at the club during a school trip to the United States, on which he and his classmates meet President Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office, a rare and extraordinary occasion for children from a disadvantaged background.

Whiteside signs professional forms in 1982 at the age of 17 and quickly becomes a key member of the Manchester United club. He scores 68 goals in 278 league and cup appearances for the club over the next seven years, picking up two FA Cup winners medals in 1983 and 1985, as well as playing in the 1982 FA Youth Cup final, the 1983 League Cup final, and the FA Charity Shield in 1983.

Whiteside remains with United until July 1989, when he is sold to Everton F.C. for £600,000. However intense running sessions run by coach Mick Lyons take their toll on his right knee, and on September 20, 1990 he takes a knock in a practice match, which requires him to have another operation on his right knee. After the return of Howard Kendall as manager in November 1990, he manages to appear in a few reserve team games, but this only delays the inevitable, and he is forced to retire from the game at the age of 26 in June 1991.

Upon retirement, Whiteside studies to become a podiatrist, graduating with a degree from the University of Salford, and serves Northwich Victoria F.C. as their assistant manager/physio from October 1991 until March 1992. He quits the role as he does not enjoy the amount of time spent travelling between games. He instead became an after-dinner speaker and also works for the Professional Footballers’ Association, while taking a postgraduate course at Manchester Metropolitan University. He later takes up private practice as a podiatrist in Manchester. Since 1994, he has also worked at the corporate hospitality department at Old Trafford. In 2003, he releases a book entitled My Memories of Manchester United. With the help of writer Rob Bagchi, he releases his autobiography entitled Determined in August 2007, published by Headline Publishing Group, and with a foreword by actor James Nesbitt.

Whiteside holds records as the youngest player to take part in a World Cup, the youngest player to score in a League Cup and FA Cup final, and the youngest player to score a senior goal for Manchester United. Winning 38 caps for Northern Ireland, he plays at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, and also helps his country to win the last ever British Home Championship in 1983–1984.


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Claire McCollum Proposes to Alastair Clarke

claire-mccollumClaire McCollum, newsreader at Downtown Radio in Newtownards, County Down, Northern Ireland, makes headlines herself on February 29, 2000 when she proposes on air to Dungannon and Ulster rugby star Alastair Clarke and he accepts.

McCollum is born on June 5, 1974 in Carrickfergus, County Antrim. An MA graduate at the University of Dundee, she begins her career in broadcasting with Macmillan Media in 1997. She also works as a researcher for CNN and as a newsreader on Downtown Radio.

McCollum joins UTV in March 2000. As well as presenting and reporting for UTV Sport, she has also presented UTV News bulletins and Sport on Sunday.

In February 2009, McCollum announces she is leaving UTV as part of a voluntary redundancy scheme at the station. In an interview with a regional newspaper, she announces her intention to become a freelance broadcast journalist.

Following her departure from UTV, McCollum builds up her portfolio with BBC Northern Ireland. She becomes synonymous with many of Northern Ireland television’s highest profile events. She co-hosts BBC Proms in the Park at Titanic Slipways, the Olympic flame arriving at Belfast City Hall and the Clipper Homecoming in Derry.

McCollum also presents and reports on two series of the popular BBC Northern Ireland consumer programme In Your Corner and covers many major sporting events including the North West 200, Commonwealth Games in Manchester, Northern Ireland’s Football World Cup qualifiers, Tennis Legends in Belfast and the Belfast International Horse Show. She is also a regular presenter on Balmoral Agricultural Show and Children In Need programmes and hosts the second glittering ‘Celebrity Strictly Come Dancing’ extravaganza for Children in Need.

McCollum and Clarke have two children and reside in her hometown of Newtownabbey, County Antrim.


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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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Birth of Footballer Ronnie Whelan

ronnie-whelanRonald Andrew Whelan, former Irish association football midfielder and occasional defender, is born in Dublin on September 25, 1961.

Whelan is born into a family of footballers. His father, Ronnie Whelan, Sr., is an Irish international and a key member of the successful St. Patrick’s Athletic F.C. of the late 1950s and early 1960s. His brother, Paul Whelan, plays for Bohemian F.C. and Shamrock Rovers F.C..

Whelan is a skillful and industrious midfield player who, after an unsuccessful trial period for Manchester United F.C., makes his League of Ireland debut for Home Farm F.C. on his 16th birthday at Tolka Park.

Whelan is signed for Liverpool F.C. by Bob Paisley for a bargain £35,000 on September 19, 1979, a few days before his 18th birthday, and makes his debut eighteen months later, on April 3, 1981. He goes on to become an integral part of the dominant Liverpool team of the 1980s. He remains with the club until 1994. In 100 Players Who Shook The Kop, a poll of 110,000 Liverpool fans conducted by the official Liverpool F.C. website, Whelan is in 30th position.

Whelan plays for the Republic of Ireland national football team at one UEFA European Championship (1988) and two FIFA World Cups (1990 and 1994), turning out a total of 53 times for the national side between 1981 and 1995.

Whelan finishes his career at Southend United F.C., where he is also player-manager through the 1996-1997 season. He later manages in Greece and Cyprus, with Panionios G.S.S., Olympiakos Nicosia and Apollon Limassol.

Since retirement Whelan has begun a media career and is a regular contributor to RTÉ Sport in Ireland. He is also Patron of the Myasthenia Gravis Association in Ireland where he is an active fundraiser and works to raise awareness for this rare autoimmune disease.


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Ireland’s First Ever Win in International Soccer

ifa-original-badgeIreland wins its first ever match in international soccer on February 19, 1887, beating Wales 4-1 in Belfast. Prior to 1921 and the partition of the country, all of Ireland is represented by a single side, the Ireland national football team, organised by the Irish Football Association (IFA).

On February 18, 1882, fifteen months after the founding of the Irish FA, Ireland makes its international debut against England, losing 13–0 in a friendly played at Bloomfield in Belfast. This remains the largest ever defeat for the team, and is also England’s largest winning margin.

Ireland competes in the inaugural British Home Championship in 1884 and loses all three games. Ireland finally wins its first game on February 19, 1887, with a 4–1 win over Wales in Belfast. Between their 1882 debut and this game, the Ireland team has a run of 14 defeats and 1 draw, the longest run without a win in the 1800s. Despite the end of the losing streak, heavy defeats continue. In March 1888 they lose 11–0 to Wales and 10–2 to Scotland. Further heavy defeats come in March 1890 when they lose 9–1 to England, in 1899 when they lose 13–2 to England, and in February 1901 when they lose 11–0 to Scotland.

Ireland is partitioned into Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland in 1920. Southern Ireland gains independence in 1922 as the Irish Free State, later to become a republic under the name of Ireland. Amid these political upheavals, a rival football association, the Football Association of Ireland, emerges in Dublin in 1921 and organises a separate league and international team. In 1923, at a time when the home nations have withdrawn from the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the FAI is recognised by FIFA as the governing body of the Irish Free State on the condition that it changes its name to the Football Association of the Irish Free State. The IFA continues to organise its national team on an all-Ireland basis.

Between 1928 and 1946 the IFA is not affiliated to FIFA and the two Ireland teams co-exist, never competing in the same competition. However, on March 8, 1950, in a 0–0 draw with Wales at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham, North Wales in a World Cup qualifier, the IFA fields a team that includes four players who were born in the Irish Free State. All four players have previously played for the FAI in their qualifiers and as a result have played for two different associations in the same FIFA World Cup tournament.

After complaints from the FAI, FIFA intervenes and restricts players’ eligibility based on the political border. In 1953, FIFA rules that neither team can be referred to as Ireland, decreeing that the FAI team officially be designated as the Republic of Ireland, while the IFA team is to become Northern Ireland.