Blanchflower’s first appearance in a professional game is for Manchester United on November 24, 1951, against Liverpool, away at Anfield. He becomes a regular first team player in the 1953–54 season, when he plays in 27 out of 42 league games and scores 13 goals as an inside-forward.
Blanchflower helps the club win the league title in 1956 and again in 1957. Nicknamed “Twiggy” by his teammates, he is renowned for his versatility. He begins his career as a left-half before the emergence of Duncan Edwards in this position, at which time he switches to the forward positions. The Manchester United manager, Matt Busby, recognises his intelligent positioning sense and aerial power and chooses to play him at centre-half by the 1955–56 season, with John Doherty and Billy Whelan now competing for his former position. He faces fierce competition for the solitary centre-half place due to the presence of Mark Jones. He covers in goal in the 1957 FA Cup Final while Ray Wood receives treatment for an injury suffered in a collision with Peter McParland, who scores both of Aston Villa‘s goals as United loses 2–1. Blanchflower also plays in some of United’s first European Cup fixtures.
Blanchflower scores 27 goals during his time with Manchester United, most of them during his time as a forward.
On February 6, 1958, the Manchester United team that had travelled to Belgrade for the second leg of a European cup tie have their chartered plane stop in Munich to refuel. Weather conditions cause the plane to crash when the pilot attempts to take-off from Munich airport and 23 of the 44 people on board are killed. Blanchflower is severely injured, suffering from a fractured pelvis and arms and legs, and crushed kidneys, and his right arm is nearly severed. He is in hospital for two months and, although not a Catholic, is read the last rites but survives.
Blanchflower tries to return to football, but never makes a full recovery. Doctors advise him not to return to football because of fears he would damage his kidney and, a year later, he retires from football. The Munich air disaster means that he had played his last game of football when still only 24 years old, having earned 12 caps for Northern Ireland, played well over 100 times for Manchester United and won two league championship medals.
Blanchflower marries his wife Jean in 1956 and eventually pursues studies in finance and begins a career as an accountant. He later becomes an after-dinner speaker and is a regular on the after-dinner circuits until his death from cancer on September 2, 1998. He is 65 years old, and just two weeks prior to his death he attended the Munich air disaster testimonial match at Old Trafford.
He is survived by his three children; Krista, Senior (born 1958), Laurie (born 1961) and Andrew (born 1963), as well as his wife, Jean, who dies in 2002 following a long illness.
McIlroy moves to English club Manchester United in 1969 becoming Sir Matt Busby‘s final signing. He makes his debut on November 6, 1971, in the Manchester derby against Manchester City, scoring in a 3–3 draw. He drifts in and out of the side and plays in 31 matches in 1973–74 as Manchester United suffers a rare relegation. He is an ever-present in 1974–75 playing in all of the club’s 51 fixtures as they gain an instant return to the First Division. On their return they finish in third place and also reach the 1976 FA Cup Final where they lose 1–0 to Southampton.
A year later, McIlroy picks up a winner’s medal as United triumphs 2–1 against Liverpool. A runners-up medal in the FA Cup follows two years after that as Manchester United are defeated 3–2 by Arsenal, with McIlroy equalising for United having been 2–0 down, only for Alan Sunderland to dramatically win it for Arsenal minutes afterwards. After spending ten seasons at Old Trafford, making 419 appearances and scoring 71 goals, he leaves for Stoke City in February 1982.
Stoke City pays Manchester United a club record fee of £350,000 for McIlroy on February 2, 1982. He arrives at Stoke with the club in deep relegation trouble in 1981–82 and he plays in 18 matches as Stoke avoids the drop by two points. In 1982–83 Stoke has a solid midfield with McIlroy playing alongside former Manchester United teammate Mickey Thomas, Mark Chamberlain and Paul Bracewell and the side finishes in a mid-table position of 13th in 1982–83. However the 1983–84 season sees Stoke struggle again and McIlroy and the returning Alan Hudson help Stoke stage a revival which sees they stay up by two points. In 1984–85 Stoke suffers an embarrassing relegation going down with a then record low points tally of 17 with McIlroy winning the Stoke City F.C. Player of the Year award. He is handed a free transfer in the summer of 1985 and goes on to play at Manchester City in the 1985–86 season, Swedish club Örgryte IS in 1986, Bury from 1986 to 1989 and Preston North End from 1989 to 1991. McIlroy’s last club as a player is with Northwich Victoria from 1991 to 1993.
As a player for the Northern Ireland national team, McIlroy wins 88 caps and scores 5 goals. He plays in all of the country’s matches during both the 1982 FIFA World Cup, where Northern Ireland defeats the host nation Spain and advances to the second round, and the 1986 FIFA World Cup in which he captains the team. He is also part of the Northern Ireland side which wins the 1983-84 British Home Championship.
McIlroy arrives at the Moss Rose in 1993 replacing Peter Wragg who had narrowly avoided relegation the previous season. His first season at the Moss Rose sees a very creditable seventh-place finish and the Bob Lord Trophy. His second season surpasses all expectations as his skilful and flowing football brings the Silkmen a conference title, only to be denied promotion to the English Football League thanks to ground regulations. The following season the Silkmen beat Northwich Victoria 3–1 at Wembley to win the club’s second FA Trophy. In the red letter season of 1996-97 the Silkmen secure promotion to the English Football League for the first time in 120 years. The success continues the following year beginning with a home win over Torquay United. The Silkmen finish the season unbeaten at home and are promoted into the Football League Second Division in second place. But the promotion is a bridge too far for the rapidly rising club as the Silkmen finish at the bottom of the division. McIlroy leaves the Moss Rose in 1999 to take up the position at his own national team.
McIlroy manages Northern Ireland for nearly three years, but the team wins only five times in 29 matches, with all of the wins occurring in his first year. The side fails to score even a single goal in 8 qualifying matches for UEFA Euro 2004, but does achieve a respectable 0–0 draw against Spain. Upon completion of the qualifying matches, he resigns to re-enter club management with Stockport County. He spends just over a year at Edgeley Park which sees him win 14 matches.
On November 17, 2005, McIlroy takes over as caretaker manager of Conference side Morecambe, stepping in for incumbent manager Jim Harvey who had suffered a heart attack. Having guided Morecambe into the Conference play-offs, where they lose 4–3 on aggregate to Hereford United, he is appointed permanent manager in May 2006. In his first full season, Morecambe again reaches the play-offs where they defeat Exeter City to win promotion to the English Football League in one of the first games played at the new Wembley Stadium.
McIlroy guides Morecambe to a respectable 11th-place finish in 2007–08, the club’s inaugural season in the English Football League, as well as leading the side to League Cup scalps against Preston North End and Wolverhampton Wanderers. In 2008–09, he again secures an 11th-place finish League Two. Morecambe’s third season in the English Football League sees them surpass their highest ever finishes of the previous two seasons, with McIlroy steering the Shrimps to a 4th-place finish, and participation in the League Two playoff semi-finals. However, a 6–0 capitulation away at eventual winners Dagenham & Redbridge in the first leg renders the second leg virtually irrelevant, although McIlroy motivates his team to secure a 2–1 victory, in what is the final match to be played at Christie Park, Morecambe’s home for 89 years. On May 9, 2011, McIlroy leaves Morecambe by mutual consent after a 20th-place finish in the league.
Quinlan is educated at Abbey CBS in Tipperary and works for a motor dealer after leaving school. He begins his rugby career with Clanwilliam F.C. He moves from Clanwilliam to join Shannon U20s in 1994. He captains the Irish Youth Team against Scotland in 1993. He normally plays as a blindside flanker, but he also plays openside, number eight and second row for Munster.
Quinlan begins playing for Munster in 1996 and captains the youths team before becoming a regular in the first team. In May 2006 he makes a comeback from a cruciate ligament injury earlier in the season to win both the AIB League Division 1 title with Shannon and the Heineken Cup with Munster after a late appearance from the bench in the Heineken Cup Final win over Biarritz in Cardiff. He captains the side from Number Eight in Munster’s upset victory over Ulster in Ravenhill Stadium in the 2007 Celtic League. He is voted Man of the Match as Munster beats Toulouse 16–13 on May 24, 2008 to win the Heineken Cup for a second time. He is part of the squad that wins the 2008–09 Celtic League. In total he holds five league medals with Shannon, as well as two Heineken Cup medals and a Celtic League Medal with Munster. He wins his 201st cap against Leinster, equaling Anthony Foley‘s club record for caps, on October 2, 2010. He becomes Munster’s most capped player ever on October 16, 2010, against Toulon in the Heineken Cup. In the 2009–10 season he represents Munster 21 times, including all eight of their 2010 Heineken Cup matches.
In April 2011, Quinlan officially announces his retirement from professional rugby, to be effective at the end of the 2010/11 season. He plays his last game for Munster on May 6, 2011, against Connacht in the Celtic League, scoring a try to mark the end of his remarkable career and going off to a standing ovation from the Munster and Connacht supporters. He joins the Munster team at the 2011 Celtic League Grand Final trophy presentation, celebrating Munster’s 19–9 victory over old rivals Leinster in Thomond Park.
On April 21, 2009, Quinlan is named in the squad for the 2009 British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa. During Munster’s Heineken cup semi-final defeat to Leinster in May 2009, he is cited for making contact with the eye or eye area of Leinster captain Leo Cullen. The offence is deemed at the low range of seriousness and he receives a 12 playing week ban until September 9, 2009. As a result, he misses the Lions tour to South Africa.
Quinlan marries Irish model Ruth Griffin in Tipperary during the summer of 2008. They have one son named AJ who is born in January 2009. They later split up in June 2010. He releases an autobiography, Quinlan: Red Blooded, in 2010. He is a big golf fan and supports Liverpool.
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.
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.
On February 26, 1983, Northern Irish footballerPat Jennings 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.
In August 1977, he is transferred to Tottenham’s arch-rivals, Arsenal, with Tottenham thinking he is nearing the end of his career. However, he sees off rivals for the goalkeeper’s jersey to play for Arsenal for another eight years. While at Highbury, he helps Arsenal to four Cup finals in three successive years, the FA Cup final in 1978, 1979, and 1980, as well as the European Cup Winners’ Cup final that year. However, Arsenal only manages to win the second of these finals, a 3–2 victory against Manchester United. In total, he makes 327 appearances for Arsenal, 237 of them in the League, between 1977 and his eventual retirement from first-team club football in 1985.
Despite his retirement from club football in 1985, 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. He plays his final international game at the 1986 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.
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.
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.
Carey is also the first non-UK player and the first Irishman to captain a winning team in both an FA Cup Final and the First Division. Like his contemporary Con Martin, he is an extremely versatile footballer and plays in nine different positions throughout his career. He even plays in goal for United on one occasion.
(Pictured: Manchester United captain Johnny Carey is carried on the shoulders of his teammates, after they win the FA Cup final of 1948 against Blackpool. Date: April 24, 1948)
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.
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.
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’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.”
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 TaoiseachBertie Ahern and they have twin sons, Rocco Bertie Byrne and Jay Nicky Byrne, and a daughter, Gia.