seamus dubhghaill

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


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Founding of Cliftonville Football Club

Cliftonville Football & Athletic Club, the oldest association football club in Ireland, is founded on September 20, 1879 by John McCredy McAlery in the suburb of Cliftonville in north Belfast.

Since 1890, the club has played home matches at Solitude. Cliftonville contests the North Belfast derby with nearest rivals Crusaders F.C., and also has historical rivalries with Glentoran F.C. and Linfield F.C. The club has won the NIFL Premiership five times outright including one shared title, the Irish Cup eight times and the Irish League Cup five times.

The foundation of Cliftonville F.C. is announced on September 20, 1879 in notices in the Belfast News Letter and Northern Whig, which asks “gentlemen desirous of becoming members” of the “Cliftonville Association Football Club (Scottish Association Rules)” to communicate with John McAlery, a young Belfast businessman and manager of the “Irish Tweed House”, Royal Avenue, and later with premises in Rosemary Street, or R.M. Kennedy, and advertising an “opening practice today at 3:30.”

Only one week after the advertisement is published, Cliftonville plays its first recorded game at Cliftonville Cricket Ground on September 29, 1879 against a selection of rugby players known as Quidnunces. The newly formed club, however, is beaten 2–1. In its first match against the Scottish club Caledonian, it fares worse, suffering a 1–9 defeat.

In 1880, it is again John McAlery who is the moving spirit in the formation of the Irish Football Association. He issues an invitation to interested parties in Belfast and district for a meeting to be called. The first meeting takes place on November 18, 1880 at Queen’s Hotel, Belfast, presided over by John Sinclair, from which the Irish Football Association is formed. While Lord Spencer Chichester is appointed president, McAlery becomes the honorary secretary of the association. This meeting also paves the way for the Irish Cup.

The first Irish Cup final, played at Cliftonville on April 9, 1881, sees a 1–0 defeat against Moyola Park F.C., an opponent that is well known for “rough and brutal play.” In the following year Cliftonville loses again in the Irish Cup final, 1–0 against Queen’s Island F.C. In 1883 Cliftonville wins the cup for the first time with a 5–0 win over Ulster F.C.

The club celebrates its 142nd anniversary in September 2021.


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Death of Elisha Scott, Northern Irish Goalkeeper

Elisha Scott, Northern Irish football goalkeeper, dies in Belfast on May 16, 1959. He plays for Liverpool from 1912 to 1934, and still holds the record as their longest-serving player.

Scott is born in Belfast on August 24, 1893. He plays for Linfield and Broadway United before Liverpool manager Tom Watson signs him on September 1, 1912, following a recommendation from Scott’s older brother Billy Scott. Liverpool only gets the opportunity to sign Scott when Everton decides that the 19-year-old is too young.

Scott is reported as signed by Crewe Alexandra in August 1913, presumably under some sort of loan arrangement. He succeeds Thomas Charles Allison as deputy for the first choice keeper, Arthur Box, and plays for them in the early part of the 1913-14 season.

Scott finally makes his Liverpool debut on January 1, 1913 at St. James’ Park. The team plays Newcastle United to a 0–0 draw.

During the early days of his career, Scott is understudy to Kenny Campbell and only appears occasionally. World War I interrupts his career for four years. He finally gets a chance of a run in the Liverpool goal at the end of the season. His goalkeeping position is set in stone when Campbell is allowed to leave in April 1920. He establishes himself as Liverpool’s number one. He is a major part of the back-to-back Championship winning teams of 1922 and 1923, missing just three games of the first title and none in the second.

Numerous stories about Scott exist in Liverpool folklore. One such story relates to a 1924 game, after Scott has just made a phenomenal save at Ewood Park against Blackburn Rovers. A man appearing from the crowd goes over to Scott and kisses him. He is part of one of the legendary rivalries of the day along with Everton’s Dixie Dean. The two of them are the main topic of discussion when the day of the Merseyside derby is approaching. Everton declares that Dean will score while Liverpool disagrees, saying Scott will not let a single shot past. A famous story, possibly apocryphal, associated with the two men is that of how they once encountered each other in Belfast city centre the day before an Ireland versus England game. Dean, famed for his remarkable heading ability, touches his hat and nods to Scott as they are about to pass. Scott responds by diving as if to try to save an imaginary header, much to the initial shock and then delight of the locals who witness it while a mildly shocked Dean smiles and quietly continues on his walk.

Towards the end of the decade, Scott loses his starting position to another Liverpool goalkeeper, Arthur Riley, but he never gives up the battle for the position of goalkeeper. However, at the beginning of the 1930s it becomes more and more difficult for Scott to get into the line-up. Eventually he asks if he can return to his homeland when his old team Belfast Celtic offers him a player-manager role in 1934. Liverpool consents. He plays the last of his 467 appearances at Chelsea on February 21, 1934, where Chelsea defeats Liverpool 2–0.

Upon Liverpool’s final home match of the season Scott heads to the director’s box to give his adoring fans a farewell speech. He plays his final game for the Belfast club in 1936 at the age of 42. In his time as manager of the Celtics, he wins ten Irish League titles, six Irish Cups, three City Cups, eight Gold Cups and five County Antrim Shields.

Scott dies in Belfast on May 16, 1959 and is buried in Belfast City Cemetery.


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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 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.