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.
Moran grows up in Rialto, Dublin until his early teens, before he moves to the Long Mile Road in Walkinstown. While there, he attends James’s Street CBS and Drimnagh Castle Secondary School where Gaelic football is the dominant sport although association football proves to be the sport he plays on the streets while growing up. During the period in which he plays Gaelic football for Good Counsel GAA and association football for Rangers A.F.C., Bohemian F.C. and Pegasus A.F.C., he has divided loyalties between the two sports, as both sports are then played on Saturday.
In his native Ireland, Moran plays at senior level for the Dublin county football team. A former Dublin under-21 player, he is called up to the senior panel for the first time in 1976. He wins two All-Ireland Championship medals with Dublin in 1976 and 1977. In the 1976 final, he helps Dublin to defeat (by 3–8 to 0–10) Kerry, the winner over Dublin in the 1975 final, and again in the 1977 semi-final, aided by new tactics which manager Kevin Heffernan introduces, and which hinders Kerry’s tactic of pulling defenders forward and taking full advantage of the space behind the half-back line. The 1977 final results in a 5–12 to 3–6 victory over Armagh at Croke Park. He is awarded a GAA GPA All-Stars Award for his performance in the 1976 championship.
Moran is also part of the 1976–77 side that wins the National Football League for Dublin with a win over Derry in the final. He plays his club football for Dublin-based GAA club Good Counsel.
With Bohemian F.C. winning everything bar the FAI Cup in the 1974-75 League of Ireland season, 18-year-old Moran does not have an opportunity for much game time and only makes one League of Ireland appearance in the last game of the season on April 17, 1975. After Bohs he moves to University College Dublin A.F.C. where in December 1975 he wins the Collingwood Cup. In February 1976 he wins the Universities Championship when he scores the winner for the Irish Universities against their Scottish counterparts. He plays for Pegasus A.F.C. from 1976-78.
Moran is spotted by Billy Behan, a Manchester United F.C. scout, who reports to United manager Dave Sexton, and Moran signs for Manchester United in February 1978. He makes his senior debut on April 20, 1979 against Southampton F.C., and is a regular player in the first team by the time Ron Atkinson succeeds Sexton as manager in June 1981. Despite not being the tallest of defenders, he is known for his strong aerial ability and is a threat in the box from corners and set pieces. Playing as a centre-back, he wins FA Cup medals with the club in 1983 and 1985.
Moran is notable for being sent off in the 1985 FA Cup Final against Everton F.C., the first player ever to be sent off in an FA Cup final. TV cameras reveal that he had gone for the ball, and not for Peter Reid in the offending tackle. He is later presented with the winner’s medal that had at first been withheld.
After 10 years with United, Moran leaves Old Trafford as a 32-year-old in the summer of 1988, having played his final 18 months at the club under the management of Alex Ferguson. His first team opportunities are limited since the arrival of Steve Bruce in December 1987.
In 1990, Moran returns to England to join Second DivisionBlackburn Rovers F.C. He is an automatic choice in the first team, but endures a disappointing first season at Ewood Park as Rovers finishes 19th in the Second Division. The following season is a huge success, however, as playoff victory ends the club’s 26-year exile from the top division and secures their place in the new Premier League. He continues in his role as club captain as Rovers finishes fourth in 1992–93 and runners-up in 1993–94. He retires at the end of the 1993–94 season, one year before Rovers wins their first league title in 81 years. In both seasons preceding his retirement, Rovers are beaten to the title by his old club, Manchester United.
Moran makes his debut for the Republic of Ireland against Switzerland in 1980 and plays a key role in Ireland’s unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the 1982 FIFA World Cup finals in Spain. He plays 71 times for Ireland between 1980 and 1994, including UEFA Euro 1988 in Germany and the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy, and scores 6 goals. He is also a member of the Irish squad at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States, despite being 38-years-old and about to retire from playing completely, but does not play due to an injury he picks up before the tournament starts.
After retiring from football, Moran makes a career in business. In 1994, he forms a football agency, Proactive Sports Management, with Paul Stretford and Jesper Olsen. His own clients include John O’Shea and Steve Finnan. He also works as a pundit on Irish television channel TV3.
The Games are hosted in Dublin, with participants staying in 177 towns, cities and villages and the Aran Islands in the lead up to the Games before moving to Dublin for the events. Events are held from June 21-29, 2003 at many venues including Morton Stadium, the Royal Dublin Society, the National Basketball Arena, all in Dublin. Croke Park serves as the central stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies, even though no competitions take place there. Belfast is the venue for roller skating events at the King’s Hall, as well as the Special Olympics Scientific Symposium held on June 19-20.
Approximately 7,000 athletes from 150 countries compete in the Games in 18 official disciplines and three exhibition sports. The participants from Kosovo are the region’s first team at an international sporting event. A 12-member team from Iraq receives special permission to attend the games, despite ongoing war in their home nation. This is the largest sporting event held in 2003.
The 2003 Games are the first to have their opening and closing schemes broadcast on live television, and Raidió Teilifís Éireann provides extensive coverage of the events through their ‘Voice of the Games’ radio station which replaces RTÉ Radio 1 on medium wave for the duration of the event. There is also a nightly television highlight programme. A daily newspaper, the Games Gazette, was published for each day of the Games.
Among the activities carried out during the Games are thorough medical checks on the athletes, some of whom have previously undiagnosed conditions uncovered, as some of the athletes come from countries with limited medical facilities or have difficulty communicating their symptoms.
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.
Brady is a talented offensive midfielder renowned for his left foot and elegant technical skills such as his high-quality passing, vision, and close control, which makes him an excellent playmaker. He combines these abilities with significant tenacity, an eye for goal from midfield, and accurate penalty-taking. In addition to his footballing ability, he also stands out throughout his career for his professionalism.
Brady makes his debut for the Republic of Ireland national football team on October 30, 1974, in a 3–0 win against the Soviet Union at Dalymount Park in a European Championship qualifier. Due to a suspension accrued before UEFA Euro 1988 he is not eligible to play within the tournament. During qualifications for the 1990 FIFA World Cup he retires from the international game. As Ireland advances to the World Cup he declares himself available to play once again. However, manager Jack Charlton goes on to declare that only those who played in the qualifiers will make the trip to Italy. Brady wins 72 international caps for the Republic of Ireland with 70 within the starting line-up, scoring 9 goals.
Brady goes on to manage two clubs – Celtic F.C. and then Brighton and Hove Albion F.C. – together with being the assistant manager of Ireland’s national football team. He also holds the post of Head of Youth Development at Arsenal F.C. from 1996 to 2013, and is a frequent television pundit with RTÉ Sport.
While at Arsenal F.C., and particularly early in his career, Brady is nicknamed “Chippy”, not for his ability to chip the ball but for his fondness for fish and chips. He also becomes involved in an anti-drugs campaign in the early 1990s, called “give drugs the boot”, encouraging young boys to play sport as a healthy pastime.
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)
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 PresidentJimmy 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.
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.
In 1991, On a Friday signs a six-album record contract with EMI and changes their name to Radiohead. They find early success with their 1992 single “Creep“. Their third album, OK Computer (1997), propels them to international fame and is often acclaimed as one of the best albums of all time. O’Brien becomes depressed during the extensive OK Computer tour. After the tour, he returns to Oxford and falls further into depression.
Radiohead’s next albums, Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001), are recorded simultaneously and mark a dramatic change in sound, incorporating influences from electronic music, classical music, jazz and krautrock. O’Brien keeps an online diary of Radiohead’s progress during the recording and initially struggles with the band’s change in direction. At the suggestion of Michael Brook, creator of the Infinite Guitar, he begins using sustain units, which allow guitar notes to be sustained infinitely. He combines these with looping and delay effects to create synthesiser-like sounds. By 2011, Radiohead has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide.
O’Brien lives in London with his wife, Susan Kobrin, who worked for Amnesty International. The couple have a son, Salvador, born in January 2004, and a daughter, Oona, born in 2006. He is a cricket fan and supports Manchester United Football Club. Around 2000, he gives up alcohol and takes up meditation. In 2011, he and his family move to Brazil and live for a year on a farm near Ubatuba. In 2020, he announces that he believes he has contracted COVID-19 but is recovering in isolation.